Sixty years after his rookie season as a 19-year-old with the Boston Bruins, Doug Mohns made a sentimental journey to the team’s annual fund-raising golf tournament last September.
Although weakened by cancer, Mr. Mohns, who played half of his 22 seasons in the National Hockey League in Boston, walked into the dining room on his own at the International Golf Club in Bolton.
There he shared memories with Milt Schmidt, the Bruins coach in the late 1950s when Mr. Mohns played in two Stanley Cup finals, and he told everyone how special it had been to wear a Bruins uniform.
“He did everything in his power to get there,” said his son, Doug Jr. of Hanover, who accompanied Mr. Mohns. “Looking back, it was also his way of saying goodbye on his own terms.”
Mr. Mohns, a seven-time NHL All-Star and the first Bruins defenseman to score 20 goals in a season, died of myelodysplastic syndrome Feb. 7 in the Sawtelle Family Hospice House in Reading. He was 80 and lived in Bedford.
Mr. Mohns also served as an executive for 19 years at New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Woburn after retiring from hockey.
Saying he “was never really comfortable accepting a lot of praise,” Mr. Mohns told the Globe in 1985: “We are all put on earth here to help others when we can; God’s been good to me and I feel I have some obligation to be good to others.”
That good included being a driving force, with his late first wife, the former Jane Foster, in founding the Dianne DeVanna Center in Braintree in 1978. More recently, he volunteered on Saturdays with his wife, the former Tabor Ansin, supervising the fruit and vegetable department at the Lexington Interfaith Food Pantry.
“Dad never looked back,” his son said. “Whatever he was doing at the time — whether playing professional hockey, volunteering, or helping out at the Shaker Hills golf course later in life — was what was most important to him.”
Born in Capreol, Ontario, Douglas Allen Mohns learned to skate on a backyard rink with his brothers and sisters.
He was so talented that the Ice Capades offered him a contract, which he did not accept because he was just 7.
Mr. Mohns was playing with the Bruins’ junior team in Barrie, Ontario, when he met Don McKenney, who went on to star in the NHL and coach at Northeastern University.
“We were both 16 years old at the time and we just clicked,” McKenney said. “When we were first with the Bruins, we were roommates before we each got married. And then we both moved to the South Shore and stayed close and ran a hockey school in Falmouth. He was my dearest friend, as sincere as anyone I’ve known.”
McKenney and Schmidt marveled at the end-to-end rushing ability of Mr. Mohns, who was nicknamed Diesel for his churning skating style, and his strength and steaming slap shot.
“He could have played in any era — he was that good — and he’d be a star today,” Schmidt said.
Mr. Mohns, who had served as Boston’s alternate captain, put up impressive numbers in the team’s losses to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals in 1957 and 1958 and had 13 points in 12 playoff games in 1958.
He was awarded the Elizabeth C. Dufresne Trophy as Boston’s most valuable player in home games for the 1961-62 season.
In 1964, the Bruins traded Mr. Mohns to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played left wing on the Scooter Line with Kenny Wharram and the great Stan Mikita. Mr. Mohns had four 20-goal seasons with Chicago.
In 1990, Mr. Mohns told the Globe that his final years with the Bruins, despite the team’s declining record, “probably brought us closer together.”
“We shared a common bond, we suffered together, and we made lasting friendships,” he said.
In his final season (1974-75), he played 75 games and was captain of the Washington Capitals at 41. Mr. Mohns ended his career with 248 goals and 462 assists in 1,390 regular season games, and 14 goals and 36 assists in 94 playoff games.
His number 19 Bruins jersey was raised to the ceiling during his New England Rehabilitation Hospital retirement party.
Mr. Mohns married Jane Foster in 1957. They divorced 11 years later and remarried in 1972. In that ceremony, Doug Jr. was best man and their daughter, Andrea Mohns–
Brillaud of North Andover, was maid of honor.
In 1978, Mr. Mohns and Jane were returning from a weekend on Cape Cod when they learned of the death of Dianne DeVanna, an 11-year-old who had been physically abused by her father and stepmother. Jane Mohns knew the victim, whom she had helped as a school psychologist.
Jane and Doug Mohns joined a group of people who paid for the girl’s gravestone, and that effort grew into a fund-raising campaign, which led to the founding of the Dianne DeVanna Center. Mr. Mohns supported its programs the remainder of his life.
“Doug spent his entire adult life fighting to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children,” said Julie Howard, the center’s program director, on behalf of the center and its new partner, Bay State Community Services. “It has been an honor and a privilege to have had the support of such a kind, compassionate, and generous man.”
Jane Mohns died of cancer in 1988.
Mr. Mohns met Tabor Ansin through Suna Murray of The Skating Club of Boston, who coached his and Ansin’s daughters. Mr. Mohns married Ansin in 1992.
“One of the things I admired most about Doug was his sense of adventure,” his wife said. “He was always ready to try something new. He loved the bike trips we took over the years to different countries, and no one could ever beat him on those hills in Italy. His excitement about life and living made him a very special husband.”
In addition to his wife, son, and daughter, Mr. Mohns leaves a stepson, Greg Ansin of Los Angeles; a stepdaughter, Lisa Ansin of Austin, Texas; a sister, Erma Wilson of Pembroke, Ontario; and nine grandchildren.
A service has been held, and burial was in Sandwich Town Cemetery.
When Mr. Mohns turned 80, his daughter, who coaches skating at Boston University and at Phillips Academy in Andover, sent him a letter.
“I’ve witnessed your kindness to people and I emulate to live my life how you’ve chosen to live yours,” Andrea wrote. “You are good to the core and I have learned from that. You have taught me well.”Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.