Derek Sanderson

Derek Michael Sanderson (born June 16, 1946), nicknamed "Turk", is a Canadian former professional ice hockey centre and two-time Stanley Cup champion. He set up the epic overtime goal scored by Boston Bruins teammate Bobby Orr that clinched the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, widely considered to be the greatest goal in National Hockey League history. He amassed 202 goals, 250 assists, 911 penalty minutes and a plus-141 rating in 598 games with five NHL teams.

Derek Sanderson
Derek Sanderson.jpg
Sanderson in 2010
Born (1946-06-16) June 16, 1946 (age 76)
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight 200 lb (91 kg; 14 st 4 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Left
Played for Boston Bruins
Philadelphia Blazers
New York Rangers
St. Louis Blues
Vancouver Canucks
Pittsburgh Penguins
Playing career 1965–1978

A core piece of the so-called Big, Bad Bruins teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s decades, Sanderson was a trail blazer who impacted the game beyond his on-ice achievements. His mod fashion, bachelor lifestyle and brash demeanor helped transform the culture of professional sports. He was the highest-paid athlete in the world for a brief time. It wouldn't be long before Sanderson fell victim to drugs and alcohol, however, a lethal combination that nearly claimed his life and contributed to his early retirement at 31 years of age.

Currently, he works as an investment spokesman in the Boston area. He also advises young athletes there.

Penalty-killer supremeEdit

At 6 foot, 185 pounds, Sanderson carved a niche as one of the premier penalty-killers in NHL history. He elevated the role to another level with a trademark sweep check, highly proficient face-off skills and an uncanny knack to produce goals at a manpower disadvantage. The latter helped change how the game would be played, as more teams began to view the short-handed situation as a potential offensive weapon and became the aggressor more often.

In his list of the 30 best penalty-killers in NHL history, Stadium Talk hockey writer Paul Ladewski said of Sanderson, "Why did we put this long-haired sexpot on top? Easy — historical significance and all-around dominance. It was Turk who elevated the PK role to that of an offensive weapon at any moment. Know who scored the most shorthanded goals per game in the regular season and postseason? Well, you do now.

"By 29, he already owned the record for most shorties in league history. Yet this spit disturber could do a whole lot more. He was a shrewd forechecker and death on face-offs and liked to stir the pot."

In the 1975-76 season, Sanderson scored his 32nd career short-handed goal to surpass Toronto Maple Leafs center Dave Keon as the all-time league leader. He owned the record for eight seasons. Nearly half a century after his last appearance with Boston, Sanderson still owns the Bruins team record for most career shorthanded goals (six) in the playoffs, a mark that he shares with Ed Westfall, his longtime line mate. Through the 2021-22 campaign, his 24 short-handed tallies in the regular season ranked third behind Brad Marchand and Rick Middleton in club history.

Early yearsEdit

Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Sanderson was the son of Canadian Army Private Harold A. Sanderson, and Caroline Hall Gillespie of Dysart, Scotland.[1] His older sister Karen was born in 1944 while their father was serving in France.[2] As a young boy, Sanderson took to hockey, skating countless hours on a scaled-down version of an NHL rink, which his father built and maintained while his mother served hot chocolate during breaks in the action. The rink spanned two backyards of small cookie-cutter houses on lots provided at modest prices to servicemen such as Harold upon their return home.[3]

Playing careerEdit

Sanderson played junior hockey in his hometown with the Niagara Falls Flyers of the Ontario Hockey Association. His time with the Flyers saw him being named to the Second All-Star Team in 1965–66, to the First All-Star Team in 1966–67 and winning the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as the top scorer in the OHA also in 1966–67.[4] In 1964–65, Sanderson helped the Flyers reach the Memorial Cup finals where they beat the Edmonton Oil Kings[5] in five games.[6] After spending four years in the OHA, Sanderson turned pro by signing with the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League in 1965–66, and made his professional debut that season by playing two games with the Bruins.[4] Sanderson also played two games in the CPHL with the Oklahoma City Blazers in 1965–66, recording one goal.[7]

