Stanfields quiet efficiency recalled after his death

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Stanfield died Monday, the Bruins announced Tuesday. He was 77.

A robust talent so reliable he was nicknamed “Steady Freddy” by Bruins fans, scoring at least 20 goals in six consecutive seasons, Stanfield skated between John Bucyk and the late John McKenzie on Boston’s second line of the early 1970s, his two-way play deeply appreciated by his teammates and his coach, Harry Sinden.

Fred Stanfield at TD Garden in 2010, and in the mid-1970s with the Buffalo Sabres, where he played to the end of his 14-season NHL career.

“It’s very sad. Fred was a big part of our line,” Bucyk said Tuesday, on the road in Montana with his wife, Terri, driving home to Boston from their summer place in British Columbia. “Our team set a lot of records in the 1970s, but our line did our part.”

With stopping Esposito and Orr almost an obsession for the opposition, Stanfield, Bucyk and McKenzie did more than their share of damage.

“Anywhere else, we would really be crowing over what Freddy has been doing,” Sinden told Hockey Pictorial magazine in February 1970, the Bruins steaming toward their first title in 29 seasons. “In one sense, he is the key to our team. …

“Orr and ‘Espo’ are expected to be important key figures. However, we win many of our games on the work of our second line, (which is) the best second line in the NHL. Most clubs put their checking line on our big Esposito line and hope they play evenly against the second line with their second line. They figure that their first line may outscore our third or checking trio, but they almost always underrate Stanfield’s muckers.”

Fred Stanfield, with the Chicago Black Hawks in the mid-1960s, moves in on New York Rangers goalie Jacques Plante, defenseman Bob Plager in pursuit. With Boston in Game 1 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, Stanfield would knock out Plante with a slap shot to the mask.

Born in Toronto on May 4, 1944, Stanfield was one of seven brothers who played serious hockey in the 1960s, Jack and Jim also finding their way to the NHL. 

Playing major junior for St. Catharines of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1961-64, he was property of the Chicago Black Hawks, for whom he played his first three NHL seasons, starting in 1964-65.

Stanfield’s name was almost lost in the massive, lopsided trade between Chicago and Boston on May 15, 1967, when he went to the Bruins with forwards Esposito and Ken Hodge for Black Hawks defenseman Gilles Marotte, forward Pit Martin and goalie Jack Norris.

Stanfield had been sparsely used in a Chicago lineup that included Esposito, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Bill Hay. He got within one win of a Stanley Cup with the Black Hawks, who lost a seven-game final to the Montreal Canadiens in 1965.

Fred Stanfield battles for position with Toronto’s Terry Clancy in front of goalie Bruce Gamble in a late 1960s game at Maple Leaf Gardens. 

But with Esposito racking up record-setting offensive totals in Boston, Stanfield was a quiet, consistent producer. Used on the Bruins’ power-play point with Orr, he was voted the team’s unsung-hero Seventh Player award by fans who appreciated his playmaking and physical edge.

“It’s true we move the puck around pretty well,” Stanfield said of his line with Bucyk and skating McKenzie, quoted by hockey historian Joe Pelletier. 

“I can make soft passes or hard ones. With guys who can go like ‘Chief’ [Bucyk] and ‘Pie’ [McKenzie], I throw it to them real hard. They can reach them and it gives them more time to make the play. We keep the passes off the ice and that’s to our advantage because the puck doesn’t get blocked by anybody’s stick that way.”

Stanfield had a thunderous shot, famously flattening 41-year-old St. Louis Blues goalie Jacques Plante in Game 1 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final. His slap shot 3:57 into the second period struck Plante flush in the face, knocking him out cold, shattering his mask and sending him to the hospital uncut but with an apparent concussion. Bucyk scored a hat trick against reliever Ernie Wakely in the 6-1 Boston victory that sent the Bruins on their way to a four-game sweep.

Fred Stanfield chases Toronto’s Marcel Pronovost behind the Maple Leafs net in the late 1960s.

“I remember that distinctly. Fred had a very, very good shot,” Bucyk said of Stanfield’s shot that dropped Plante, the wobbly goalie waving off the arriving stretcher as he left the game, not to return in the series.

Boston traded Stanfield to the Minnesota North Stars for goalie Gilles Gilbert on May 22, 1973. During his second season with the North Stars, he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for forward Norm Gratton and a draft pick on Jan. 27, 1975, and played four seasons for the Sabres before retiring in 1978. 

Stanfield scored 616 points (211 goals, 405 assists) in 914 games through 14 NHL seasons, taking 134 penalty minutes. He scored 56 points (21 goals, 35 assists) in 106 Stanley Cup Playoff games, with 16 points in each of the Bruins’ two championship runs.

After a brief move into junior coaching, Stanfield established an organization for Sabres alumni, then stepped away from hockey beyond alumni games into Buffalo-area business.

Linemates Johnny McKenzie (19), Fred Stanfield (sitting behind him) and John Bucyk (right) are joined by Gary Doak (25) and Dallas Smith on the Boston Bruins bench.

From a modest start, when Stanfield’s Office Furniture delivered by station wagon to corporate and residential customers, the business grew to become an impressive operation.

“You’re out there fighting every day (in hockey) and that’s like being in business,” Stanfield told author Brian McFalone in the 1997 book “Over The Glass & Into the Crowd! Life After Hockey.”

“You’re always trying to prove that you should belong where you are. Instead of selling your talent, you’re now selling whatever product you’re into. There’s an advantage of having been in the pressure world as far as competition in hockey. If things get a little tough in business, you can handle it better than maybe the guy off the street.”

Bucyk said he hadn’t seen Stanfield much in recent years, the latter settled in Buffalo, but when he was on the road for years as Boston’s traveling secretary, they’d connect before Sabres-Bruins games to have a meal and remember old times.

“Fred was a very smart, very talented player,” Bucyk said. “He did a lot of things well and could make a lot of plays. On the power-play, well, he and Bobby (Orr) made a pretty good pair.”

Photos: Frank Prazak and Graphic Artists, Hockey Hall of Fame

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