Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bruins Sweaters of the Past #2: Rick Middleton

BOSTON BRUINS (1976-77- 1987-88)
Born: December 4, 1953 in Toronto, Ontario
GP: 881 G: 402 A: 496 PTS: 898 PIM: 124
Rick "Nifty" Middleton is one of the all-time great Boston Bruins forwards.

Although he never made it into the Hockey Hall of Fame, No. 16 was the straw who stirred the offensive drink for Boston for a decade after Phil Esposito was traded to the Rangers.

B's GM Harry Sinden pulled off a heist when he sent Espo's buddy Ken Hodge to Broadway in exchange for the 14th overall pick in the 1973 draft, who had shown flashes of brilliance, but was not yet the sum of his parts. Obviously had Emile Francis realized what he had in Middleton, he would have never shipped him up to Boston.

Middleton scored a hat trick in his first game with Boston (with Bobby Joyce becoming the only other Bruin to turn the trick in his Hub debut in 1988). In 1978, Middleton began a run of seven consecutive 30 or more goal seasons, with eight in nine years before he retired at the conclusion of the 1988 season. Middleton finished his Boston career behind only Johnny Bucyk and Esposito as the third-best goal scorer in team history with 402 tallies in 881 games wearing the spoked-B.

This particular jersey was worn by Nifty during the 1981-82 campaign, the year he posted a career-high 51 goals in a single season (and was named to the NHL 2nd All-Star Team), the only time he would break the half-century plateau. He won the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL's "Most Gentlemanly Player" as well as the Elizabeth C. Dufresne Trophy, which recognized Bruins MVP that year, receiving the award from Boston Globe and Hockey Hall of Fame writer Kevin Paul Dupont while wearing this garment. It is a heavy mesh home sweater manufactured by the Sandow SK company, who succeeded Stall & Dean as Boston's uniform maker after the 1980-81 season.

The sweater has multiple repairs, several unrepaired holes, stick marks and the always distinctive red-orange Boston Garden paint transfer on the sleeves and shoulders from where Middleton was jacked into the right wing boards all season. It also features the Sandow SK stamp on the back hem and is photomatched to a picture of a young, leisure suit-wearing KPD giving Middleton the Dufresne Trophy (which I can't post because of copyright laws). The jersey also has a slight pink tinge on the front material and crest, which I think was likely caused by spilled red Gatorade or some other sports drink.
This is one of my collection's true gems, and has incredible sentimental value for me, as I was a fourth-grader the year he wore it. Those Big, Bad Bruins teams of old were a real treat for those who can remember them, with Nifty being a consistent and valuable offensive finesse talent with a real flair for the game.


  1. Hi Kirk - regular hfboards reader, here. I love these profiles. About Middleton, I was wondering what were the circumstances of his retirement? My first season watching the Bruins was, as I recall, his last and though he'd been around awhile, it seemed like he still had something left to offer. What happened?

    Anyway, thanks for the blog and for your updates/thoughts on hfboards. Good stuff always. -Ben

  2. Ben- His skills were declining, his contract expired and he decided to hang 'em up rather than put the Bruins in a position to either decide whether to bring him back or cut him loose. In the end, he walked away with his head held high, which saved him from getting some of the treatment Mark Recchi is on the receiving end these days in my opinion. With some fans, you're only as good as your last game, so it was just one of those things where he was at peace with leaving when he did.

  3. Oh, and thanks for the positive feedback, Ben...much appreciated!