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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Unsung Hero: A Tribute to Gary Doak

The City of Boston lost one of its major sporting figures, one who may not have held the stature of statistics of legends such as Bobby Orr and Bill Russell, but one who was nevertheless a key cog to the city’s championship successes throughout the 1970s. Former Boston Bruins defenseman Gary Doak passed away at the age of 71 on March 25 in Lynnfield, MA following a battle with cancer.

A native of Goderich in Ontario, Canada, Doak’s role as a stay-at-home defenseman meant there was little, if any, emphasis on scoring. Throughout his career, he wound up notching just 23 goals and 130 points over 789 National Hockey League games. But his character and grit fit in with the culture of the Bruins and their world-famous “Big Bad” nickname throughout their championship years during the 1970s.

Spending a good chunk of his 16 NHL seasons in a Bruins uniform, he contributed even further to the culture of hockey in Massachusetts as he served a four-year stint as a Bruins assistant coach before finishing his involvement. He concluded this involvement with a two-year tenure at the University of Massachusetts Boston as the Beacons Men’s Hockey coach in the 1980s.

Originally entering the NHL undrafted, as their teams were heavily involved in junior-level hockey in Canada, Doak got his career started with the Ontario Hockey Association’s Hamilton Red Wings. He scored 10 goals and 61 points through 101 games in three seasons for them. Around that same time, he broke into the game’s professional ranks as a member of the American Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Hornets. Over three seasons from 1963-66, he contributed the most to the team in the form of penalty minutes, 88 of those 92 such minutes coming in his third season, while just scoring one goal and seven points over his 51-game stint.

But that gritty manner in his play style served him well, as he was called up to the league, not by the Bruins oddly enough, but rather by the the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings played him for four games where he scored no points before he was traded to Boston for the final 20 games of the season, scoring all of eight assists.

Following a brief stay with the Oklahoma City Blazers, he joined the Bruins as a regular on the roster. Over his four seasons from 1966-70, he put in six goals and 27 points, while adding up 250 penalty minutes, 40 percent of that coming in his second season. After contributing to the Bruin’s Stanley Cup win campaign in 1970 through suiting up for eight games, he was shipped over to another team through the expansion, the Vancouver Canucks. There, he racked up a career-high 112 PIM in 1970-71.

Doak spent the next two years between the New York Rangers and Red Wings before being brought back to Boston for good in 1973. Doak ended up being a key figurehead for the stability of the Bruins clubhouse, as roster changes came about following the trade of an ailing Bobby Orr to the Chicago Blackhawks. This trade resulted in the shift of blue line leadership to Brad Park, and the incoming Hall of Fame stud in fellow blue line colleague Raymond Bourque.

Doak played in 435 games in his second Boston stint before hanging up his skates after the 1981 season. After retiring, he joined the coaching ranks with the Bruins staff. He served four seasons as an assistant, largely to former Hall of Fame goalie Gerry Cheevers, before Cheevers was dismissed in Doak’s final season on the staff for Harry Sinden.

After finishing his tenure in 1985, Doak concluded his hockey days as the head coach for the Beacons Men’s Hockey team, just three years removed from their 1982 ECAC East title. Though he went 18-28-2 during his brief time, he served as a vital mentor to his players, on the ice, in the classroom, and in the community.

“I can’t say I ever had the opportunity to meet him, but I do know he was a heck of a player and a coach,” said current Beacons bench boss Peter Belisile. “He will be missed greatly here as well as by the Bruins.”
I cannot agree with him more. Despite the demeanor that won him over as a fan favorite, he became a contributing figure to a Bruins team that wound up making the playoffs over 30 consecutive years. He will be missed dearly by everyone involved in the game of hockey in the New England region.