Monday

Derek Sanderson

Derek Sanderson had it all - fame, fortune and adulation. Sadly he lost it all too.

Sanderson made quite the impression on the Bruins faithful before he actually played with the Bs. In 1966 with the Bruins mired in cellar of the NHL, Bruin management held an exhibition match between their top 2 Junior teams, the Niagara Falls Flyers, led by Derek Sanderson, and the Oshawa Generals led by Bobby Orr. The game was to give Bruins fans a look at the future in Orr, but Sanderson had his own agenda. He was determined to get into a fight with Orr in that game. He was just making sure the fans would remember the name Derek Sanderson as much as they remembered Orr's. Despite his attack on the "franchise," Sanderson actually gained a lot of respect from fans and management for his style of play that game. Sanderson would go on to be a quintessential Boston Bruin.

Sanderson debuted with the Boston Bruins in the 1967-68 season. He registered 24 goals and 25 assists on his way to capturing the Calder Trophy. The honor gave Boston back-to-back Rookies of the Year, as Bobby Orr won the award in 1967.

The Calder trophy wasn't the crowning jewel in Sanderson's trophy room though. The two Stanley Cup championships, 1970 and 1972 were, but for the man they called "Turk," the first one had to be sweeter, simply because of the circumstances surrounding the 1970 Cup winner.

The 1970 Cup of course was won courtesy of perhaps the most famous goal in NHL history. Bobby Orr took a pass from the corner and put the puck past St. Louis goaltender Glenn Hall. As the puck went in St. Louis defenseman Noel Picard tripped Orr as he jumped, causing Orr to fly in a superman-like fashion.

But who made that perfect pass to Orr on that goal? Derek Sanderson.

"I made the kid famous," jokes Sanderson.

"Turk" shocked the sports world when he signed the richest contract in sports history in the summer of 1972. The Bruins were fresh off of their second Stanley Cup championship and three years and they were rocked by the news that the upstart WHA Philadelphia Blazers signed their star center to a 2.6 million dollar contract. This was the largest contract in pro sports at the time. In fact it was even larger than the one that Bobby Hull signed with the Winnipeg Jets. For Sanderson it allowed him to step out of the shadows of teammates like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.

When the season started Sanderson had a season to forget. He only appeared in 8 games because of injuries and by February the Blazers shocked the sports world again. The owners of the Blazers became impatient with Sanderson and decided the best thing for Sanderson would be to return to the NHL. Sanderson was given 1 million dollars to leave the team and go back to the Bruins. Sanderson, who was as surprised as everyone, was very upset. Though he was never sure why they gave up on him so quickly, he thinks it must have been his free-living, heavy drinking lifestyle.

His early years in Boston were the best years of his career. He was a Boston Gardens favorite, a celebrity and soon to be very rich. Sanderson seemed to be on top of the world, yet in the background his world was falling apart as he became addicted to alcohol. It started out as a way to calm himself down before a team flight as he was terrified of flying. It would soon become a bad habit which would come close to claiming his life. In the meantime it was interfering with his performance on the ice. Once the highest paid athlete in North America, Sanderson went on to bounce around the NHL with New York Ranger, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins. None of his stops were very long.

Sanderson really hit rock bottom after leaving the structured life of hockey. Reports had him on the streets of Chicago and New York. One article suggests he literally waited for a homeless man to fall asleep on a park bench so that he could steel his bottle of alcohol.

In September 1980, he checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic in St. Catherines, Ont. Sanderson cleaned himself up and remains sober. He became a long time sidekick of legendary Bruins play by play man Fred Cusick, but left his position in 1997 when Cusick retired. Sanderson, the former playboy, went into money management for professional athletes. He was well versed in the dangers of landing too much money in too short of a time period, and he advises his clients on how to best handle and invest the windfall.

Turk was as tough as nails, a tremendous forechecker and faceoff specialist and, with Ed Westfall, the top penalty killer of his era. He was the perfect team player and a huge part of the Bruins success in the early 1970s. Its too bad alcohol interfered in his life as I think Sanderson would have been a Hall of Famer had he remained sober. He was just that good.

