Perhaps what we’ll best remember of Derek Sanderson’s playing days is something that can’t be tucked into an auction catalog. He was master of the sweep check, his devilish knack for leaning over, dropping his stick nearly flush to the ice, and filching pucks away from opposing forwards and defensemen.
“Oh, what I could have done with sweep checking today,” an ever-perky Sanderson said this past week from his home on the Cape. “I would have stolen more pucks, had more breakaways, than you could shake a stick at. Before I die, I would love to teach [Brad] Marchand how to do it. He’s got the skills to be really good at it.”
Sanderson, age 74, has no plans on checking out in the near future. He is fully retired, still enjoys his rounds of golf, and is pleased to report that he is in “generally” good health.
“Stay healthy if you can,” advised the ex-Bruins great, whose adventurous trip to old age included overcoming a nasty addiction to drugs and alcohol. “Because being 74 really, really sucks.”
The Black and Gold glory days long behind him, Sanderson decided in recent weeks to auction off his career artifacts. The Derek Sanderson Personal Collection went up for bids Friday at classicauctions.net, hosted by the Montreal-based online auction house of the same name that last year handled Ray Bourque’s auction
Classic Auctions, founded a quarter-century ago by Marc Juteau, has turned hockey artifacts into a signature, niche market. Sanderson’s large lot is up for bid along with career goodies from the likes of former greats Henri Richard and Luc Robitaille.
In 2010, Juteau auctioned the sweater Paul Henderson wore when he potted Canada’s winning goal in the famed 1972 Summit Series with Russia. It hauled in $1.275 million (US). The buyer, commercial real estate mogul Mitch Goldhar, made the No. 19 red-and-white sweater the centerpiece of a Summit Series caravan that he sent throughout Canada to attract shoppers to malls.
Some of the key items in Sanderson’s lot include a game-worn No. 16 home sweater he wore for the Bruins in the playoffs in 1972, the year Sanderson and his Big Bad Bruins pals won the Stanley Cup for the second time. There is also a stick the Turk used in the 1970 playoffs, but it is not the one he used to dish the puck to Bobby Orr for the famous “Flying Bobby” goal that clinched the Cup Final.
“I wish it was,” said Juteau. “Although very similar, the wear pattern on the blade [as shown in a Game 4 photograph] doesn’t match the stick we have. Our research showed that he only used that model of stick during the 1970 playoffs, so we’re thinking it might have been used early in the game and maybe Derek got one of his extra sticks from that game signed after the game. But we don’t think it is the stick.”
So, why now to say farewell to a lifetime of goodies? Athletes are often compelled to sell their goods when financial times turn sour.
"No, everything’s tidy-tidy there, thankfully, " said Sanderson. “No, it was just time. The stuff’s been at home, filling closets and gathering dust, and what the hell, it’s the last hurrah.”
To see it all go, Sanderson added, brings a sense of sharing.
“If it goes to someone who enjoyed my career, then great,” he said. “That’s a nice feeling.”
According to Sanderson, his wife Nancy [Gillis], for years insisted he hold on to the artifacts, but she relented after he recently gave his two Cup rings to sons Michael (age 29) and Ryan (27).
“So, the boys are set,” said Sanderson. “They’re theirs to keep, unless one day they want to sell them, maybe to buy a car or something. If we’d won a third, Nancy would’ve gotten that one. I guess that’s the ’71 ring … the one we should of won.”
1971. Ken Dryden. For some Bruins fans, it’s still too soon to start kidding.
Decades ago, Sanderson lost track of both rings, and was unsure whether he lost or sold them. As hard as that might be to imagine, it serves today as a reminder of his state of mind during his days in addiction.
“When I was drinking, right?” mused Sanderson. “When I was out there pretty good, if I’d had my hands on those rings they would have been gone for another day, and cheaply. Because you’re just day to day when you’re drunk.”
Years into his sobriety, Sanderson met up with Joe Cimino, his former business partner at Daisy Buchanan’s in the Back Bay.
“So I meet him at Daisy’s,” recalled Sanderson, "and he hands me the rings and says, ‘I was wondering when you were going to come back.’ ”
Cimino, said Sanderson, like a good sweep checker, had clipped the rings from the ex-Bruin’s apartment, storing them in a safety deposit box for fear that Sanderson might sell them amid a night of partying.
"He said, ‘I’ve got something for you,’ and handed them over to me,” said Sanderson. “And I said, ‘Ah, God bless you, Joey, I thought I got rid of these years ago.’ And then I gave them to my dad.”
Harold Sanderson, then still living in the house Sanderson grew up in in Niagara Falls, Ontario, didn’t keep a safety deposit box. Instead, he stowed both rings in the hem of the living room drapes.
