When Wayne Cashman dies, it would be only too fitting that he be buried in the corner of the cemetary.
"Cash" was a fierce cornerman for 18 NHL seasons, all with the Boston Bruins. Often playing on a line with Ken Hodge and Phil Esposito, his job was to go into the corners and battle for the loose pucks. Using his size and feared reputation, more often than not he would come out of the corner with the puck and set up either Hodge or Espo with a good scoring opportunity. Though he put up decent offensive numbers himself, Cash's performance over the years could never be measured by statistics.
Opponents thought twice about getting into the corners with Wayne.
Wayne's teammate Derek Sanderson remembered the battles in the corners.
"You could see a guy go into a corner after the puck, and just before he got to it, he stopped and flinched a bit when he saw Cash. That's when you knew you got him on the ropes," Sanderson said.
The Cashman-Hodge-Esposito line scored an incredible 140 goals and 336 points in 1969-70. That was an NHL record at that time. Combined they weighed well over 600 pounds together, which made them tough to play against.
A veteran Boston hockey writer observed:
"Early in the game, the other side is bouncy and fresh. But by the second and third periods they're so tired of trying to wrestle these fellows around that they just don't have the strength to hold them off. Which is one big reason the line came up with 336 points in 1969-70."
A good playmaker, Wayne also served as the Bruins policeman. In the age of "Big Bad Bruins," Wayne was the biggest and baddest. If the opposition even looked at Esposito or Bobby Orr the wrong way, "Cash" would be the first to intervene.
After Espo and Orr left Boston it was Wayne who took over the role of a leader.
"Back in the days of Orr and Esposito," said Bruins GM Harry Sinden late in Cashman's career, "Cash was a follower. Now he's a helluva leader on the ice and back in the room."
Goalie Ron Grahame agreed with Sinden.
"Cash is a real team player. On the ice he's leading by example and off the ice he's more vocal than anyone else, yapping at us to keep it going."
While he is best known for his physical dominance in the corners and in fights, Wayne was also a very good player. He scored 20 or more goals on eight occasions. His tenacious forechecking was an integral part of the Boston offense and it's safe to say that the scoring exploits of Espo or Orr wouldn't have been as impressive if they didn't have a guy named "Cash" doing their dirty work for them.
Wayne played all 1,027 games with Boston between 1964 and 1983. He never changed his game - playing every one of his 1,027 games with tremendous desire. Wayne had injuries which would have sidelined most players for weeks and even months. For most of his NHL career Wayne was bothered by a bad back. He once played almost an entire season with a ruptured disc in his back.
Some players even tried to take advantage of that and go for Wayne's back.
"A few guys went overboard. I don't mind them taking good, legitimate shots at me, but I didn't appreciate the ones who went for my back. There's no point in naming them. They know who they are anyway, and some day their time will come," Cash said in 1973 when the cheap shots at him were at an all time high.
And Wayne usually got even with those players.
He was actually the last player from the "original six" era to retire. He was a member of two Stanley Cup champions in 1970 and 1972, and was in the finals five times.
Wayne also played in the classic Summit Series 1972, even if it only was for two games. Before one of the games, he made a little impromptu speech in the locker room.
"Tonight you guys just concentrate on playing your own games," he said, "and I'll play the Big, Bad Bruin."
"When someone clobbered Clarke, I clobbered him right back," Cash said. "When someone speared Henderson, I speared him right back - even though I didn't like the idea of spearing. I didn't know if these people understood English or not, but I'm sure they got the message. I just let them know if they were going to play that way, I was going to dish it back."
Classic Wayne Cashman.
Following his playing career, Wayne turned to coaching. He served as an assistant coach for a long time before finally getting a chance to be a head coach in 1997 (Philadelphia). However only 61 games into his rookie season he was replaced by Roger Neilson. Always the team man, Wayne agreed to stay on as an assistant coach in order to help Neilson prepare for the playoff run.
Wayne's humility after being fired by the Flyers sums up Cashman the man - a great person who would do anything it takes to help out his team. Wayne did that for 18 NHL seasons and he continued to do that long after his playing days.