37 comments:

Crummer 10:06 PM  

I can remember how bad I felt to see "Turk" flounder with his freewheeling bad boy shenanigans.I hope to this day he is OK.Last I heard he was working at a pretty good job,and I couldn't have been more pleased.If anyone knows exactly where Derek is and if they know him personally.Please pass the message I'd like to speak with him with regards to Hip Replacement,(I need one).I feel an affinity toward this man,because I too missed out on many hockey opportunities due to my own battle with the bottle. jcrumb1@cogeco.ca

Anonymous,  7:40 AM  

HI,
Well,I'm hoping Derek Sanderson is still doing well.If he's still doing that job{making sure future hockey players don't waste away their money}It's been a few yrs.--but I remember him quite well{used to have a crush on him!}All the best to him.Colleen--NL
Still watching the NHL{playoffs now}

Anonymous,  6:44 PM  

I just played golf with Derek today amd I must say after 10-11 hip replacements he's a hell of a golfer. He's fun and funny to be around and I'll say you'll have a great time if you ever get the chance to play in a cleb tourny with him.

Steven 7:01 PM  

Derek is doing quite well last I heard. He owns a restaurant in Hyannis, Massachusetts. He was my boyhood hockey hero. Not Bobby or Phil or Gerry or Teddy........Derek!!!! That group brought hockey back to the Boston area and to this day they are the last Stanley Cup champions Boston has had.
I still thrill at the mention of THE BIG BAD BRUINS!!!!

Anonymous,  3:15 PM  

I lived in St. Catharines and remember Derek coming to Lancaster park for a baseball tournament. There is was passed out in his own vomit. Man I could not believe this guy was a star. I did not think he would see 30. Then one day (or 30 years later) I see him on Tv as a MC. MAN I had to wait to see if was him as I thought he had killed himself. I am so proud of him now. Then the other day I heard he had something to do with the song by Jimmy Buffet. Boat Drinks? Any thoughts? Wayne

Anonymous,  11:47 AM  

I met Derek a few years ago and he told me the story about his fight with Orr in the exhibition game. He said his father told him how much the Bruins paid his dad for his signing rights and then his dad told him how much the Bruins paid Orr's dad for the rights to sign him. Derek said that was all the motivation he needed that game.

He's a great guy who has really gone out of his way to help others avoid the same mistakes he made in many aspects of his life. No one could ever accuse Turk of being dull!

Anonymous,  6:50 PM  

His number should be retired by the Bruins for what he represents and how he lives. He was great and has turned everything around to become even greater. Send the number to the rafters, Boston.

Anonymous,  8:54 PM  

I was a Newy York cab driver in 1972. I had the good fortune of picking up Derek twice. Once at LaGuardia Airport and once at Penn Station. He couldn't have been nicer.

BClark 7:08 AM  

My first waitressing jobs in Boston was at Bachelor's 3. Derek Sanderson was a fixture there, surrounded by admiring fans (mostly female). Unfortunatly, as big a topic as his hockey playing was, his bad antics and poor treatment of people were even a bigger topic. I am glad to read that he has cleaned his life up. I hope he also learned to treat people, especially woman much better.

Anonymous,  5:02 AM  

I can't seem to find any mention on any site, about what was really one of the epic brawls Derek was involved in. My dad and I watched all the Bruins games when I was a kid (70-74) and I'll never forget, while the Bruins were playing in Montreal, a Canadiens fan reached over the glass partition, and grabbed Derek by the hair. He pulled him up over the glass, and then what seemed like the entire Bruins bench climbed over the partition into the crowd. Thereafter started the most unbelievable site: a brawl between a visiting team and the fans! It took about an hour to stop the hostilities. I clearly recall watching this on live TV. Why can't I find mention of this incident anywhere?

Anonymous,  10:09 PM  

My brother was a young caddy at Pleasant Valley in Sutton, MA back in the early '70's. Never forgot that Derek always brought his caddy into the clubhouse for lunch. Wow...what a thrill for a kid in those days!

Anonymous,  11:59 AM  

HE'S MY COUSIN I HAVE ON ICE STICK!!!!!!!!

