(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Jeff Playdon | Follow me on Twitter @PlaydonJeff

On December 7th, NHL Hall of Famer and former Bruins goaltender Gerry Cheevers will be turning 81. Cheevers played 12 seasons for Boston (1965-1972, 1975-1980) and won two Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972. Toronto initially drafted Cheevers in 1961, but Boston acquired Chevers in 1965 in the Intra-League Draft. Throughout his 12 seasons in Boston, Cheevers went 226-103-76 with a 2.89 GAA.

After he retired in 1980, Cheevers became the head coach for the Bruins and took over duties from Fred Creighton. As a coach, Cheevers went 204-126-46 and ranks seventh in career winning percentage among NHL coaches with more than 250 games experience. In honor of Cheever’s 81st birthday, let’s take a look back at the hall of Famers career.

Cheevers First Stint with Boston

For the very beginning of Cheever’s NHL career, Cheevers played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, his playing career in Toronto didn’t last long as he played just two games. So, the Bruins drafted him in 1965. In 1966 Cheevers would get to see some playing action for the Bruins. It was only seven games since Cheevers spent most of the season with the Bruins farm club, the Oklahoma City Blazers of the CPHL.

The following season, it was the NHL expansion draft. With the Bruins losing goaltenders Bernie Parent and Doug Favell to the Flyers, Cheevers was called up and became the number one goaltender. Cheevers quickly became popular with Boston because of his “unique goalie style.” Cheevers was not afraid to stray away from the crease to cut down the shooter’s angle or act as a third defenseman. Cheevers was such an aggressive goaltender that if an opposing player got too close to the crease, Cheevers would whack the defender with his stick.

During the ’69-’70 season, Cheevers, Bobby Orr, and the Bruins supporting cast reached the Stanley Cup Final and beat the Blues in four games. It was Cheevers first Stanley Cup and Boston’s first Cup in 29 years. It was his best season yet at this point in his career; he went 24-8-8 and had a 2.72 GAA. But Cheevers best season was yet to come. During the ’71-’72 season, Cheevers went 27-5-8 and had a 2.50 GAA. The major highlight of that season, though, was when Cheevers went undefeated in 32 consecutive games, which is an NHL record that still stands, and quite honestly, will never be broken.

In addition, Cheever’s impressive goaltending led Boston to another Stanley Cup Final, this time against the New York Rangers. The Bruins were able to win the cup in six games, and for the second time in three seasons, the Bruins were Stanley Cup Champions. However, despite the recent success that Cheevers had with Boston, Cheevers packed his bags during the fall of ’72 and jumped over to the World Hockey Association to play for the Cleveland Crusaders.

Cheevers in the WHA

After leaving the NHL in 1972, Cheevers jumped boats and went to the WHA for three and a half seasons. Cheevers would play for the Cleveland Crusaders and put up some decent stats. In the three and a half seasons that Cheevers spent in Cleveland, Cheevers played 191 games, went 99-78-9, and posted a 3.12 GAA. In ’73, Cheevers made the First All-Star Team and then the Second All-Star team in ’74 and ’75.

Also, during the ’74 season, Cheevers played seven of eight games for Team Canada in the 1974 Summit Series. Midway through the ’75-’76 season, Cheevers had had enough of the WHA and decided to return to the NHL and the Boston Bruins. The cause of Cheever’s departure from the WHA was a financial dispute between Cheevers and the Cleveland Crusaders management.

Second Stint with Boston

Halfway through the ’75-’76 season, Cheevers returned to the Bruins and goaltending duties. In his first season back with Boston, Cheevers played 15 games, went 8-2-5, and posted a 2.74 GAA. Over the next four seasons with the Bruins, Cheevers continued to put up remarkable numbers. In his last four seasons, “Cheesie Cheevers” went 95-37-29, had a 2.88 GAA, and added ten shutouts.

In his last season with the Bruins, Cheevers and Gilles Gilbert were runners-up for the Vezina Trophy, which was won by Don Edwards and Bob Sauve of the Buffalo Sabres. After the ’79-’80 season, Cheevers decided to hang up the goalie pads and retire from playing hockey.

Despite retiring from playing hockey, Cheevers wasn’t retiring from hockey in all aspects. In fact, for the ’80-’81 season, Cheevers was named head coach of the Bruins. Cheevers coaching career started with controversy, though. The Bruins suffered a shocking sweep by the Minnesota North Stars in that year’s playoffs. Despite that happening, Harry Sinden stuck with his guy and believed in Cheevers.

Over the next three years, Cheevers led the Bruins to two first-place and two second-place finishes in their division over the next three years. Despite Cheever’s success coaching in Boston, during the ’84-’85 season, Cheevers was replaced by Sinden. After Cheevers retired from coaching, he served as a color commentator for the Hartford Whalers from 1986-1995, and then the Boston Bruins from 1999-2002. From 1995 to 2006, he was also a member of the Bruins’ scouting staff.

So, Gerry Cheevers, wherever you are today, on behalf of myself and the entire BNG Hockey Organization, we hope you enjoy your 81st birthday!