May 092010

One Zany, Mean, and Tough Bruin

Despite the antics of Derek Sanderson, Mike Walton and others, Wayne Cashman was the zaniest, if not the meanest and toughest member of the Big, Bad Boston Bruins of the seventies.

“I knew I’d never be a 50-goal scorer so I  spent my career doing what had to be done,” Cashman told Sports Illustrated while toiling in the twilight of his career.

He played left wing on one of Boston’s most prolific lines, with Phil Esposito at center and Ken Hodge on right wing. He was counted on to do the dirty work in the corners, and to get the puck by fair means or foul to Espo in the slot. Goaltender Gerry Cheevers says, “Cash was the greatest of all the guys from our era when it came to digging in the corners and along the boards. And if someone gave Orr or Espo a cheap shot Cashman would be there in an instant, throwing punches, exacting revenge.” When he retired in 1983, he had served 1,041 penalty minutes to rank third among Boston sinners (behind Terry O’Reilly and Keith Crowder). At 38, he had served the Bruins well in 1,027 games, second only to Johnny Bucyk’s club record of 1,436. When veterans Serge Savard of the Winnipeg Jets and Carol Vadnais of the New Jersey Devils bowed out of NHL hockey a few days before Cashman’s final game, it made the Bruin left winger the oldest survivor of the Original Six league.

Master Of Mishief

Off the ice, he was a master of mischief. Three examples come to mind. Once he broke his foot while swinging on a chandelier and in Los Angeles one night, when the anthem singer was about to perform before a critical playoff game, Cashman spoiled the soloist’s rendition  by impishly cutting the microphone cord with his skate. In 1970, after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, he played traffic cop during the celebrations that followed. He stood on a Boston intersection waving cars in all directions until there was a mammoth snarl. Reluctantly, the cops arrested him and brought him to the station where he was told he could make one phone call. Did he phone his lawyer?  No, his call was to a restaurant—for an order of Chinese food.

One Heck of  a Party

Cashman, like millions of others, was stunned on the night of Nov. 7, 1975, to learn  the Bruins had traded his best pal Phil Esposito, along with  Carol Vadnais, to the hated New York Rangers in return for Brad Park,  Jean Ratelle and someone named Joe Zanussi. He organized a going away party for his former mates  in a Vancouver hotel room and before it was over there were damages to pay of $2,000.

Leadership Role Puts Creativy to Good Use

The following season, he assumed the Bruins’ captaincy and the hi-jinks became less frequent. Johnny Bucyk, who’d been wearing the “C”, returned from an injury, saw the leadership that Cashman was providing, and told him to keep the “C”. Manager Harry Sinden would say, “I don’t think I could have dreamed of Cashman becoming such a leader.”

He was durable enough to play in more than 1000 games, third highest in team history.

A  great player? Yes.  A different kind of guy? You bet.

Early Signs he’d be a Man who Loves the Game

Even as a child he was unpredictable. One day on the family farm near Kingston, Ontario, where he grew up, he acquired a new pair of skates. Told by his parents not to wear them outside until the weather warmed up, young Cash waited until his parents went off somewhere. Then he opened all the  windows, hooked up a hose, and flooded the kitchen floor with an inch of water. When it freezes, he reasoned, I’ll skate inside.

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