“One day, Nancy and I were visiting my folks,” Sanderson recalled. "And I said, ‘Hey, Dad, Nancy’s never seen the rings.’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and he goes right to the hem of the curtain and he snips them out. And my mom’s yelling, ‘You’re gonna sew that back up, are you?’ ”
The Derek Sanderson Personal Collection will remain online until Oct. 23. Classic Auctions has handled bigger, richer placements, but unlikely none with richer back stories.
Khudobin’s style a blend of stars
By the eye of Brian Boucher, the ex-Mount St. Charles goaltender and now NBC ice-level analyst, Stars goalie Anton Khudobin’s style is a blend of elements found in the games of Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, and Evgeni Nabokov, the latter of whom grew up in the same area as “Doby” in Kazakhstan.
“That’s kind of how it works,” Boucher said this past week by telephone from Edmonton, where he was wrapping up two-plus months in the NHL bubble. “As a kid, I was a big Patrick Roy fan. Now at the end of the day, I don’t think I played like Patrick, but I watched how he played and I tried to emulate some of the things he did. You put it all together and that’s your game.”
Boucher sees Thomas in Khudobin’s game for Thomas’s elements of battle and compete. The Rask element, he said, can be found in how Khudobin covers the low post, opting to tuck his leg pad behind the pipe and actually inside the net, rather than jam a skateblade as barrier against the post.
“Gotta believe he got that from Tuukka,” said Boucher.
The most unique trait borrowed from Nabokov, noted Boucher, begins with how Khudobin often opts to stand up in his crease. It’s unconventional in today’s game, which now usually sees goalies first opt to hit the deck with their knees and cover as much of the 6-foot width as possible by flashing their leg pads.
“I think staying on your feet sometimes is the better play,” said Boucher, 43, and once a first-round pick by the Flyers (1995). “You don’t see it a ton, but when I see Khudobin do it, and I remember Nabby doing it, that’s where I know, ‘Oh, wow, he’s copying him.’ ”
Specifically, while Khudobin stands up, noted Boucher, he will shuffle his feet in a lateral motion — step/follow, step/follow, as the opposition moves the puck side to side in the offensive zone.
“Usually, if a guy’s covering 5 or 6 feet, side-to-side,” said Boucher, "he’ll do it with a T-push. He points a lead foot toward a post, perpendicular to his push foot, and then pushes off with that opposite leg. The thing is, that stride opens up the five-hole, right?”
Nabokov, who won 353 NHL games (most with the Sharks), acquired that trait directly from San Jose coach Warren Strelow, the legendary goalie maker. The late Strelow made his mark as the 1980 US Olympic goalie coach, chosen by Herb Brooks, who tutored Jim Craig and helped the Yanks to the gold medal.
“Just a few guys do it anymore,” said Boucher, noting the Strelow-like shuffle. “Guys go more to their knees on lateral plays — rarely do they stay on their feet. There’s a lot of knee sliding, and you see Tuukka do that quite a bit. So guys who stand on their feet and shuffle, it’s kind of an old-guard technique. I like it. Because I’ve always been a fan of staying on your feet to begin with — there’s a time to go down on your feet and a time not to.”
So Strelow’s teachings live on with Khudobin, a quirky, battling goaltender from Kazakhstan — a country that remained under the thumb of the dissolving USSR until 1991, 11 years after Strelow and the ragtag Yanks sent Viktor Tikhonov and Sons reeling down an Adirondack slope.
Boucher spent a brief time in San Jose as Nabokov’s backup, where then-Sharks goalie coach Wayne Thomas was still putting goalies through the battery of drills conjured by Strelow.
“Warren had passed and Wayne, another great guy, was coaching,” recalled Boucher. “And we would do Warren blowout days, where would do like 15 consecutive drills of Warren’s skating movement drills. They were hard. Oh, yeah, hard. And Nabby loved 'em, and he knew I was dying doing them, because I hadn’t played that way. My hips would seize up and Nabby would just be laughing.”
Panthers’ Zito is settling in
Newly named Panthers general manager Bill Zito made his first significant roster move on Thursday, acquiring winger Patric Hornqvist from the Penguins for ex-Boston College defenseman Mike Matheson and plug-and-play center Colton Sceviour.
The Panthers yielded some significant age — Matheson (26) vs. Hornqvist (33) — but Hornqvist, a two-time Cup winner with the Penguins (2016, ’17), brings the tool kit that might help the Panthers move from fringe postseason qualifier to legit Cup contender.
“He gives us an element of leadership, grit, compete, performance,” said Zito. “And sincere character.”
