Bobby Leiter's career in hockey is dotted with a whole range of highs and lows that attest to the man's iron will to make it as an NHL regular. The road to his goal was exceptionally long and, according to him, worth the wait.
He started out on an auspicious note, winning the Memorial Cup with the Winnipeg Braves in 1959. He did so in the company of fellow teammates Ted Green and Gary Bergman. From there, Leiter skated with the Winnipeg Warriors and the Kingston Frontenacs until 1962. It was at that time that he caught his first break with the Boston Bruins.
Over the four seasons that followed, he picked up a few parcels of big-league action with only limited success. It seems the club's management kept forcing the offensively minded centreman into a role as a defensive player. His woes were also compounded by a bout of tuberculosis that eclipsed most of one of his seasons with the club and a broken arm that curtailed another. During his absence from the team in the minors, the Bruins consolidated their lineup around Orr and Esposito. By the time Leiter was healthy again, he was considered expendable.
As a result, he became a career minor-leaguer with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Hershey remained home until 1971 when the Pittsburgh Penguins gave him a regular job. It was a long time coming and as an experience, Leiter was not very enamoured with the outcome. Coach Red Kelly had a tendency to bench players who made mistakes. Leiter played on edge during the entire campaign just trying to avoid landing on the dreaded pine.
The following year, the expansion Atlanta Flames picked him up in the draft and his long, long wait was finally rewarded. With the Flames, he got plenty of ice time and encouragement to go on offense from coach Boom Boom Geoffrion. Leiter soon established himself as the second coming of Wally Hergesheimer. He'd cruise in and around the goal crease and popped home baskets of garbage goals while assisting on a bunch of others.
During his first three campaigns with the club, he netted 140 points and endeared himself to his teammates as the butt end of jokes and pranks centering around his use of a toupee. In 1975, however, his great run with the Flames came to an end with his departure to the Calgary Cowboys of the WHA. He played one final season and then packed it in for good in 1976.