Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Bruins

I have been a Bruins fan since the 1967-68 season. I was rewarded early on with two Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972. While the Bruins remained a dominant team for the rest of the 1970 and 1980 into the early 1990s (establishing a consecutive playoff appearance record that will never be broken); they became a less dominant team in the 1990s, started missing the playoffs, and finished last overall one season. I moved to Edmonton, started cheering for the Oilers even when they played Boston. I began to accept that I would never see the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in my lifetime. In some ways I was right; I was in Africa during the final series. So it was that the morning after Game 7 against Vancouver I took my computer upstairs in the Credo Hotel in Butare where they have wireless internet and learned that the Bruins had beaten Vancouver in convincing fashion and had won the Stanley Cup. I had to take it all in before going down to wake up my wife (a Habs fan) with a bad rendition of "We Are The Champions"; something I couldn't finish because I started crying, which I knew I would do if the Bruins ever won the Stanley Cup again.

In a sense along with winning the Stanley Cup, this playoff was an exorcism of the Bruins' playoff failures.

The Bruins can't beat Montreal...they did albeit winning Game 7 in overtime.
The Bruins have never won a series after trailing 2-0....they did it twice.
The Bruins' record in Game 7s is abysmal...they won all three Game 7s
The Bruins' record in overtime is abysmal...they won their first 4 OT games and only lost one to Vancouver
The Bruins record in Game 7 OTs is abysmal...they beat Montreal in OT.
Other teams always had the hot goalie...the Bruins had Tim Thomas this year.

And this of course exorcises all the playoff failures; the losses to Montreal in the 1970s and 80s. Getting out-thugged by Philadelphia. Losing twice to Edmonton in the final. Having to trade Ray Bourque to allow him to win the Stanley Cup with another team. Ulf Samuelson sticking his leg out and essentially ending Cam Neely's career. The disappointment of the Joe Thornton era teams. This current version of the team losing Game 7 in OT against Carolina; and blowing a 3-0 series lead against Philie.

More impressive is that the Bruins top offensive player Marc Savard missed the entire playoffs, Milan Lucic only scored three goals, Nathan Horton missed most of the last 5 games of the final, they couldn't buy a goal on the power play and they still won.

People often ask why I cheer for an American team.

When I started following hockey there were only 6 teams, two in Canada. Growing up on the west coast, I had no natural affinity for either Toronto or Montreal. I did however grow up in a Habs household. My older brother however told me I couldn't cheer for Montreal. (I am not sure whether to be grateful or not). Cheering for the Leafs in a Habs household was out the question. Therefore I first hoped for Chicago who had (and still have) the coolest crest and then after I played my only year of minor hockey on "The Bruins" I switched to Boston. You must rememember that in the 1960s either player in the NHL was Canadian. The two dominant stars of the 1960s Gordie Howe and Bobbie Hull played for American teams. Even today with all the Europeans, and Americans in the NHL, the Bruins carried 14 Canadian players, more than Montreal or Vancouver who they faced in the playoffs.

I am writing this after having returned from Africa yesterday, sitting in my Cam Neely replica jersey and I hope I never lose this feeling. Sorry to gloat but I have waited 39 years for this.

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