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Stanley Cup Heroes: Reggie Leach

During most of the mid 1970s to the early 1980s, NHL teams needed gun control. You see when teams faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers they had plenty to worry about, namely Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Bernie Parent. However teams would often focus the attention of their top checkers against a streaky though explosive right winger from Riverton, Manitoba. That winger's name? One of the most prolific sharpshooters nicknamed "The Rifle" - Reggie Leach

Reggie entered the league as one of the brightest prospects of the 1970 Amateur Draft. He was drafted 3rd overall by the Boston Bruins after three great years with the WHL's Flin Flon Bombers. In three seasons from 1967 to 1970 Reggie scored 188 goals in just 138 games! He added 100 assists for 288 points!

Reggie got off to a slow professional start in 1970-71. He played most of the season in the minors while playing 23 games with the Bruins, scoring 2 goals and 4 assists. His disappointing season had some of the Bruins faithful concerned. However in all fairness the Bruins at this time were the defending Cup champs and had a deep talent pool. Reggie wasn't able to crack the talent rich lineup enough to show what he was truly capable of doing.

Reggie was traded during the 1971-72 season to the California Golden Seals with Rick Smith and Bob Stewart in exchange for Carol Vadnais and Don O'Donaghue. Leach had scored just 7 goals in 56 games with the Bruins that season, but finished the year playing regularly in California. He also showed signs of fulfilling his promise, scoring 6 goals in 17 games.

Leach played two full seasons with the Seals in 1972-73 and 1973-74, scoring 23 and 22 goals respectively. Needless to say the Seals weren't exactly the strongest team around and while Reggie got some decent playing time, he had few quality players to play with.

That all changed in the summer of 1974. The defending Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers acquired his rights. It wasn't cheap for the Flyers either, as it cost them Larry Wright, Al MacAdam, and a 1st round draft pick (Ron Chipperfield) for Leach and future considerations (George Pesut). That's a lot for a guy who showed a lot of promise but still hadn't put it all together in the NHL.

Playing with names like Clarke, Barber and MacLeish, Leach exploded. During his first year, 1974-75, with Philadelphia, Reggie scored 45 goals, plus a great playoff performance with 8 goals which lead Philadelphia to a second Stanley Cup, Reggie's first.

In 1975-76 he enjoyed his best year scoring a league leading 61 goals and totaling 91 points in the season. In the playoffs he broke Richard's goal scoring streak with goals in nine consecutive playoff games and set the NHL record for most goals in a playoffs with 19. He tied an NHL record set by Hall of Famer Maurice Richard on May 6, 1976, when he scored five times to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-3 win over the Boston Bruins in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals. The win meant that the Flyers earned a trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals but were swept in 4 games by the Montreal Canadiens. Despite the Flyers' loss, Leach was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as he was clearly the best player in the playoffs. The trophy is definitely a highlight in Leach's career.

"I think it was great because I believe I was the first forward on a losing team to ever win the Conn Smythe. I know other goaltenders had won it beforehand on losing teams but I think at that time it was a great honour to be awarded that trophy and everything else. I didn't really enjoy it at the time because of us getting knocked out in four games."

Reggie "slipped" to 32, 24 and 34 goals respectively over the next three seasons. He returned to the 50 goal club in 1979-80 and remained a productive Flyer until 1982. For the 1982-1983 season, Leach signed on with the Red Wings as a free agent, extending his NHL career by one year. He scored 15 goals to total 381 career goals.

Reggie played his final season of hockey in the CHL with the Montana Magic in 1983-84 before retiring in 1984. Throughout his thirteen year career, he had ten 20 goal seasons and three 40 goal campaigns. He also played in two All-Star games in 1976 and 1980.

Leach finished with 381 goals, 285 assists (totaling 666 points) and 387 PIM in 934 games played.

After Leach's career he went on to sell cars and insurance. He decided to start up his own landscaping company which he did for ten to twelve years. He has also been active with Canada's First Nations speaking on such topics as drugs and alcohol abuse.

Reggie's son Jamie went on to a long minor league career and saw some time in the NHL as well.


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