Sanderson in 2010
June 16, 1946|
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
|Height||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)|
|Weight||200 lb (91 kg; 14 st 4 lb)|
New York Rangers
St. Louis Blues
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.
Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Sanderson was the son of Canadian Army Private Harold A. Sanderson, and Caroline Hall Gillespie from Dysart, Scotland. His older sister Karen was born while his father was serving in France in 1944. 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.
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. In 1964-65, Sanderson helped the Flyers reach the Memorial Cup finals where they faced the Edmonton Oil Kings, winning the championship in five games. 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. Sanderson also played two games in the CPHL with the Oklahoma City Blazers in 1965-66, recording one goal.
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. 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.
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. 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, clinching the Bruins' first Stanley Cup in 29 years. In 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the league, fans voted the Stanley Cup clincher as the greatest single goal in its history.  It also would become Sanderson's signature moment. 
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. Several years after Sanderson's retirement, Bobby Orr spent his own money to check Sanderson and several other former Bruins into rehab. 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.
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. His second autobiography, Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original, written with Kevin Shea, was released in October 2012. His first autobiography, I've Got To Be Me, written with Stan Fischler, had been published in 1970. In September 2013, Sanderson received the Hockey Legacy Award from The Sports Museum at TD Garden.
|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||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|
|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||--||--||--||--||--|
|1977-78||Kansas City Red Wings||CHL||4||1||3||4||0||--||--||--||--||--|