Q&A: Boston Bruins legend Milt Schmidt

— -- WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Hall of Famer John Bucyk drives his black SUV down a winding road en route to visit his first coach with the Boston Bruins and longtime friend, Milt Schmidt.

Bucyk, better known as "Chief," opens the hatch of his Volvo and grabs a new red cooler.

"I bought it today to keep his lunch cold," Bucyk said.

Lunch consists of a healthy portion of lobster rolls, chips and soup. Bucyk then opens a massive box of candy bars and loads up his pockets with chocolate for dessert. Outside of Schmidt's door are three small teddy bears dressed in Bruins sweaters.

Inside, Schmidt, 97, is sitting in a large, comfortable, tan leather recliner. He is dressed in khakis with a checkered button-down shirt. After their normal catch-up conversation, Schmidt grabs his address book to look up a friend's phone number to extend an invitation for lunch.

"You don't need glasses to see that?" asked Bucyk, 80. "I would need mine to read that."

Schmidt quickly responded: "Well, that's why I scored a goal or two."

Schmidt is sharp and his memory is remarkable, considering his age. He recently fell and broke five ribs, but he has bounced back and is looking forward to attending his first Bruins game of the season on Dec. 12 at TD Garden.

Schmidt is the oldest living former NHLer. A native of Kitchener, Ontario, Schmidt began his pro hockey career with the Providence Reds of the AHL, in 1936-37. His time in the minors was brief. He was called up to the Bruins midway through the season and spent the next 15 seasons in the NHL, all with Boston.?

He missed three seasons to serve in World War II for the Royal Canadian Air Force. He won two Stanley Cups as a player and another two as the organization's general manager. He retired in 1955 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 and his No. 15 was retired by the Bruins. He's the only person in franchise history to serve as a player, captain, coach and general manager.

Schmidt, who was a center, once held the team's career scoring record (575 points) until Bucyk broke it on Dec. 7, 1961, and finished his career with 1,339 points. That mark stood until Ray Bourque surpassed Bucyk on Feb. 1, 1997. Bourque finished his career with the Bruins as the team's points leader with 1,506.

During and after his hockey career, Schmidt has told every story possible about the Bruins. Recently, the cordial, genuine and funny Schmidt sat down with ESPN.com to cover what hockey has meant to him and what he thinks of today's game.

McDonald: How are you feeling these days, Milt?

Schmidt: I feel fine when I consider the bad cough I have at the present time, but I feel fine.

McDonald: No one on this planet probably has loved the game of hockey longer than you have. What does that mean to you?

Schmidt: I'm very proud of the fact that I'm the oldest player that's in the Hockey Hall of Fame at the present time. There's nothing famous about being old. That's not criticism or something that you're proud of, but it makes you proud that you're in the same category as Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau and all the greats -- Gordie Howe -- and that's something you should feel really proud of to be able to say, 'I played against Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay and all the great Montreal teams.' I'm proud of that and let's just say they didn't beat us all the time, but most of the time.

McDonald: How much hockey do you watch now?

Schmidt: If I'm not at a game, which I haven't been to too many games this season yet, but I will be very shortly because my health is getting better, but the one thing I will do is thank John Bucyk, and thank him immensely to see some of the games, which I don't go to as much as I want to but I go often enough. But, yes, I keep up with the game.

McDonald: What do you think of today's game?

Schmidt: Well, I think that they're faster. I don't think they are near as rough as we were. Watching them pretty closely, they are a wee bit faster than we were. People don't realize we played without helmets, without mouth pieces, no head gear, and that goes for goaltenders as well, and we never had, for some reason or another, we didn't have as many concussions as they have today. I don't know why because our game was rough, plenty rough and I can't think of a reason why [concussions] are a lot [worse] than when we played.

McDonald: What advice do you have for players today?

Schmidt: The advice I would give today is if you can't skate, you cannot play this game -- period.

McDonald: When you watch the game today, do you watch it through the eyes of a GM, coach, player or fan?

Schmidt: I enjoy it in all walks of life.

McDonald: You've told many hockey stories over the years, but what's the one story you haven't told?

Schmidt: I know a few hockey stories, but let's leave well enough alone. I can't repeat them.

McDonald: What does it mean to be a Bruin?

Schmidt: Well, I'll tell you what it means: It means the start of a good life. It teaches you, not only to be associated with the players themselves, you're associated with a lot younger players than yourself and you're hoping your team wins continually and that they win their share of championships.

McDonald: Athletes today wear certain numbers for a reason. Why did you wear No. 15?

Schmidt: That's the number they gave me and I was just pleased to have it.

McDonald: What did it mean for you to serve in World War II?

Schmidt: It was great -- there's no doubt about that. Let's not kid ourselves: I was very proud of the fact that you were fighting for your country at the time. But there were a lot of players in the National Hockey League that something was wrong with them and there was a reason why they weren't in the service the same as we were. You've got to look if they were in good health, or were they not? The most surprising thing was the Montreal Canadiens when they carried us all off the ice [in the last game before Schmidt and linemates Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer went off to war]. It just goes to show you that the hockey, when we played, was not always the badness of the opposition because you were just as bad as they were. I might say that playing for the Boston Bruins, it didn't matter whether you were playing for the Rangers, or Chicago, or Detroit, it was always the same after you finished, but it goes to show you, you have just as many friends after you're finished playing as before you were playing.

McDonald: Who is your favorite player right now?

Schmidt: [ Patrice] Bergeron.

McDonald: When you coached, Chief said you called the players 'men' and you never cursed at them. Why?

Schmidt: You're not going to get them to play any better by swearing at them.

McDonald: You began your pro career in the AHL and played 23 games for the Bruins' minor-league affiliate, the Providence Reds, to start the 1936-37 season. What was that like?

Schmidt: It wasn't very long. It gave me my start in life and that's where I learned how to play this game of ours.

McDonald: Who was the goalie for that team?

Schmidt: Paddy Byrne.

McDonald: What's the trick to living into your late 90s?

Schmidt: Have a great sense of humor. I've been active all of my life playing baseball during the summer and hockey during the winter. I can't think of anything else to say.

McDonald: How often do you speak with Bobby Orr?

Schmidt: Bobby calls me every few weeks. He's a good guy. Dallas Smith calls me, which I appreciate.

McDonald: What would you like your lasting legacy to be?

Schmidt: Well, that makes me feel rather selfish. If kids today follow players like Bronco Horvath and John Bucyk, they would do themselves a lot of good -- believe me. They were standouts nearly every game.

McDonald: What was your greatest accomplishment in the game of hockey?

Schmidt: I can honestly say how good the game of hockey was to me. The National Hockey League is giving us something so we can go out and have a good time now and then, because they are looking after us to a certain extent. What more can I say, that the National Hockey League is treating us wonderfully.

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