Derek Sanderson
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Derek Sanderson

Derek Sanderson
Derek Sanderson.jpg
Sanderson in 2010
Born (1946-06-16) June 16, 1946 (age 75)
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

Derek Michael Sanderson (born June 16, 1946), nicknamed "Turk", is a Canadian former professional ice hockey centre and two-time Stanley Cup winner who set up the game-winning marker in the 1970 championship round, widely considered to be the greatest goal in National Hockey League history. Yet his impact on the game extended far beyond on-ice achievements. His mod lifestyle and brash demeanor helped transform the culture of professional sports in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he was the highest-paid athlete in the world for a brief time. He currently serves as an advisor for athletes in the Boston area.

Renowned for his ability and willingness to play both ends of the ice, Sanderson was widely regarded to be among the premier penalty-killers in NHL history. He raised the art to another level with tenacious checking, highly proficient face-off skills and uncanny knack to score goals despite the manpower disadvantage. Upon his retirement as a player after the 1977-78 campaign, Sanderson was the league leader in career shorthanded goals. Nearly half a century after his last appearance with Boston, he still holds the Bruins team record for most career shorthanded goals (six) in Stanley Cup playoff games, a mark that he shares with Ed Westfall, his longtime teammate. Through the 2020 regular season, his 24 short-handed tallies in the regular season ranked third in club history behind Brad Marchand and Rick Middleton.

Playing career

Early years

Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Sanderson was the son of Canadian Army Private Harold A. Sanderson, and Caroline Hall Gillespie from Dysart, Scotland.[1] His older sister Karen was born while his father was serving in France in 1944.[2] As a young boy, Sanderson took to hockey, skating countless hours on what was roughly a half-size version of an NHL rink. His father built it, spanning two backyards of small cookie-cutter houses, on lots provided at a small price to servicemen like himself who were returning from the war.[3]

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 faced the Edmonton Oil Kings,[5] winning the championship 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)

After brief stints with the Bruins in the two previous seasons, Sanderson earned a permanent roster spot in the 1967-68 season. 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 on the very talented Bruins was to centre their more defense-minded third line with 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] Nonetheless, Sanderson was an underrated offensive threat who scored at least 24 goals in seven different seasons. In the 1970-71 season, he had a career-high 29 goals even though he seldom saw action on the power play.

In 1969-70, the Bruins faced the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston led the series three games to none, and the fourth game required overtime, tied 3-3. Forty seconds into the extra period, Sanderson had the puck behind the Blues goal line when he spotted defenseman Bobby Orr breaking to the front of the net. Orr converted his short pass that went through a maze of sticks and legs for the game-winner,[10] clinching the Bruins' first Stanley Cup in 29 years.[11] In 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the league, fans voted the Stanley Cup clincher as the greatest single goal in its history. [10] It also would become Sanderson's signature moment. [12]

During his time in Boston, the flamboyant 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 mod lifestyle, which included a Rolls-Royce car and circular bed.[13] 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 numerous beautiful women.[14] Sanderson helped the Bruins finish first in the league the next two seasons (1970-71 and 1971-72). He also helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 1971-72 against the New York Rangers.[15]

Philadelphia Blazers (1972-1973)

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.[16] He received $600,000 in cash as part of the agreement, which 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 they sold out every home game. Yet the hope was that one of the biggest names in hockey would give the team instant credibility and a star attraction for years to come.

Sanderson's time with the Blazers was as short-lived as it was disastrous, however. 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 center was fit to return weeks later, club management insisted that he remain inactive. It was widely speculated that it had hoped to frustrate Sanderson enough to bolt the team and void his lucrative agreement. He didn't take the bait, though, and his contract was bought out for $1 million after the season.[17]

Downward spiral (1973-1978)

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.

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.[18]

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 problems with alcohol and his recurring knee problems led Blues management to trade him in 1976-77 to the Vancouver Canucks in return for a first-round pick in the 1977 draft. Struggling with his addiction to alcohol, Sanderson managed to score 16 points in 16 games with the Canucks, but he was still sent to the minors. As was the case with the Blues, the Canucks' impatience with Sanderson's struggle with alcohol and his knee problems led them to the decision not to re-sign him. The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Sanderson as a free agent in 1977-78; he played 13 games with the Penguins and eight games in the minors before retiring.[19]

Post-playing career

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 after that, and 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 many bad investments and lost millions of dollars; he was broke when he retired and had substance abuse problems. He wound up penniless, one time sleeping on a New York City park bench, and in poor health.[17] Several years after Sanderson's retirement, Bobby Orr spent his own money to check Sanderson and several other former Bruins into rehab.[20] Sanderson entered rehab in 1979, beat his addictions, and took a job as a professional sports broadcaster, working for ten 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 90s.[20]

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.[21] His second autobiography, Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original, written with Kevin Shea, was released in October 2012.[22] His first autobiography, I've Got To Be Me, written with Stan Fischler, had been published in 1970.[23] In September 2013, Sanderson received the Hockey Legacy Award from The Sports Museum at TD Garden.[24]

Awards and achievements

Career statistics

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

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Bobby Orr
Winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy
Succeeded by
Danny Grant

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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