When the Boston Bruins missed the 1956 playoffs, Terry Sawchuk and his teammates found themselves stranded without any postseason income. “We decided to get a promoter and make some extra cash in the Maritimes,” recalled former Bruins defenceman, Lionel Heinrich.
That promoter was 27-year-old Gerald Regan (1928 - 2019) who would one day be premier of Nova Scotia. “These guys were paid such a pittance. When they went on tour with me they made more money,” explained Mr. Regan in a 2014 interview.
Each player earned $25 per game for the seventeen exhibition games against local teams.
Gerald Regan described how his star goalie netted a little extra cash. “Terry (Sawchuk) got me aside and got another five dollars a game. He didn’t want the other guys to know.”
That spring, the Bruins would log hundreds of miles in a four-car motorcade throughout the Atlantic provinces.
Sometimes Reagan would lace up his own skates and don a Boston jersey, secretly filling in for injured Bruins. “Fern Flaman was sick in Springhill and I played in his place. In Gander, I played for Hal Laycoe!” laughed Regan.
Sawchuk and the Bruins rolled into Halifax on April 2, 1956 for a game against the senior league champion Saint John Beavers. The Bruins replaced their ailing forward Johnny Peirson with a sixteen-year-old Fairview boy named Jim Beckman.
During warm-up at the packed Halifax Forum, Beckman annoyed Terry Sawchuk. “He was cheesed at me. I went in and deked him and scored on him. Then one of the Bruins came over and told me not to do that, just shoot at him,” he explained.
But Beckman - a Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame inductee - would redeem himself.
The Beavers' goalie, a former AHL pro named Jim Shirley, was upstaging Sawchuk with a fifty-save performance and Boston couldn’t break a 3-3 deadlock. Just when it looked like the mighty Bruins would be embarrassed by the senior league team, Beckman roofed one in the third period, pulling Boston ahead for good.
A newspaper reported that Beckman’s backhand goal “brought the house down.” The Bruins were impressed with the youngster’s play and offered him a tryout at their training camp in Providence, Rhode Island.
After the tough game in Halifax, Sawchuk and his teammates played for fun against local teams thrown together in towns like Springhill and New Glasgow before heading to Newfoundland for more of the same.
Terry Sawchuk died in 1970 at the age of 40. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the following year. He remains the last goaltender to play a Stanley Cup winning game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.