Boston Bruins (1968–1972)Edit

After brief stints with the Bruins in the two previous seasons, Sanderson earned a permanent roster spot in the 1967–68 campaign. The 21-year-old made an immediate impact, scoring 24 goals and 49 points in 71 games. He also had 98 penalty minutes, establishing himself as something of a "tough guy" in the league.[4] At season's end, Sanderson was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the Rookie of the Year, an honor that teammate Bobby Orr had claimed the previous year. It remains the only time in Bruins history that they had consecutive Calder Trophy winners.[8]

Although Sanderson had been an elite scorer in junior hockey, his role with the immensely talented Bruins club was limited to that of a third-liner in the middle of right wing Ed Westfall and either Wayne Carleton or Don Marcotte at the left side. It wasn't long before Westfall and Sanderson emerged as the most accomplished penalty-killing tandem in the league.[9] If the Frank J. Selke Trophy had been given to the top defensive forward during his Bruins stint -- the award made its debut in the 1977-78 season -- it's not unrealistic to think that Sanderson would have been the recipient more than once.

At the same time, Sanderson was a consistent albeit frequently overlooked offensive threat. He scored at least 24 goals in seven different seasons. In the 1970–71 campaign, he had a career-high 29 goals, only one of the on the power play.

Sanderson helped the Bruins capture consecutive East Division titles in the (1970–71 and 1971–72) seasons. He was a key contributor for the team that won the Stanley Cup in 1971–72 against the New York Rangers, its second in three seasons.[10]

All the while, the Sanderson became a sports celebrity not unlike Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who was all the rage in New York at the time. Like Namath, the long-haired Bruins heartthrob received much publicity for his numerous female companions and lavish ways, which included a Rolls-Royce car and circular bed.[11] Named by Cosmopolitan as one of the sexiest men in America, he was the subject of gossip columns, a frequent guest on television talk shows and regularly photographed in the company of glamorous women.[12]

Mayhem in ManhattanEdit

Many an opponent did not take kindly to Sanderson and his on-ice success, off-ice celebrity status and public candor, and it wasn't long before he played the villain role in many venues around the league. In his book "Play The Man", longtime New York Rangers adversary Brad Park said of him, "I got to my hotel room and turned on the television, and there was Derek Sanderson, Mr. Wise Guy of the Bruins. As usual, his comments made me sick. He opens his mouth when he shouldn't. Like a small boat in distress, he ought to shape up."

The rivalry between the Rangers and Bruins was the most intense in the league at the time, and the bad blood was never more heated than on April 11, 1970 in New York, where the teams squared off in Game 3 of the quarter-final round of the playoffs. The Bruins set the tone with 8-2 and 5-3 victories in the first two games in Boston, and Sanderson was a chief tormentor in both of them. After Sanderson and Orr scored short-handed goals on the same penalty in the first contest, he got the best of Park and Bill Fairbairn in separate fights in the second one. When the series moved to New York for Game 3, the hostile Madison Square Garden crowd screamed obscenities, hurled objects and waved threatening banners at Sanderson and his teammates throughout the game.

During a stoppage of play less than two minutes into the contest, Rangers goalie Ed Giacomin strayed toward the left face-off circle. There Sanderson was warned, "We're being paid to get you tonight," as he disclosed later. Soon the Bruins center and Rangers bench began to exchange taunts, at which point head coach-general manager Emile Francis repeatedly poked a finger to a side of his head on the bench. In the aftermath, word got out that Francis had placed a bounty on Sanderson beforehand. The league never investigated the matter.

When the puck found its way into the opposite corner seconds later, Rangers players Dave Balon, Arnie Brown and Walt Tkaczuk immediately converged on Sanderson in a premeditated assault. What ensued was one of the wildest melees in league history, one that saw both benches spill onto the ice and Balon and an irate Sanderson ejected as a result of game misconduct penalties. The home side went on to a 4-3 victory, but not before the combatants had set a league record for penalties (38) and penalty minutes (174) in one game. Sanderson and the Bruins would get the last laugh, however, as they captured the series in six games.

