Everybody loves Johnny!

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

BOSTON -- Before there was Mark Messier, there was Johnny Bucyk.

Before Mark Messier was the greatest homegrown hockey player to come out of the Heartland of Hockey, Johnny Bucyk held the honour.

And before Mark Messier has his special banner-raising night in Edmonton Feb. 27, there'll be a ceremony here tonight - with the Edmonton Oilers in town - to honour Bucyk's 50 years with the Boston Bruins.

"I don't know if the Bruins did this on purpose to tie-in to the Oilers game. Everybody knows I grew up in Edmonton. I'm proud to be from Edmonton. All those years I just wanted the town to be proud of me.

"But it's also (the day before) Valentine's Day and the Bruins told me it was because, 'Everybody loves Johnny.' "

50 YEARS

There'll be no banner to raise. Bucyk's No. 9 has already been retired. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame way back in 1981 after playing 21 years with the Bruins and holding every team career offensive record for over 20 years. He remains the team's all-time goalscorer and is second on the Bruins' all-time scoring list.

Serving five years as Boston captain, Bucyk won Cups with the Bruins in 1970 and 1972 and won two Lady Byng Trophies. But 50 years?

Bucyk is the team road services coordinator after years of combining that job and working as the colour commentator on Bruins radio broadcasts.

"How many people can say they've been with the same organization for 50 years?"

It could have been longer if he hadn't grown up in Edmonton.

It was back in the days before the draft and Edmonton was Detroit Red Wing territory. He signed a 'C' form with the Red Wings.

"We lived on 65th street and 125th Avenue. Being from that area meant playing for the Maple Leafs Athletic Club as a kid. I was a real rink rat as a kid. I spent a lot of time shovelling off outdoor rinks so I could skate.

"I went from there to the Edmonton Oil Kings junior team, which was sponsored by the Red Wings back in those days."

Bucyk says he has a claim to fame from back then which not many people probably know about.

"I had the lowest goals-against average in junior hockey. Our goalies got sick. They put the pads on me because I'd played goal off and on growing up. I used to put the pads on a lot playing street hockey. I really enjoyed that.

"Anyway, I gave up two goals in a 4-2 win over Calgary and had a shutout in a 2-0 win over Lethbridge. That gave me a career 1.0 goals against average in junior hockey."

From the Oil Kings, Bucyk moved to the Edmonton Flyers, Detroit's No. 1 farm team.

Glenn Hall was in goal. Normie Ullman - who may have been the second best homegrown player to come out of Edmonton until Messier, then Grant Fuhr, Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf came along - Al Arbour, Gerry Melnyk, Ray Kinasewich were teammates.

CLAIM TO FAME

"It was a hell of a team," said Bucyk.

"I got to go to camp with Gordie Howe, who was my idol. Still is. We became very close friends. We still are."

Bucyk signed his first pro contract for a whole $1,500.

Another claim to fame is being traded by Detroit to Boston for all-time great goalie Terry Sawchuk.

When he was an Edmonton Flyer, Bucyk also played with Vic Stasiuk and Bronco Harvath on the famed 'Uke Line.'

"We had a really big year together in Edmonton. Vic was already in Boston and the Bruins traded with New York to get Horvath and put us back together again."

Bucyk, after all these years, is still playing hockey.

"I'm 72 years old now," he said. "But we've got a team with guys like Johnny McKenzie, who is 68 now."

There will be a lot of old teammates there tonight, including Ted Green who is flying in from Edmonton.

"I don't know what they're going to be doing," said Bucyk of the ceremonies. "But I'm sure thrilled they're doing it. It really is quite the honour."


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