Hornqvist isn’t big (5 feet 11 inches, 190 pounds), was never a burner, but he has the moxie to dash in off the wing and burrow under opposing defenses to make his line a nuisance around the net. Which is why he makes $5.3 million a year. It’s an element a number of clubs lack, and a category the Bruins found themselves wanting again in Round 2 this year when their forwards couldn’t win down low vs. the Lightning.
“It also gives Matheson a fresh start,” said Zito, “and that’s good for him.”
Matheson, who departed The Heights after three seasons in the spring of 2015, plummeted to a minus-24 in 2018-19 and his offense has yet to develop the way ex-Panthers GM Dale Tallon projected when he extended him for eight years, $39 million after all of 89 NHL games.
Zito, 55, is from Wisconsin and spent a year at Phillips Andover before signing on with Tim Taylor at Yale in 1983. Zito accepted an offer to go to Harvard, having initially misread Yale’s interest, and then was faced with telling Crimson coach Bill Cleary that he instead was headed to New Haven.
“So, I write him a letter, ‘Dear Mr. Cleary, I sincerely thank you for the opportunity, but I’ve decided … ’ ” Zito recalled on Friday from his office in Sunrise.
All in all, Zito felt he would see more ice time at Yale.
“A week after writing the letter, I got on the bus at Andover to go see Billy in person, thank him, look him in the eye, shake his hand, and thank him for everything,” added Zito. “I walk into his office, and there had to be six stacks of mail on his desk, none of them open. And I’m going, ‘Oh, no, he hasn’t read my letter!’ So now I’m standing there and he’s going, ‘Billy boy, how are you?!’ He still thinks I’m going to there, and I’m, you know, ‘Gulp, gulp … ’ ”
But Cleary “was awesome” about the change of direction, recalled Zito, and wished him well with the rival Bulldogs.
Lane MacDonald, who was Zito’s high school linemate at the University School in Milwaukee, went to Harvard the following year and flourished with the Crimson for four seasons (225 points in 128 games).
“I should have kept riding his coattails!” said Zito. “He was a pretty good player.”
Yale’s main attraction for Zito, beyond the added ice time, was Taylor, the ex-US Olympic coach who died in April 2013 at age 71.
“So many great things about Timmy, and at the time I didn’t know all that much,” said Zito. “Mike Gilligan had been the guy to recruit me, and I was happy just to have a chance to play — no secret that I wasn’t very good. As you got to know Timmy, his passion for the game, and his sort of hidden humanity, the best way to get to know would be when you’d see him around Jackie [Parker], Dick Umile, or [Jerry York] and all of a sudden this sort of stoic, quiet kind … his personality would just light up.”
Torey Krug, still unsigned by the Bruins, can walk as an unrestricted free agent Oct. 9. If GM Don Sweeney figures there’s no chance to reach a deal, he can wheel the defenseman’s rights by the night of Oct. 8. It would allow the acquiring club to sign Krug to an eight-year deal rather than only seven years. And the Bruins might land a third-round pick. Not much, but better than losing Krug for nothing. Krug, when our faithful puck chronicler asked him about considering his fit with the Bruins: “You can make all the money in the world and have all the security in the world, but if you’re not comfortable in the situation, if you’re not happy, then every day it’s going to be tough to get up and be excited to show up to work and give it your all. Obviously, I’ve made it well known that I feel very comfortable in Boston — I like my role here, I am comfortable with the coach, and I love my teammates. It’s no secret and it’s a big part of the decision.” … Ex-UMass Lowell star Connor Hellebuyck, originally of Commerce, Mich., was named the Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s No. 1 goaltender. Seven Yanks now have won the Vezina, dating to Boston’s Frank Brimsek winning in 1939. The others: Tom Barrasso (1984), John Vanbiesbrouck (1986), Jim Carey (1996), Tim Thomas (2009, 2011), Ryan Miller (2010) … Headed into weekend play, nearly one-third of the 681 players in the KHL had contracted COVID-19 in the new season. It forced clubs to postpone or forfeit 13 games. No telling what that portends for 2020-21 in North America. The league announced this past week its 31 clubs should make ice available for voluntary workouts on Oct. 15. Still no formal dates for the start of full camp or the new season. Keep in mind, players on seven of those clubs haven’t participated in any team-related workouts since the league shut down March 12 … Original plans, scrapped months ago because of the pandemic, had the Bruins in Europe this weekend, first for an exhibition game in Mannheim, Germany, and then the season opener in Prague … If the Maple Leafs roll out the big dough for UFA-to-be Alex Pietrangelo, they’ll be forced to deal one, perhaps two, contracts to make room for the franchise defenseman. The three most vulnerable to be dealt: William Nylander ($6.96 million), Jake Muzzin ($5.625 million), and ex-Harvard pivot Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million).