The Flying GoalEdit

After their series victory over the Rangers followed by a sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1969–70 playoffs, the Bruins faced the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Finals. The heavily favored Bruins led the best-of-seven series three games to none, and so sure was Sanderson of victory in the potential Game 4 clincher, he arrived at Boston Garden in a tuxedo.

The Blues would not leave quietly, however, and the score was tied 3–3 at the end of regulation play. Rather than open the extra period with his top guns on the ice, head coach Harry Sinden played a hunch and chose the more defensive-minded trio of Sanderson, Wayne Carleton and Ed Westfall instead.

“I would prefer a line that would make sure or try and make sure the other team didn’t score," Sinden explained to the Boston Herald in 2020, the 50th anniversary of the historic game. "I wanted to play a line that would make sure (the Blues) didn’t score. And the longer the game went, the better chance we had."

Forty seconds into the extra period, Sanderson controlled the puck behind the Blues goal line, at which point defenseman Bobby Orr broke in from near the blue line. His short pass found its way to Orr through a maze of legs and sticks. The defenseman fired a short wrist shot past goaltender Glenn Hall, clinching the Bruins' first Stanley Cup in 29 years and sending the New England area into a frenzy the likes of which hadn't been seen before.

Orr famously went airborne in a Superman-like pose after the puck entered the net, an image that would become one of the most iconic in sports history. "I made the kid famous," Sanderson joked in the dressing room afterward.

In 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the league, fans voted the so-called Flying Goal as the greatest in its history. [13] It also turned out to be the signature moment for both players in their careers. [14]

Philadelphia Blazers (1972–1973)Edit

In the summer of 1972, Sanderson made headlines when he signed what was then the richest contract in professional sports history. The Philadelphia Blazers of the new World Hockey Association signed Sanderson to a five-year, $2.65 million contract that made him the highest-paid pro athlete in the world at the time.[15] He received $600,000 in cash as part of the agreement, an offer that the Bruins declined to match. The remainder of the money was to be spread over 10 years. The longterm deal was a monumental gamble for the fledgling Blazers, who admitted that they could not afford it even if every one of their home games sold out. Yet the hope was that one of the biggest names in hockey would give the team instant credibility and a gate attraction for years to come.

Sanderson's time with the Blazers was as short-lived as it was disastrous. He scored three goals in only eight games with the new team. "I could skate as well as Nureyev could dance," he told the New York Times in a 1983 interview. "But after I got the million dollars, I didn't pay attention to anybody."

On Nov. 1, in a game at Cleveland, Sanderson suffered a back injury when he slipped on a piece of paper on the ice. When the veteran was fit to return weeks later, club management insisted that he remain inactive. It was widely speculated that it had hoped to prod Sanderson to bolt the team and void his lucrative deal. He didn't take the bait, though, and his contract was bought out for $800,000 after the season.[16]

Downward spiralEdit

After Sanderson and the Blazers parted ways, he returned to the Bruins for two seasons but suited up for only 54 games. He got off to a solid start in the 1973–74 campaign — 20 points in 29 games — but he quickly fell out of favor with impatient Bep Guidolin, who was in his first season as an NHL head coach. "I'm tired of hearing Derek Sanderson is going to do this, Derek Sanderson is going to do that," Guidolin said. "I'm tired of hearing all the things he's going to do and never does." The veteran was demoted to the Boston Braves of the American Hockey League for three games then traded to the rival New York Rangers, with whom he and the Bruins had feuded for years.

By that time, Sanderson had developed vascular necrosis. Steroids were prescribed to alleviate the problem, but when they dried out his hip sockets, it only grew worse in nature. The pain in his hips grew so intense, he began to take barbiturates as a sleep aid. So started his battle with substance abuse that would last years.

