Boston Bruins Exhibition Tour of Newfoundland in April 1956
The Boston Bruins finished the 1955-56 NHL season in 5th place, 2 points behind Toronto who took the last spot in the 1956 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins, as was customary in that era after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs, went on an exhibition good-will tour to end the season. In April 1956 the team travelled across the island of Newfoundland, playing in five arenas with the legendary Terry Sawchuk. (Sawchuk had a short tenure with the Bruins. He just finished his only full season as their primary goaltender but only played half of the next season before a temporary retirement in 1957)
During the tour the Bruins made hockey history by playing on an outdoor rink with artificial ice in the town of Bay Roberts. This would be just the 2nd recorded outdoor game by an NHL team and the first NHL team outdoor game in Canada until the Heritage Classic in 2003 which involved two NHL teams.
The first games on the island tour were at Humber Gardens in Corner Brook on Saturday April 7th. The team then traveled to Stephenville and boarded a plane for Torbay Airport on Sunday April 8th but were held over by weather. The Bruins flew to Gander and spent the night at the airport town before travelling by train to St. John's the next day. The club then traveled to Bay Roberts on April 9th and played in the outdoor arena. The new Bay Roberts Arena, which opened in February 1956, had refrigeration piping installed to produce an artificial ice surface (there were future plans to build a structure around the ice surface). The outdoor arena, with lighting and a public address system, was well suited for a night game with the Bruins.
After leaving Bay Roberts the next games were scheduled over three nights at Memorial Stadium in St. John's from April 10-12th. The Bruins ended their tour in Central Newfoundland with games in Grand Falls and Gander. On April 14th the Bruins were hosted by the Herder-Champion Andcos at Grand Falls Stadium. The Bruins then played the Gander All-Stars at the new Gander Gardens. Don Carter attended the game and posted this account on the gaflight website: http://www.gaflight.org/Boston%20Bruins.htm
The legendary Terry Sawchuk was in his prime during the tour and the Boston Bruins would have possession of the puck thoughout most exhibition games. As a result it proved very difficult to score on Sawchuk. Usually in the third period of these games, teams would switch jerseys and it would be very entertaining for the fans. But before then, when the games were played seriously, the home teams were no match for the professionals and only three recorded actual goals were scored on the Bruins. The only three local players credited for scoring goals on Terry Sawchuk were Gerald Saunders in Bay Roberts, Jim Temple in Grand Falls and John Murphy in Gander.
Saturday April 7, 1956 at Humber Gardens, Corner Brook
The touring Boston Bruins played two games against the Corner Brook team. In the second game Sawchuk played in goal for the local team (source: White, 2000).
Monday April 9, 1956 at Bay Roberts Arena (outdoor rink)
Tuesday April 10 through Thursday April 12, 1956 at Memorial Stadium, St. John's
Saturday April 14, 1956 at Grand Falls Stadium
April ?, 1956 at Gander Gardens
An account of the game by Don Carter of Gander: http://www.gaflight.org/Boston%20Bruins.htm