March 26, 2016

Bob Leiter

Winnipeger Bobby Leiter was a pint-sized forward, blessed with good speed. It was said the only thing quicker than Leiter's feet was his smile.

Leiter was buried in Boston's system in the 1960s. Those were the final days of the Original Six where NHL jobs were hard to come by.

A badly broken forearm and a bout with tuberculosis that required two years of medication early in his career with Boston certainly did not help.

"By the time I got back, I had essentially lost the better part of three seasons. I was rusty and had to regain my form," he said.

By the turn of the decade the NHL doubled in size and AHL veterans like Leiter really benefited. He went on to play five NHL seasons, bringing his career total to 447 games played.

His first season was with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he was better known for his four seasons with the Atlanta Flames. He scored back-to-back 26 goal seasons for the Flames in 1972-73 and 1973-74.

Most of his goals were scored in similar fashion.

"I try to stick around the goal and catch rebounds, maybe tip a shot or two," the self confessed garbage scorer said not-so-apologetically. "Heck, I'm too small to just lodge myself there in the slot and wing it like (Phil) Esposito. I get shoved out of the way if I try it. So I just rove, picking up the pieces."

Leiter, who spent nearly 13 years with more ups and downs than a yo-yo before finding success in Atlanta, credited coach Boom Boom Geoffrion with a lot of his success.

"I'm more relaxed this season," Leiter told The Hockey News. "Last year with Pittsburgh, I got benched when I made a mistake. This year, i know that I can make a mistake and still get back out there. I know Boomer's going to give me my chance. So as a consequence, I'm more relaxed, loose on the ice."

"Nobody ever worked with him," Geoffrion said of Leiter's long tenure in the minor leagues. "Nobody ever gave him the confidence to be a scorer. I knew he could be a scorer for me, though. I was sure of it.  I've always liked Bobby Leiter.

"Everybody has tried to make him a defensive hockey player. He's not. He's a scorer and he's got to get that confidence he needs to shoot the puck."

Leiter, who did not wear socks in his skates, retired in 1976.

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