Anonymous,  2:14 AM  

he put the oo in cool

Anonymous,  7:40 PM  

As a lifelong Bruins fan I gave my first son(born September 1980)the middle name Derek. He became an excellent minor hockey player who loves the game.

George 1:53 PM  

Hey Derek< I actually have a real #16 Jersey I sure"d love to be autographed.Got it at the team store 1972.I feel not enough was made of the goal you scored off the face off vs. The Rangers and goalie Eddie G.Derek you made growing up in Swampscott,Ma A BLAST.You guys were GREAT.I also have a puck I caught on Feb.7,1971 as a treasure I've managed to keep.I too had "Problems"on the way of life and it's addictions!! Clean and sober now @54 for about 15 years.Derek STILL LOVE YOU PLEASE let me know if I can send you my /your shirt to be autographed.Always Fun<George Mason now of Seattle,Wa

Anonymous,  11:52 AM  

As a recovering alcoholic of nearly 25 years I am so happy to see him sober and doing well these days...one day at a time...

Jill,  9:21 AM  

I remember watching many games on tv with my dad. He was a ranger fan and I noticed Sanderson when he yelled at the tv when they had a fight on the ice with the Bruins. I was hooked ever since. I went to FIT and I live in NYC, so I actually met him in '73 when he was a NY Rander and I got his autograph. He signed everything I had! He was so nice.

Anonymous,  4:53 PM  

Loved Derek Sanderson! I named my son after him.. everytime Boston came to Buffalo I was there. I had season tickets back than. Derek I hope everything fine with you. Since I can't seem to locate you I did read articles how Bobby Orr helped you out yrs ago. I met Bobby Orr bY accident one day when I was in Toronto he was with another of my favorites Gil (bflo Sabre) great day for me..

Mark,  6:39 PM  

I never met Derek, and I don't know him, but he was the one I watched on TV every weekend trying to tune in the CBC on Saturday nights. The picture was usually snowy and ghostly but I was glued to the picture. Then on Sunday would watch the game on US TV. What a player Derek was. He never got the recognition he deserved.
I am so glad he has made his life such a positive force for so many people. Thank-you Derek!!!

Anonymous,  5:41 PM  

I love my great-uncle Derek(:

cassie6172,  2:16 PM  

I, too, was a great fan and an ardent admirer of Turk! As a matter of fact, I met him one night during a band practice. He was great friends with our band director and since I wrote to him asking if he really new the band director, he decided to come to a practice just to meet me......actually, I was horified that I ever doubted that the band director knew Derek. It was one of the best and worst days of my adolescence. We're having a fundraiser for that Band Director and would love to have had a jersey from Derek to offer at the silent auction. Dom would be smiling down on Derek if we did!

Derek, I wish you much success in whatever it is that you're doing these days and glad to hear that life is treating you well.

Best,
Cam

Anonymous,  4:35 PM  

The turk was a great hockey player and I looked up to nim alot. I really enjoyed his book I've got to be me. well Turk if you read this Paulie Dee and Bobby W were real fans of you!

uoduck444 4:43 PM  

Derek was the coolest!! The prototypical Boston Bruin, on any other team at the time he would have been a 1st line center and Im not sure he shouldnt have been with Boston but we had Espo! anyway, we loved Derek and the image he gave us when he played!!

Anonymous,  10:06 PM  

I just saw the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 and it got me thinking of the reason I loved Hockey so much back then.. Derek Sanderson so I googled him and found this.. He was the greatest. I loved the fights I lived his style..I do miss those days watching hockey with my dad and all the guys from my neighborhood for just about my whole high school years.. Glad to read he is doing well.

Anonymous,  10:16 AM  

Had the biggest crush on Derek Sanderson as well! As a teenager had the opportunity to walk him on to his team bus after a 1970's something Minnesota North Stars hockey game - what a thrill! Derek helped make the game of hockey back then the real thing!
Glad to hear he is now doing well.

Anonymous,  4:18 AM  

I think every woman in the northeast ans was into the Bruins back then had a crush on Derek Sanderson myself included- glad he is doing well -just moved back to the Boston area a couple of years ago and get to see him once again - I will never forget my 1970-1972 Stanley Cup Champs and now I can enjoy the new generation as they celebrate another Chamnpionship team !!

