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July 14, 2013

Dave Reece

Poor Dave Reece!

After starring with the unlikely hockey program at the University of Vermont, the goalie came out of nowhere to sign with the Boston Bruins in 1972. After three years battling snipers in the minor leagues, Reece was called upon by Boston in the 1975-76 season.

The Bruins were without ace starter Gerry Cheevers (who fled to the WHA) and Gilles Gilbert (due to a mid season injury). Boston called up Reece, who double majored in political science and education, was called upon early in 1976 to tend the Bruins net. Reece did a good job too. He went 7-4-2 in 13 games and had the team on a 7 game winning streak when it was announced that Cheevers was returning to the Bruins from the WHA.

The signing of Cheevers was great for the Bruins of course and Gilles Gilbert would ultimately return to be his backup. The Bruins however did not want to dress Cheevers in his first game back, fearing that he wasn't ready to play on that particular night, February 7, 1976. The Bruins instead gave the starting assignment to Reece as a reward for his good play with the Bruins that year. The game, played in Toronto on a Saturday night which meant it was shown nation wide in Canada and parts of the US on Hockey Night In Canada, was a bittersweet moment for Reece, as he was informed prior to the game that the Bruins would be demoting him to the minors quickly afterwards in order to make roster room for Cheevers.

Bittersweet was as good as Reece would feel on that night. It soon became an agonizing night for the young goalie as he would become both famous and infamous at the mercy of the Leafs amazing center Darryl Sittler. Sittler had the single greatest one-game performance in National Hockey League history - at Reece's expense. Sittler scored 6 goals and 4 assists for a mind-boggling 10 points in an 11-4 Maple Leaf victory! Sittler owned Reece on that record breaking night. 10 points in one game! Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman - no one - had or has ever equaled or bettered that!

Sittler had a great joke about Reece afterwards that helped add to Reece's infamy.

"(Reece) was so distraught after that game he tried to commit suicide by stepping in front of the train. Fortunately it went through his legs."

Reece of course was sent to the minors a couple of days later. The demotion wasn't because of his performance against the Leafs - as mentioned earlier it was planned ahead of time. However legend has always had it that Reece was demoted because of that. Reece never returned to the NHL, and his infamous role in Sittler's incredible feat probably had something to do with that. Everywhere Reece went he must have been pestered with questions about that night.

He finished the year in the minors and played one more year before hanging his goalie pads up and focusing on his career in education and consulting. It's too bad that he is remembered exclusively as the goalie who was in net for Sittler's 10 point game, as he had a good little stint in the NHL minus that last game. He also twice represented Team USA in international events - as a spare goalie at the 1972 Olympics and playing in 5 games at the 1977 World Championships

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