After the tragic events last week in Humboldt, Saskatchewan in which 15 members of a Saskatchewan junior hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos, were tragically killed in an awful bus accident, the hockey world could use a feel good story. Thanks to the hard work and diligence of Boston Bruins president Cam Neely, today we can bring you that story.
This is the story of former Bruins forward Chris Hayes, now a retired banker who was a little used member of the team’s 1972 Stanley Cup winning squad. This was a Bruins team LOADED with talent including Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, Ken Hodge, Cherry Cheevers and others. Suffice it to say that earning playing time alongside such legends was difficult for Hayes, but he did manage to see some ice time. As a result he should have been awarded a Stanley Cup ring for his part in the team’s historical victory, the problem is… he never received it.
Check out this remarkable and heartwarming story from the Ottawa Citizen in which Hayes finally gets his prized Stanley Cup ring after 46 years:
After the lone playoff appearance, Hayes was in the Boston system for a couple of more years, signing a “lucrative” contract. But injuries and a lineup stacked with left-wingers kept him out of the NHL.
It was a different era, obviously. Many players had jobs in the summer — he drove a truck in Arnprior — and player entitlements like rings were not top-of-mind.
“It never, ever came up,” he said, his focus firmly on making the Bruins in the fall of 1972. “I didn’t even know I was entitled to a ring.”
Well, fast-forward to the fall of 2017. One of his childhood friends is Hec Clouthier, 68, the one-time MP for the Upper Ottawa Valley, a man never to shy away from the impossible.
Clouthier saw something in the newspaper that twigged his memory about Hayes and the absent ring, a story he had long known about. In he dove, going directly to Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. Before long, team president Cam Neely — himself a great player — was on the phone to Petawawa, where Clouthier lives.
Neely, according to Clouthier, checked out the story with Bucyk, still connected with the team. He confirmed it. There was a delay, said Clouthier, in order to find a ring-maker who could precisely reproduce the 1972 pattern. When he asked for Hayes’s ring size, Clouthier knew they were getting close.
“Then I get a call one day from Cam Neely saying, ‘Make sure Chris is home Thursday morning’.” The ring was on its way by FedEx.
Hayes is a humble sort and not the type to tell the world he shared the ice with the likes of Orr and Espo on one of the NHL’s most legendary teams.
“I wouldn’t know how to do that. I wasn’t raised that way.”
Still, he’s proud of his new keepsake, even letting friends try it on. He’s especially happy for his four children and grandchildren. And it’s more than the monetary value — possibly in excess of $20,000 — said Hayes.
“I look at that ring and it brings back so many memories. So many people you met along the way, not just the stars, but the trainers, the billets, people like that.”
He went on to play a season with the Boston Braves of the AHL, then the Albuquerque Six Guns, toyed with playing in the WHA, but injuries and time caught up. At age 28, he decided to get on with his life, working in banking in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
Clouthier, meanwhile, is the ebullient “ring-maker.”
“I said to my nephews (at a recent tournament in Chapeau), ‘Do you know there’s a man who lives 45 seconds from here who played with the Boston Bruins and Bobby Orr in the Stanley Cup (semi) finals?’
“It’s just been one of the best-kept secrets.”
Well, not today, not when the hockey world really needs a little glimmer on its hands.