Peter McNab, the high-scoring center who was a central cast member on Don Cherry’s late-1970s Lunchpail Bruins teams, on Thursday was named to the US Hockey Hall of Fame.
McNab, 69, was chosen along with former Philadelphia forward Paul Holmgren, who later became the Flyers’ coach, general manager, and president, and Stan Fischler, one of the game’s most prolific authors and broadcasters.
“It was the greatest time of my life; there’s just no getting around it,” McNab mused about his Boston days. “I’ll never be able to accurately describe the impact it had on me.”
Soon after his arrival here for the start of the 1976-77 season, recalled McNab, it was legendary goalie Gerry Cheevers, who later would be the club’s head coach, who bluntly asked him his salary.
“So I told him,” said McNab, noting a slight queasiness about the discussion. “And he said, ‘Well, this is where you should live. You don’t want to live here, and you don’t want to live there.’
“It was a team, and they cared. We went three years in a row with probably the most frustrating [playoff losses] you could have [all to Montreal], but as a group it was so spectacular to be part of it.”
Over the decades, said McNab, he has met countless New Englanders who loved those teams of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
“Because,” he said, “they … had … character. They had a personality. They were a special group. And to say that I was part of it is such an honor. It was so much fun. Maybe we had too much fun at times, but …”
McNab, for nearly a quarter-century part of the Colorado Avalanche broadcast team, came to the Bruins from the Sabres soon after the 1975-76 season and scored 35 goals or more in each of the following six seasons.
Eventually dealt to Vancouver in the 1983-84 season for Jim Nill (headline: “Bruins Get Nill for McNab”) by then-general manager Harry Sinden, McNab retired as a New Jersey Devil after the 1986-87 season with a prolific career average of .851 points per game (363-450—813 in 955 games).
Though not a fighter, McNab was part of a highly popular Bruins team that engaged frequently in fisticuffs and used that toughness, in part, to reach the Stanley Cup Final in ‘77 and ‘78, losing both times to the archrival Canadiens.
He also was part of the 1979 playoff team that lost to the Canadiens in the Cup semifinals, in large part because of the infamous too-many-men-on-the-ice gaffe that handed Game 7 to the Habs.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, McNab moved to San Diego at age 14 when his father, the gregarious Max McNab, was named coach and GM of the Western League’s San Diego Gulls.
Though an avid youth player in B.C., McNab was so immediately enchanted by the San Diego sun and beaches that he told his father it was OK if he never played hockey again. He stayed engaged, though, and went on to star with the University of Denver prior to being drafted by the Sabres.
“Today, it’s almost mind-numbing,” he said, “to think that 14-year-old kid in San Diego making that decision is being asked to join this spectacular group.”
USA Hockey soon will announce the site and date (likely December) of its formal induction dinner, one that will include members of the Class of 2020: Dean Blais, Tony Granato, Jenny Potter, and Jerry York.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.