“Fastest Gun in the History of Hockey.”

That was the opening sentence of a Providence Evening Bulletin story in February 1973, and for a couple of glorious weeks that aptly described North Providence High School’s Ron Bruno. And the Rhode Island high school hockey world basked in his radiated glory.

Bruno, a senior left wing for the Cougars in ’73, scored two goals in — according to newspaper reports — two seconds in a game played at the Mid State Arena. (If you’re shaking your head and asking “Where?”, it’s understandable; what was the Mid State Arena is now a salt- and sand-storage facility in East Greenwich.)

Two goals in two seconds for a single player sounds fast, right? That’s because it is. Record-fast. World-record-fast . . . for a high school player, a college player, a professional, you name it.

In fact, for a short period of time nearly 47 years ago, it was thought that no one at any level of hockey had ever scored two goals as fast as North Providence’s Ron Bruno.

Consider:

— The NHL mark for fastest two goals scored by a single player is four seconds. First to do it was Nels Stewart of the Montreal Maroons in a 5-3 home win over the Bruins on Jan. 3, 1931, and he was matched by Deron Quint of the Winnipeg Jets in a 9-4 home win over Edmonton on Dec. 15, 1995.

— In college, it’s five seconds. Troy Murray — yes, the long-time Blackhawks defenseman (who also played for Winnipeg, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Colorado) — did it for North Dakota against Michigan State on Nov. 21, 1980.

— The AHL record is also five seconds, matched three times, and our Reds had a hand in two of them. Jimmy Bartlett accomplished the feat for them against Rochester on Jan. 5, 1958, and Dennis Olsen did it against them for Springfield little over a year later, on Feb. 7, 1959.

Bruno — now 64, living in Cranston and working as a dining-room manager at a local retirement community — had them all beat . . . at least for a little while. (More on that in a moment.)

“[They] made all this fuss,” he remembers today.

The fuss started the afternoon after it happened, when the Evening Bulletin gave it a banner headline:

Bruno’s 2 Goals in 2 seconds
Stun East Greenwich Sextet

Bruno, wrote high school sports editor Dick Reynolds, may have set an Interscholastic League record for fastest production.

(Reynolds clearly wasn’t thinking big enough.)

The equivocation disappeared a few days later, though Dick’s sights were still set too low. He wrote:

The R.I. Hockey Coaches’ Association, according to Dick Ernst, secretary-treasurer, has accepted the almost incredible accomplishment of the North Providence forward as a state record.

“After checking all possible sources, our president, Joe Sprague, has announced that our organization recognizes this as an R.I. schoolboy record, unapproached not only in high school hockey but probably in all annals of the game,” Ernst explains.

To that point the R.I. high school record for fastest two goals by a single player was thought to be nine seconds, by St. Raphael’s Tom McDonough in an upset win over Mount St. Charles in 1955. In fact, the memory of McDonough’s feat lingers on; just a few weeks ago, this very organization declared McDonough to have scored “the 2 fastest recorded goals in RI schoolboy hockey history” in a Facebook post.

But fact is, he was eclipsed by Bruno 18 years later.

Bruno doesn’t remember much about the first of the two goals — “a rebound or whatever” — which came, according the official scoresheet, at 8:18 of the second period.

The second was harder to forget.

“Al Capaldi was the center,” he recalled a few days ago. “I was playing left wing. They dropped the puck at center ice and, as I recall, the puck squirted between the defensemen . . . I slapped a slap shot from just inside the blue line.”

Bruno was nicknamed “Boom Boom” by the Cougars’ coach, Chuck Gaffney, who used him at the point on the power play. “I did have a really good shot,” he admits. “I would practice shooting pucks in my backyard for hours, so I had a good heavy slap shot.”

On this night, it served him well. He grabbed hold of the puck, fired away, and . . . “it went in.”

At — again, according to the report in the paper — 8:20. Two seconds later.

“[When] they said two seconds, I was stunned. I could not believe that . . . Believe me, I’m not the fastest skater.”

Bruno added: “They thought it was a world record.”

If it had actually been two seconds, it would have been.

Closer examination revealed Bruno was right to be skeptical. A few weeks later, the official time between goals was changed from two seconds to seven seconds. No world record, though it was — and still is — believed to be the R.I. high school record.

“[They] erased it on a scorer’s error,” said Bruno.

Trying to uncover what that error was nearly 47 years later is — to put it mildly — difficult. There’s no central record-keeping organization in R.I. high school hockey. The rink where the feat was accomplished is no longer a rink. The team Bruno played for, North Providence, is now part of a co-op with Johnston and Tiverton. Dick Reynolds and Dick Ernst, crucial in spreading the story, have both passed away, as has Joe Sprague.

The likeliest explanation?

Back in 1973 — and for many years before and afterwards — the Journal was the only true source of information for R.I. high school sports. Hockey was unlike other sports in that the rinks, and not the schools, were responsible for reporting the scores. Whoever it was at Mid State who called in the results of that North Providence-East Greenwich game probably misread the time of Bruno’s first goal on the scoresheet as 8:18 rather than 8:13. Thus, when the second goal was scored at 8:20, whoever took the game over the phone at the newspaper assumed there was a two-second difference between the goals and wrote it up as such for the morning paper (the Providence Journal). Dick Reynolds, who would write roundups of the previous night’s events for the afternoon paper (the Evening Bulletin), saw that and highlighted it in his story. And then began looking into it further.

But if the goal actually was scored at 8:13, then the difference would be seven seconds.

Still (very) impressive. Still a high school record. Just not superhuman.

“And it’s since been broken,” Bruno pointed out.

That it has, at least on the national level. In 2008, a Minnesota high school player named Ben Nelson scored two goals in six seconds for Little Falls against Alexandria.

Odds are, though, he didn’t receive the “fuss” Ron Bruno did.

Posted by Art Martone

2020-01-13T16:14:40+00:00 January 3rd, 2020|