Anonymous,  8:10 PM  

As a center, he was one of the best face-off men in NHL history. If you had to have a face-off go your way, you had Derek handle it.

Irene Marie Dorey 6:51 PM  

Derek was a guest at my brother's wedding about 44yrs ago. I was only 13 and can still remember what he wore... a plaid suit jacket with big lapels and a bigger smile. He was bigger than life!
I wish him well!

IMD

Anonymous,  1:06 PM  

I used to watch the bruins with my father when i was a kid i loved watching bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson.I was really avid bruins fan which i am today.I was into the bruins of yesteryear.Today the game is so much faster.I loved watching Derek and Fred Q.as commentators on NESN. Sean Thornton and Milan Luccic remind me of the way old time hockey was.

SULLY in Florida,  9:27 PM  

I'm trying to find some info about a restaurant/bar that Derek owned back in the 70's called Brandy's or Brandy's II. It was right near Mass General Hospital. Anyone know anything about this?
SULLY in Boynton Beach, FL

Anonymous,  6:41 PM  

people tell me derek can skate a little i dont know about that

jim,  1:59 PM  

i remember watching derek play when he was with the niagara falls flyers,boy what a team.

Chazac 11:22 AM  

Ahhhh ... the 'Turk'! My sister named her 1st born after Derek (unfortunately - he lived but 7 days). I am from Boston and there are many Derek Sanderson stories but the best one is the one he is living now (clean an sober). Bobby Orr paid for Derek's hip replacement because basically Derek couldn't walk when he got out of rehab - Orr helped get him the job with Fred Cusick as the Bruins Color man on the TV broadcasts. The old Big Bad Bruins stick together - teammates for life - the way it ought to be! I still have Derek's book somewhere in my house ... titled 'I got to be me'. Some excerts from the book: He never called his father 'Dad' or 'Pops' ... called him by his first name - Harold. Also, the had a kid in the neighborhood who started dating Derek's former girlfriend - as joke - they went out one night and kidnapped the guy, stripped him naked and tied him to the fence outside the girlfriends house with a note attached to his (ahem - private) ... the note said "I am here to see Cheryl ...." Hahahaha

Chazac 11:30 AM  

The 'Turk' was a great Bruin - he was the center on the Bruins 3rd line and one of the best Penalty Killers in the history of the game. Turk was also one of the best faceoff men the game has seen. I learned a lot of my technique / tricks from him like letting a centerman win the face off when it didn't matter to get their technique down so that you can attack their draw 'preferance' with your own when it counted. He was also one of the few guys I ever saw that scored off the faceoff by 'heeling' your stick with the blade up off the ice and catching the puck as it bounced past the opponents flat blade. He also taught me to learn how to take a draw by switching your stick in certain situations (like going righty in the right faceoff circle to draw to a corner instead of to the net).

Anonymous,  12:59 AM  

Glad to learn about the man whom my son is named. His dad talked endlessly about Derek Sanderson, however, I did not see him play. I can see now why Derek was admired, he had tenacity and talent. Very happy to hear that he made the biggest come-back of his life by dealing with his addictions.

Kathy's Knit Korner 3:01 PM  

In 1970 I was 15 and crazy about Derek! He made a personal appearance/book signing in my town and unfortunately, acted like a complete
d1ck. His behavior, combined with the awful things he (or his ghost-writer) said about women in his 1st book, were a huge turnoff. Years later my dad found that book in the garage and asked me what he should do with it. I told him to burn it! Although I have no interest in reading his 2nd book, I am glad to hear he hit bottom and sobered up in AA because if anyone ever needed a dose of humility...! Hope he stays sober and appreciates the good things in his life now.

CrackerJack 10:41 AM  

I'm a Blackhawk fan but after the Hawks traded many of our stars to the Bruins like Jack "Pie" McKenzie, Freddie Stanfield, Phil Esposito I always kept an eye on the Bruins and Derek Sanderson was one heck of a player!.. Team guy all the way and a great penalty killer who could get you that big goal when you needed it! Have and read his first book "Ive Got To Be Me"! It was a good one! Turk is without a doubt a real character and glad he is doing well now!

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