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July 14, 2013

Bronco Horvath

Originally signed by the Detroit Red Wings, Bronco Horvath has the rare distinction of at one time or another being the property of all of the Original Six teams!

Before he played a game in the NHL with Detroit he was traded to New York where he played 1 season. He was then shipped to Montreal, but he would appear in just one game in a Montreal uniform before finishing the season in the minor leagues.

Another off- season saw Horvath traded to Boston, where he blossomed as a NHLer. Playing on the "Uke Line," Horvath centered Johnny Bucyk and Vic Stasiuk to form one of hockey's most electrifying lines.

In his first season in Boston, he scored 30 goals and 66 points in 67 games, good enough to pace the Bruins in scoring. His exploits also got the Bruins to the Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Canadiens, but fell short.

Nicknamed "Bronco" because of his early childhood roots in western Canada, Horvath's second season in Boston was interrupted by a broken jaw which limited him to just 19 goals in 45 games. The following year however he tied Bobby Hull for the league lead with 39 goals

"If Chief (Johnny Bucyk) hadn't got injured, I'd have shattered 50 goals or more. I'd love to be able to play hockey today with Bucyk and Stasiuk on the wings. I'd score over a 100 goals a year with the 80 game schedule. It'd be a snap with those two guys. They'd get the puck out to me and I'd just shoot it."

Horvath finished second to Hull in the overall scoring derby however. His total of 41 assists was one fewer than Hull's 42. Horvath was named to the NHL second all star team behind the immortal Jean Beliveau.

The "Ukes" were broken up the following year, due mostly to injuries. Horvath himself spent another injury plagued season in Boston, playing in just 47 games. before being claimed in the Intra-League draft by Chicago. But never quite found his niche in the Windy City. The following season he split the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. He would finish the season with the Leaf's AHL affiliate in Rochester.

Horvath spent sixth of the next seven seasons with the Leafs farm team, and was one of the top players in the minor leagues. When Bill Masterton was tragically killed, the Minnesota North Stars were short of NHL players. The Leafs loaned the services of Horvath to the North Stars organization briefly in the 1967-68 season. Despite playing with a badly broken thumb, Horvath played well in 14 games with the Stars, collecting 1 goal and 7 points.

Horvath wanted to stay in Minnesota, but the Leafs wouldn't sell his contract to the Stars.

"Crozier and Imlach (Toronto Maple Leaf management) were playing games. They wanted 5 players and $50,000 for me! I could have a had a good life in Minnesota," said Horvath be grudgingly. "That's not right. I wanted to be in the big leagues. But I learned every time I was in the minors. It was hard to come back. They control you. They tell you what you can do and what you can't do. No matter how good you are, they're going to stick you.

Bronco retired in 1970 from Rochester and joined the Minnesota as a scout. Later he coached in the OHA for the London Knights, and in Cape Cod for a semi-pro organization, from where he launched a successful cleaning business.

He had to get a real job, as he squandered all of his money earned in hockey.

"I made a good dollar in the minors, as much if not more than some guys in the NHL. I thought I was going to play hockey for 50 years. I could have played for many years like Gordie Howe. I went from day to day. I thought I was going to be a millionaire or something in hockey. When I quit hockey, I was going to be in coaching. Lets face it, it's a dream. Dreams don't work out in that way. You've got to work at it; you've got to put your mind to it seven days a week."

Cal Gardner certainly believed in his own abilities, and was never shy to offer his opinion. That brash personality probably explains why he was traded so often and why he never got along well with coaches and managers.

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