The nickname ‘Chief’ goes hand in hand with Johnny Bucyk. However, according to his 1957-58 Topps rookie card and a few that followed, Bucyk started his National Hockey League career known as the ‘Beast’.
The Chief, of course, went on to a Hockey Hall of Fame career in the National Hockey League. He made six visits to the Stanley Cup finals with two championships to show for it. The two time Lady Byng Trophy winner had some of his best years nearer the end of his 1,540 game career.
Johnny Bucyk – Junior and Minor Pro
Johnny Bucyk played his junior hockey with the Edmonton Oil Kings from 1951-52 to 1953-54. In his final season, the Oil Kings finished first with 33 wins and just three losses in the six team WCJHL. Bucyk contributed at a two points per game pace during the regular season and was named a First Team All-Star left winger. At centre was his teammate Norm Ullman.
In the playoffs, Bucyk scored 28 and totaled 45 points over 21 games. The Oil Kings were WCJHL champs, beating the Regina Pats in the finals. Edmonton then went on to take out the Fort William Canadiens for the Abbott Cup championship, and the right to compete in the Memorial Cup finals.
The Oil Kings ran into a wall in the Memorial Cup, losing to the St. Catherines Teepees. Over the Memorial Cup run, Bucyk added another 24 points in 14 games.
His time in the minors was limited. After two games as a call-up in 1953-54, he spent the full 1954-55 season with the Edmonton Flyers in the WHL, as a prospect of the Detroit Red Wings. In 70 games, Johnny scored 30 and assisted on 58 for 88 points. He tied for tenth for goals, finished third for assists and was second in the overall scoring race behind teammate Bronco Horvath. Bucyk was named WHL Rookie of the Year.
Teamed with Norm Ullman and with Glenn Hall in net, the Flyers finished first overall in the six team league. Edmonton captured the Lester Patrick Cup championship with a win over the Calgary Stampeders in the finals.
Johnny Bucyk – NHL
Between 1955-56 and 1977-78, Johnny Bucyk played 1,540 regular season games in the National Hockey League. Over that time, he scored 556 and assisted on 813 for 1,369 points. Nearly 40 years after retiring, Bucyk still sits 13th all-time for games played, 24th for career points and 26th for career goals.
Johnny Bucyk Collection
His career started with the Detroit Red Wings with mediocre results. On July 10, 1957, Bucyk was traded to the Boston Bruins for Terry Sawchuk. His impact with the Bruins was immediate.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Johnny played 124 games, adding 41 goals and 62 assists for 103 points. In his rookie season with Detroit, Bucyk made his first of six visits to the Stanley Cup finals. The Red Wings fell to the Montreal Canadiens in 1955-56.
Two years later, now wearing a Bruins jersey, Bucyk again was in the finals against the Habs. Again, Montreal had the upper hand. What followed was a disastrous decade for Boston where playoff games were very hard to come by.
In 1969-70 and 1971-72, Johnny was a major part of Boston’s Stanley Cup championships, sweeping the St. Louis Blues in the first year and beating the New York Rangers in the second. Boston would then lose in the 1973-74 finals to the Philadelphia Flyers and in the 1976-77 finals to Bucyk’s nemesis, the Montreal Canadiens.
In the early days of his career, Johnny was lined up with Vic Stasiuk and Bronco Horvath to form the famed Uke Line. Bucyk didn’t take on the role of team captain from 1966-67 to 1976-77, replacing Leo Boivin. He was replaced by Wayne Cashman.
John was a 20 goal scorer 16 times during his career. On seven occasions, he scored 30 or more. In 1970-71, he topped out with 51 goals, becoming one of the first handful of players to reach the 50 goal plateau.
Surprisingly, Bucyk was an all-star just twice. He was named to the Second Team in 1967-68 and was a First Team All-Star in 1970-71. Of course, that 1970-71 season was easily his career year offensively.
In 1970-71, Johnny scored 51 and assisted on 65 for 116 points over 78 games. He placed second for goals, a lofty 25 behind Phil Esposito and his famous 76 goals. He was third for assists and third in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. Bucyk won his first of two Lady Byng Trophies, ending his season with the Big Bad Bruins with just four minor penalties.
Not quite the numbers of 1970-71, 1972-73 was another great year for the aging Bucyk. He finished tied for ninth with 40 goals, equaling Yvan Cournoyer of the Canadiens, Rene Robert of the Buffalo Sabres and Marcel Dionne of the Red Wings. His 93 points placed him tied for seventh with Frank Mahovlich of the Habs and Mickey Redmond of the Red Wings.
He sat just eight minutes in the penalty box again in 1973-74, earning his second Lady Byng Trophy. In 1981, Johnny Bucyk joined Frank Mahovlich and Allan Stanley entering the Hockey Hall of Fame. His number 9 has been retired by the Boston Bruins.
Johnny Bucyk – Rookie Card
The Johnny Bucyk rookie card appears as number 10 in the 1957-58 Topps NHL hockey card set. His final card is included in the 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets. All his cards show Bucyk with the Boston Bruins and never with his first team, the Detroit Red Wings.
On the back of that 1957-58 Topps card, it refers to his nickname as ‘The Beast’, as it does on his next few cards. The name was said to be due to his hard hitting and magnificent physique.
His 1960-61 Topps card is the first to refer to him as ‘The Chief’. Most cards through the 1960’s look back on the famous Uke Line with Vic Stasiuk and Bronco Horvath.
Johnny Bucyk Career Stats
|1955-56||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||38||1||8||9||20|
|1956-57||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||66||10||11||21||41|