Ferny Flaman, the former All-Star defenseman and captain for the Boston Bruins who resided in Westwood since 1958, is being remembered fondly by his family, former teammates, and coaching colleagues.
Flaman, who retired from the National Hockey League in 1961 and is enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, died of cancer June 23 at his home at age 85.
“He was a straightforward guy who would just look into your eye to get his message across and that alone commanded respect,” recalled Norton resident Don McKenney, Flaman’s Bruins teammate and his top assistant at Northeastern University for 19 seasons.
“I was a rookie with the Bruins in 1954 when Ferny had been traded back to Boston by Toronto. He was quiet on the outside, but very tough on the ice and a great teammate,” added McKenney, who along with Flaman helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals in 1957 and 1958. “If anyone on the other team gave us a problem, Ferny would immediately stick up for us.”
Flaman put Northeastern on the college hockey map with four Beanpot Tournament titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances, and a Hockey East championship in the 1980s. Flaman set a program record with 255 wins from 1970 to 1989.
When Flaman was honored at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena in February of 2010, he was escorted onto the ice by McKenney. It was a nostalgic evening for Flaman, a native of Dysart, Saskatchewan, who was signed by the Bruins in 1943 and first played for its Boston Olympics farm team on that very same ice surface when it was the Boston Arena.
“Everyone thought highly of him,’’ said current NU hockey coach Jim Madigan of Milton, who played for Flaman during the Beanpot glory years and was later his assistant coach.
“When I was looking for my first coaching job as a co-op student, Ferny recommended me to Mike Gilligan at the University of Vermont. Mike hired me, saying Ferny’s word was good enough for him.’’
Flaman was so loyal to the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, for whom he served as a scout the past 22 years, that when he had trouble driving at night, his son Fern, who lives in Walpole, would take him to Providence so he could evaluate visiting players from New Jersey’s farm team.
Flaman, who played 15 NHL seasons, had hoped to attend the league’s draft in Pittsburgh the weekend of his passing.
“When his death was announced at the draft,” said Flaman’s close friend, New Jersey president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, “Peter Mahovlich, who had a great NHL career, told me Ferny was his coach in the minors and that his influence on his pro career was invaluable.’’
Flaman was known more for his toughness in the corners and in front of his net than for his scoring. He had 34 goals and 1,370 penalty minutes.
But after scoring two goals in a playoff game against the New York Rangers in 1958, Flaman joked that since Montreal Canadiens star Rocket Richard wasn’t playing that night, he was the NHL’s best scorer.
Just how tough was Flaman? Toronto Star columnist Jim Proudfoot quoted another Canadiens legend, Jean Beliveau, during Flaman’s prime: “Any other player I do not worry about, but when I go near that fellow, believe me I look over my shoulder.’’
Flaman’s son said his father felt he had to establish himself as a teenager because “he was a young kid competing for a job, so he refused to be picked on.’’
But the best part of signing with Boston was Flaman meeting his wife of 65 years, Jeanne Magner of Brookline. Her father managed a clothing store frequented by Bruins players.
In addition to his wife and son, Flaman leaves his daughter, Laurie Fletcher of Barrington, R.I. His other son, former Harvard hockey captain Terry Flaman, succumbed to cancer in 1984 three months after an emotional Northeastern victory in the Beanpot.