From 1937 to 1947 one of the most dominant lines in hockey belonged to the Boston Bruins. Left Winger Woody Dumart, Center Milt Schmidt (who’s well known as The Ultimate Bruin), and Right Winger Bobby Bauer made up what was originally named the “Sauerkraut Line” for their German heritage. The nickname was quickly shortened to “The Kraut Line”. The three grew up playing hockey together in Kitchener, Ontario and made their way through the ranks together. By the time they got to the NHL their skills were well known. So was their nickname.
Dominating the NHL
The trio led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup victories in 1939 and 1941 and went 1, 2, and 3 in NHL scoring during the 1939-40 season. In that 39-40 season Milt Schmidt finished first in the NHL with 52 points. Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer finished second and third in the NHL with 43 points each. That year Bauer won the Lady Byng Trophy for the NHL’s “Most Gentlemanly Player”, while Schmidt was elected to the First All-Star Team and Bauer and Dumart were elected to the Second All-Star Team.
Milt Schmidt later recollected, “There are several reasons why we had success that year. The three of us roomed together in Brookline, Massachusetts. We had one big room so that we were always together. After practices we discussed things we should work on. After a game we’d say, ‘Well we did this wrong or did that wrong.’ There was no nightlife or anything like that. We really worked at it and I think that had more to do with the success of our line than anything else. To finish one-two-three… I don’t know of any other line that did that before us and we were quite proud of the fact. Hard work. That was it.”
Rivalries Put on Hold
When World War II started, Schmidt, Dumart, and Bauer joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. They continued playing for the Bruins until it was time for deployment overseas in 1942. On February 10, 1942, the Boston Bruins played against the Montreal Canadiens at the Boston Garden. It’s no secret that the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry is the oldest and bitterest in hockey. That night the Bruins put a beating on Montreal, winning 8-1. But this was no ordinary game. This was the last game The Kraut Line would play before going overseas to fight for the Allies. Accordingly, for the first and only time, the rivalry was put aside. After losing in Boston, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins together hoisted all three members of The Kraut Line onto their shoulders and skated them around the ice.
Milt Schmidt talked about that night to the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont in 2010. “It shows you that out on the ice you’re enemies, but as soon as you’re off the ice, you can be good friends. To be treated like that, Bob, Woody, and I, before going into the service, it’s such a credit to the Canadiens, as players and people.” And with that, The Kraut Line was off to war. Hockey would have to wait.