The Kraut Line: Play, serve, protect

By Josie Lemieux –Consultant – @HockeyPsyched – Mental toughness – Emotional control

In the NHL, a first line always remains the backbone of the team for starting the game, give it the proper tone, remain on the ice for numerous shifts and usually lead in scoring.

The center, right and left wingers must not only work in coordination, they must play and live through 3 dynamics: chemistry on and off ice, dependable and respect for their team and teammates.

Some lines are legendary. For the Boston Bruins, one of them was definitely the Kraut Line: Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart.

The trio grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

In 1936, while the trio was involved with Boston’s farm club, Albert Leduc, from the Montreal Canadiens, named them ¨ Sauerkraut ¨ and referred to them as such.

¨ Kraut ¨ can be used as a diminutive of sauerkraut, a German cabbage meal. However, this definition has nothing to do with our Bruins forwards. During both World Wars, the term ¨ Kraut ¨ was a derogatory term used by the American military to identify a German person, and mostly German soldiers. Worse, in my native French, ¨ Kraut ¨ is related to the words ¨ boche ¨, ¨ caboche ¨ or ¨ cabochon ¨, meaning ¨ stupid, idiot ¨. Even today, it is still rightfully considered offensive for Germans.

However, Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart never showed hurt over the term. They only demonstrated greatness within their foreign roots.

In 1937-1938, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart started hockey together, were roommates and their attachment, sincere and forthright, still remains legendary.

They were completely unaware that their NHL arrival in Boston would be marked by two historical events: the impending World War II and two Stanley Cups in 1939 and 1941.

In 1939-1940, although the Bruins did not win the Cup, the Kraut line was NHL’s Top 3 in scoring: Milt Schmidt (52), Dumart and Bauer (43).

They lived, played, and also served together in the war from 1942 to 1945 with the Canadian Royal Air Force. They were partners not only in hockey but also in life. They defended their sport but also their freedom.

When the world came at peace again, they returned on the ice. Pure and simple.

The Kraut line was ¨ cut off ¨ in 1947, following Bobby Bauer’s retirement, who completed his NHL career with 259 point in 327 games and involved in the Foundation of the real International Hockey Canada Team. Woody Dumart retired in 1954, with 430 point in 774 games and even became official scorer at the Boston Garden.

As for Milt Schmidt, he retired the following year in 1955 with 575 points in 776 games. He also coached the Bruins for 726 games after his retirement and in the 1960’s. Schmidt is the only Bruin who has been a player, captain, coach, and general manager. He also considered to be the one who ¨ discovered ¨ an unknown but skillful 12-year old player named Bobby Orr.

Today, the Kraut line can only be relived through readings and memories. In 1964, at age 49, Bobby Bauer was enjoying a game of golf when he suffered a heart attack. In 2001, at age 84, Woody Dumart was going on the Ray Bourque Night and suddenly became ill. He died that same night. In January 2017, at age 98, Milt Schmidt was the oldest living NHL player. While residing at a Boston retirement home, he suffered a stroke.

Time goes fast but history remains. They were a strong, dedicated, loyal and committed line of men. Fortunate, not in terms of money and materialism, but in willingness, fame and service to others.

The least we can do is never forget them.

Photo Credit: By redsox20041027 (Flickr: Banner City) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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