Meanwhile, Sanderson continued to make news off the ice. Along with New England Patriots receiver Jim Colclough and the New York Jets star football quarterback Joe Namath, he opened "Bachelors III", a trendy nightclub on New York City’s Upper East Side. Negative publicity over some of the club's less than reputable patrons led to problems and eventually Sanderson had to get out of what went from a "goldmine" to a money-losing venture.[17]

The aborted venture started a downward spiral in which Sanderson would bounce from team to team, never being able to stay with a team for more than two full seasons, mainly because of his addiction to alcohol. Although Sanderson had a good first season with the Rangers by recording 50 points in 75 games, he was traded eight games in to the St. Louis Blues next season. In St. Louis, Sanderson set career highs in assists and points scored in a season with 43 assists and 67 points, but recurring knee and alcohol problems prompted Blues management to trade him in 1976–77 to the Vancouver Canucks in return for a first-round pick in the 1977 draft.

Sanderson made a bad first impression with Canucks management before a regular-season game had been played. In the pre-season, he was involved in a brawl at a local strip club that left him in a hospital, where tests showed an extremely high level of alcohol as well as evidence of cocaine, sleeping pills, Seconal and Valium in his system. Sanderson scored 16 points in 16 games with the club before he was sent to the minors because of disciplinary reasons. As was the case in St. Louis, the front office grew impatient with his personal and health issues and released him after the season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Sanderson as a free agent in 1977–78. He played 13 games with the Penguins and eight more in the minors before his release. When no takers stepped forward before the next season, he retired from the game.[18]

Road to recoveryEdit

In April 1979, Sanderson married Rhonda Rapport, a former Playboy Bunny from Chicago. Their son, Scott Leslie Sanderson, died at birth on October 4, 1981, in Niagara Falls. According to a story in the Toronto Star by Ellie Tesher on March 21, 1982, the couple separated soon thereafter. Rhonda Sanderson's detailed questions about their son's death led to an investigation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. "Because of this situation, an innocent life was lost and I almost died, too," she told Tesher. "It mustn't happen to other women. They must learn to speak up when they know something's wrong."

During his career, Sanderson made several bad business investments and lost millions of dollars in the process. Beset with severe health and financial problems, he led a vagabond existence. A low point came at Central Park in New York City, were he found sleeping on a bench in an inebriated state. [16] By his estimate, he survived 10 hip surgeries, prostate cancer and two heart attacks.

Less than a decade after Sanderson set up Orr for perhaps the most famous goal in hockey history, his teammate returned the assist. In late 1978, Orr found his ex-teammate to be in dire straits in Chicago and checked him into a local hospital. Doctors informed Orr of the prognosis, which he shared with Sanderson in no uncertain terms. "You're a full-blown alcoholic and a drug addict, It's over. You've got to go to rehab." Orr told him, according to a Sports Illustrated interview years later. Orr paid for the first rehab session, and when the patient suffered a relapse, he covered for the second round as well. "He never left me," Sanderson would say of Orr later. [19]

Sanderson eventually beat his demons before he embarked on a second career as a sports broadcaster. He spent 10 years with New England Sports Network and WSBK-TV with play-by-play announcer Fred Cusick. Wanting to make sure that other hockey players would not follow his path, Sanderson organized The Professionals Group at State Street Global Advisors, where he was Director of The Sports Group that provided professional financial advice to athletes in the 1990s.[19]

In 2012, Sanderson became the Managing Director of The Sports Group, in Boston. His team worked with athletes and high-net-worth individuals, but he is not currently listed on the company's website.[20] His second autobiography, Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original, written with Kevin Shea, was released in October 2012.[21] His first autobiography, I've Got To Be Me, written with Stan Fischler, had been published in 1970.[22] In September 2013, Sanderson received the Hockey Legacy Award from The Sports Museum at TD Garden.[23]

