Bobby Bauer successfully fused skillful play and sportsmanship during his 10 years with the Boston Bruins, earning much acclaim as the right winger on the famed Kraut Line with Milt Schmidt and Woody Dumart. Bauer amassed 260 points in 328 regular season games in a career that was interrupted by his service with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.
A native of Waterloo, Ontario, Bauer played city league hockey before moving to Toronto. Once there, he split the 1932-33 season between the British Consols and the National Sea Fleas of the Toronto Mercantile League. Bauer helped the latter outfit win the city championship that year. This was followed by a rewarding stint with the St. Michael's College juniors in 1933-34, and Bauer's stellar play was an integral factor in the club's Memorial Cup triumph that season. He spent the 1934-35 season near his hometown with the Kitchener Greenshirts, where he contributed to an OHA title.
The Boston Bruins became aware of Bauer's talent and acted quickly to sign him. He was assigned to the Boston Cubs of the Can-Am league, where the parent club could closely monitor his development. Bauer did not look out of place in his first professional season in 1935-36, recording 15 goals and 28 points in 48 games. The next year, with the American Hockey League's Providence Reds, he scored 14 times and was teamed for the first time with Milt Schmidt and Woody Dumart to form a potent trio. During that season he also scored a goal in his only appearance with the Bruins.
In 1937-38, Bauer enjoyed a promising rookie season, becoming an integral part of the Boston lineup and scoring 20 goals. That same year, the Kraut Line made its big league debut and played a key role in Boston's first place finish in the NHL's American Division. During each of the following three seasons, Boston finished first in the NHL standings, winning the Stanley Cup in 1939 and 1941. Bauer won consecutive Lady Byng trophies in 1940 and 1941.
Toward the end of the 1941-42 season, Bauer, along with linemates Schmidt and Dumart, became the first big league players to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. Initially they were based in Ottawa and continued to play hockey for the Ottawa Commandos, who were affiliated with the Quebec Senior League. That spring, they led the club to the Allan Cup championship. The following year, the Kraut Line was stationed in Halifax, where they helped that team capture the city championship. The next season, this squad continued to function independently and played exhibition matches. Bauer and his linemates spent 1943 to 1945 engaged in combat on behalf of their country.
Bauer returned to Boston for two more seasons, from 1945 to 1947. In his first year back, his post-season play was particularly strong as he aided the Bruins' drive to the Stanley Cup Final, but they came up short against the Montreal Canadiens. In 1946-47, he enjoyed a personal-best 30-goal season and won his third Lady Byng Trophy.
Retiring in 1947, Bauer moved closer to home to coach the Guelph Biltmore juniors. Later that year, he regained his amateur status and embarked on a successful career with the senior Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen. Bauer's guiding influence took the squad to the OHA Senior Final three straight years between 1948 and 1950. He retired as a player after the 1949-50 season, but returned for one game with Boston in 1951-52. On March 18, 1952, Bauer scored a goal and an assist as the Kraut Line reunited for one triumphant night to lead the Bruins to victory over Chicago.
Bauer's talent for communicating with players was evident throughout his career, and so it was a natural progression for him to step into a coaching position after his playing days were over. Beginning in 1952, he went on to serve as general manager, coach, and president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen. Under his tutelage, the club won two OHA championships and two Allan Cup championships. The second triumph resulted in the Dutchmen being chosen to represent Canada at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina, Italy, where they earned the Olympic bronze medal. When he returned to Canada, Bauer gave up coaching, but four years later, he was talked into guiding the Dutchmen at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley, California, where they won silver. After the 1960 Olympics, Bauer passed along his experience during countless sessions with his younger brother, Father David Bauer. Prior to his death, Bobby Bauer helped put together Canada's national team program. He was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.