With the Boston Bruins, Bep Guidolin began as a rookie player in 1942 and as a rookie coach about 30 years later. Stepping in as coach mid-season, Guidolin led the Bruins to five straight wins. The final win in the streak occurred on February 15, 1973.
Born in 1925, Guidolin was a month shy of his 17th birthday when he became the youngest to play in an NHL game. On that day, November 12, 1942, he and the Bruins lost (3-1). He remained with the Bruins for four seasons before he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in October 1947. The following October, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, and he remained with them for the final four seasons of his NHL playing career.
In February 1973, the Bruins were in a rut. Throughout the last two seasons, they had an excellent win-loss record, had placed first in their division, and had recently brought home the Stanley Cup. However, in their last ten games alone, they had a record of 3-6-1. The Bruins decided to fire Coach Tom Johnson, who had been such a capable leader until that point. Bobby Orr commented at the time, “It’s a shame. The guy was fired because we weren’t playing the way we should.”
Guidolin, then coach of the Braves, was named as the replacement. He took pride in being a “task-master” with “long and tough practice sessions.” When named coach, he promised, “We’ll be on the ice every day at home and on the road for an hour or an hour and a half for the next six weeks. We need those good legs to keep digging in the last period.” The Boston Globe also warned fans that Guidolin was “a fundamentalist who believes deeply in methodical application of first principles.” He replied, “The thing that excites me is taking the two points. . . . We are not going for the big score.” He concluded, “I’m a defensive-minded coach and I don’t think I need to make any apologies for that.”
Immediately, Guidolin’s methods seemed to prove effective. On the road on February 7, the Bruins defeated the Minnesota North Stars 3-2. After three more wins back in Boston, on February 15, the Bruins visited Philadelphia to play the Flyers. According to the Boston Globe, “It was one of those old-fashioned Boston displays with the accent on defensive play, and there was a superior performance by Bobby Orr, who scored one himself and assisted on the others by Ken Hodge and Gregg Sheppard.” Guidolin kept Orr on the ice for 40 minutes and then stated, “Sure, he was our quarterback. He played more than he would ordinarily, but that’s what we plan to do in our big games. That’s how we figured this one. Orr was great, but this was the way the Bruins can play under pressure – the way we should play.” It looked as though goalie Eddie Johnston would have a shutout until 13:49 in the third. Even though the Flyers managed to score, Guidolin felt, “We got really great goaltending from Eddie Johnston” during a “successful defensive game.” The Bruins kept the Flyers from scoring again and ended the game 3-1.
The Globe considered the game “undoubtedly the best of the five under Bep Guidolin.” From their point of view, the “Bruins were developing that old invincible attitude with five straight victories under new coach Bep Guidolin.” With that fifth win, Guidolin became the first rookie NHL coach to start 5-0-0.
The winning streak began and ended with the North Stars. On February 17, the Bruins returned to Minnesota but, this time, lost 5-2. This game, according to the Globe, presented Guidolin with “his first major coaching challenge.” He only stayed down for that game, coming back to lead the team to four straight victories. Throughout March, the Bruins won ten games in a row and only had four losses. Despite their rocky start, the Bruins finished second in the East Division with a record of 51-22-5 (107 points). All-in-all, Guidolin only saw six losses in his 26 games coaching that season.
Guidolin remained with Boston until 1974, when they lost the Stanley Cup finals to the Flyers. He spent two seasons with the Kansas City Scouts and a final season in the WHA with the Edmonton Oilers.
- Tom Fitzgerald, “Sinden admits talking trade with Flyers,” Boston Globe, 16 Feb. 1973, p. 29.
- Tom Fitzgerald, “Orr effort keeps Bep perfect, 3-1,” Boston Globe, 16 Feb. 1973, p. 53.
- Tom Fitzgerald, “Grant scores hat trick, Stars jolt Bruins, 5-2,” Boston Globe, 18 Feb. 1973, p. 89.
- Tom Fitzgerald, “Bep’s game plan: gain two points,” Boston Globe, 18 Feb. 1973, p. 91.
- Tom Fitzgerald, “Bruins fire Johnson…and players take the blame,” Boston Globe, 6 Feb. 1973, p. 1 and 30.