Awards and achievementsEdit

Career statisticsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1962–63 Niagara Falls Flyers OHA-Jr. 2 0 0 0 10 1 0 0 0 0
1962–63 Niagara Falls Flyers M-Cup 1 0 0 0 0
1963–64 Niagara Falls Flyers OHA-Jr. 42 12 15 27 42 4 0 1 1 0
1964–65 Niagara Falls Flyers OHA-Jr. 55 19 46 65 128 11 9 8 17 26
1965–66 Niagara Falls Flyers OHA-Jr. 48 33 43 76 238 6 6 0 6 72
1965–66 Boston Bruins NHL 2 0 0 0 0
1965–66 Oklahoma City Blazers CPHL 2 1 0 1 0 4 0 4 4 5
1965–66 Niagara Falls Flyers M-Cup 11 7 6 13 78
1966–67 Niagara Falls Flyers OHA-Jr. 47 41 60 101 193 13 8 17 25 70
1966–67 Oklahoma City Blazers CPHL 2 0 0 0 0
1967–68 Boston Bruins NHL 71 24 25 49 98 4 0 2 2 9
1968–69 Boston Bruins NHL 61 26 22 48 146 9 8 2 10 36
1969–70 Boston Bruins NHL 50 18 23 41 118 14 5 4 9 72
1970–71 Boston Bruins NHL 71 29 34 63 130 7 2 1 3 13
1971–72 Boston Bruins NHL 78 25 33 58 108 11 1 1 2 44
1972–73 Philadelphia Blazers WHA 8 3 3 6 69
1972–73 Boston Bruins NHL 25 5 10 15 38 5 1 2 3 13
1973–74 Boston Bruins NHL 29 8 12 20 48
1973–74 Boston Braves AHL 3 4 3 7 2
1974–75 New York Rangers NHL 75 25 25 50 106 3 0 0 0 0
1975–76 New York Rangers NHL 8 0 0 0 4
1975–76 St. Louis Blues NHL 65 24 43 67 59 3 1 0 1 0
1976–77 Kansas City Blues CHL 8 4 3 7 6
1976–77 Vancouver Canucks NHL 16 7 9 16 30
1977–78 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 13 3 1 4 0
1977–78 Tulsa Oilers CHL 4 0 0 0 0
1977–78 Kansas City Red Wings CHL 4 1 3 4 0
NHL totals 598 202 250 452 911 56 18 12 30 187


  1. ^ "Gillespie, Caroline Hall / Sanderson, Harold A., Pte. - Details".
  2. ^ "Sanderson, Karen / parents Carol (nee Gillespie) & Pte. Harold A. Sanderson - Details".
  3. ^ "Former Bruins center Derek Sanderson credits dad for NHL success".
  4. ^ a b c "Derek Sanderson". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  5. ^ "Flyers win Memorial Cup". The Phoenix. May 16, 1968. p. 16. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  6. ^ "Niagara Falls Flyers Hockey Team Memorial Cup Champions 1964- 1965". Niagara Falls Public Library. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  7. ^ "Derek Sanderson - Stats". NHL. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  8. ^ "Calder Memorial Trophy winners". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  9. ^ "Don Michel Marcotte". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  10. ^ "Bruins' Cup filled". The Evening Independent. May 12, 1972. p. 22. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  11. ^ "Sanderson puts past on ice". Observer-Reporter. February 18, 1981. p. 40. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  12. ^ "Derek Sanderson". American Entertainment International Speakers Bureau. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  13. ^ "Orr soars voted top moment in History vs. History". Fox News. June 8, 2011. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  14. ^ "Who had assist on Bobby Orr's Cup clinching goal in 1970?". NESN. May 10, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  15. ^ "Sanderson: 'Too good to refuse'". The Spokesman Review. August 4, 1972. p. 13. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  16. ^ a b "Falling Down: The greatest downfalls in Canadian sports history". CBC News. Archived from the original on May 26, 2009.
  17. ^ "20 Questions: Ex-NHLer Derek Sanderson on running the town and sleeping on its benches". National Post. November 29, 2012. Archived from the original on February 16, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  18. ^ "Legends of Hockey -- NHL Player Search -- Player -- Derek Sanderson".
  19. ^ a b "The Ever Elusive, Always Inscrutable And Still Incomparable Bobby Orr". CNN. March 2, 2009. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  20. ^ "Derek Sanderson turning the page". Welland Tribune.
  21. ^ Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original. with Kevin Shea. Triumph Books. 2012. ISBN 978-1600786808.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  22. ^ I've Got To Be Me. with Stan Fischler. Dodd, Mead. 1970. ISBN 0396062555.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  23. ^ "Boston Sports Museum's 12th annual 'The Tradition'". September 17, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2019.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Preceded by Winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy
Succeeded by