Thirty years after he backstopped the Boston Bruins to the
franchise's fifth and last Stanley Cup championship, Gerry
Cheevers remains devoted to the team and its cause. For the last
seven years the Hall of Fame goaltender has worked as a pro scout
for the Bruins, tracking major and minor league talent that could
help build the club into a champion again. And though Boston
bowed to Montreal in the first round of this spring's
playoffs--after putting together the best record in the Eastern
Conference during the regular season--the 61-year-old Cheevers
believes the team is on the verge of something special. "You're
always in this thing for the ultimate goal: to win the Stanley
Cup," he says. "The Bruins are so close. I'm just a scout, but
I'd like to have a little role in that."
Of course Cheevers once played a large part in bringing the Cup
to the Hub. In 12 seasons with Boston (1966-72 and 1976-80), he
went 229-93-74 and, along with Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, led
the Bruins to Stanley Cup titles in '70 and '72. The
short-on-talent-but-long-on-heart team earned the blue-collar
nickname Lunchpail A.C. (Athletic Club), and Cheevers, his mask
decorated with stitches for every time a puck hit his face, was
one of its most emblematic heroes. His stats, while solid (a
career goals-against average of 2.89), were never good enough to
earn him a Vezina Trophy, or even get him selected for the
All-Star team, but his clutch play won him leaguewide acclaim.
Don Cherry, Canada's Mr. Hockey and Cheevers's coach with the
Bruins from 1976 through '78, once called him "the best ever to
play the game."
"You hear that stuff sometimes, and you just giggle," says
Cheevers, who broke up his stints in Boston with a three-year run
with the Cleveland Crusaders of the WHA. "You lose as much as you
win. Luckily, everybody forgets the losses."
Modesty notwithstanding, Cheevers built a reputation as one of
the finest postseason goalies of his era. In 1970 he won 10
straight playoff games, an NHL record at the time. "I think my
approach to playoff games may have been more serious than it was
for regular-season games," he says. "But we just had such a good
hockey team that no matter how badly any person would play, the
team would always make up for it and win."
When Cheevers retired in 1980, he immediately signed on as
Boston's coach, becoming only the fourth goaltender in NHL
history to move behind the bench. The Bruins made the playoffs in
his first four seasons, winning two Adams Division championships,
but when they struggled during the 1984-85 season because of
injuries and dwindling confidence, Cheevers was forced to resign.
A relaxed character as a player, he was criticized in the media
for maintaining a similar demeanor as a coach. "After that, I
decided I never wanted to coach again," Cheevers says. "It's just
too tough. You have to be a 24/7 guy, and I just don't think I'm
So Cheevers began a broadcasting career with Sports Channel New
England. For 10 years he did yeoman's work in providing color
commentary on the pallid play of the Hartford Whalers. "Calling
one of their games then certainly wasn't like what it is today,"
he says of the Whalers, who five years ago moved to North
Carolina to become the Hurricanes and are playing the Red Wings
in this year's Stanley Cup finals.
Cheevers still works in broadcasting, doing about 20 Bruins games
a season for the New England Sports Network, and still lives
outside Boston with Betty, his childhood sweetheart and wife of
38 years. The couple's three children are grown, and Cheevers
spends much of his free time doting on his four grandchildren,
two of whom live in the Boston area. "I'm just hibernating up
here in New England," he says. Cheevers also makes time to raise
money for the Ace Bailey Children's Fund, a charity that supports
programs for children and families coping with stress and
illness. The charity is named for one of Cheevers's Bruins
teammates who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which
crashed into the South Tower on Sept. 11. "Ace was a good
friend," he says.
One pastime Cheevers no longer pursues is horse racing. In his
playing days he was an avid reader of the Daily Racing Form and
once owned a colt named Royal Ski, who was the country's leading
2-year-old money winner in 1976, finishing ahead of Seattle Slew.
The next spring, however, Slew was winning the Triple Crown and
Royal Ski was sidelined with a virus--leaving Cheevers convinced
that racing was not his game. "I don't own horses or watch racing
anymore," he says. "I got spoiled with a really good horse, and I
got out of it."
These days the man the Boston faithful once affectionately called
Cheesy is content with lots of golf and his Odyssean quest to win
another Stanley Cup. "I wouldn't trade my career for anything,"
he says. "You're always in this for the Cup. I want to be a part
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER STILL BRUIN Now a scout for his old club, Cheevers is a legend--and action figure--in Boston.
COLOR PHOTO: DICK RAPHAEL Cheevers was one of the finest postseason goalies of his era, winning 10 straight playoff games in 1970.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER LIKE GRANDFATHER, LIKE GRANDSON Cheevers finds time in his schedule to kid around with Jonathon.
"I decided I never wanted to coach again. It's too tough. You
have to be a 24/7 guy, and I just don't think I'm that type."