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Stanley Cup Thoughts, Bruins Stories, and Some Visual Aids

Thursday, June 16, 2011, 17:16 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Since last night, when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years, I’ve learned some things I didn’t know before and remembered some things I forgot to mention last night. In no particular order:

  • This postseason included two series in which the Bruins lost the first two games and three series that went to seven games. Boston faced elimination four times in the 2011 playoffs: game seven against Montreal in the first round, game seven against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final, and games six and seven against Vancouver.
  • There was a lunar eclipse yesterday. Coincidentally, there was also a lunar eclipse when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. The differences were that yesterday’s eclipse was over before the game and wasn’t visible from North America.
  • Somebody on one of the Boston sports radio stations (can’t remember which one) this morning pointed out that the local team with the longest championship drought is now the Patriots, whose last Super Bowl win was in 2005. Since then, the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, the Celtics won the 2008 NBA Championship, and now the Bruins have won the 2011 Stanley Cup. (This excludes the New England Revolutions, who have never won in four MLS Cup finals and are generally ignored by the sports radio stations.)
  • I absolutely love that “no words” NHL commercial, more so since last night.
  • In my post-game phone call with the Den Son last night, he told me that the Vancouver fans were at one point chanting something that he swore sounded exactly like “Yankees suck.” I recall hearing the same thing in game five.
  • It was impossible to hear the TV audio in the bar so I don’t know what the noise level was like at different points in the game. What was clear, however, was that the towel-waving was reduced almost to nothing after the third Boston goal. It was as if somebody put a spell on them and rendered them immobile, like Barbara Eden’s and Elizabeth Montgomery’s characters used to do on I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched.
  • Victory parade is scheduled for Saturday at 11:00 a.m. This is irony: the weather forecast calls for partly cloudy, chance of showers, high 78°F; for the Red Sox parade in 2004, it was rainy, raw, mid-40s.
  • It might seem like this was the latest-finishing Stanley Cup Final in history, but four other series actually went later. The 1995 Final, which capped a season interrupted by a lockout, didn’t end until June 24. Both the 1999 and 2006 Finals ended on June 19, and the 1998 Final wrapped up on June 16. The last Stanley Cup Final to end in May was the 1991 series, won by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games over the Minnesota North Stars on May 25. The last to end in April was the 1964 Final in which the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in a seventh game on April 25.
  • The Bruins have a long history of Stanley Cup Final appearances going back to 1927, when they lost to the Ottawa Senators 2-0-2 in a best-of-three series. Their first championship came in 1929 against the New York Rangers, whom they beat 2-0. Since then, they have won the Cup five more times: 1939 (4-1 vs. Toronto), 1941 (4-0 vs. Detroit), 1970 (4-0 vs. the St. Louis Blues), 1972 (4-2 vs. the Rangers), and 2011. They have lost in the final 12 times: 1927, 1930 (2-0 vs. the Montreal Canadiens), 1943 (4-0 vs. Detroit), 1946 (4-1 vs. Montreal), 1953 (4-1 vs. Montreal), 1957 (4-1 vs. Montreal), 1958 (4-2 vs. Montreal), 1974 (4-2 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers), 1977 (4-0 vs. Montreal), 1978 (4-2 vs. Montreal), 1988 (4-0 vs. the Edmonton Oilers), and 1990 (4-1 vs. Edmonton).
  • Those of you who were paying attention to the last bullet might have noticed that the Bruins had never taken a Final series to seven games, before last night.

The Bruins’ achievement also had me reminiscing about a few other Bruins-related stories involving me or members of my family.

  • My brother had leukemia as a young child and was treated for three years until his death at Boston’s Children’s Cancer Research Institute (now known as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute). Sometime during the 1969-1970 season, I believe, one of the times when he was inpatient at Boston Children’s Hospital, the hospital was visited by Eddie Johnston, the Bruins’ backup goaltender. According to my mother, Johnston spend some time with my brother and was very kind. As he was leaving to visit other children, my mother asked my brother, “What do you say to Mr. Johnston?” My brother replied, “Next time you come, bring Bobby Orr.” Now a 4- or 5-year-old kid dying of cancer can get away with that, but my mother was beside herself and scolded him that the proper thing to say was, “Thank you.” Johnston just smiled and said, “That’s alright, Bobby Orr is my favorite player, too I’m Bobby Orr’s biggest fan.” (Corrected by DMM)
  • A few years later, my other brother began playing youth hockey at the age of five. He played during the 1973-74 season at the Mite B level (the youngest level) of the Shrewsbury Youth Hockey Association. Every year, SYHA held a fundraiser called Bruins Night, in which a few member of the current Bruins team would come out and skate an exhibition scrimmage against the kids, one from each level in the program. By the luck of the draw, my brother was chosen from his team and was thus the youngest player participating. He was also small for his age. This fact earned him lots of attention from the Bruins players—Ken Hodge, Dave Forbes, Fred O’Donnell, and a fourth player I’m not sure of (Wayne Cashman, maybe). In the locker room after the game, Forbes tried to give my brother his game stick. My brother refused, saying, “My mother told me never to take things from strangers.” Forbes conceded that point and instead autographed my brother’s stick, with the other three Bruins following suit.
  • Around that time, maybe 1974-ish, I met Phil Esposito when he made an appearance to sign autographs at Spag’s, a legendary retail store that was located in my hometown of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. I waited in line with my father and finally got to meet Esposito, whom I had watched on television many a time. I haven’t the faintest memory of what I said to him or what he said to me, nor do I know what I did with that autograph. But I remember those killer sideburns.
  • Jumping forward a few decades, my mother did quite a bit of business travel at one point in her career, and in the middle of it the U.S. was struck by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Once air travel resumed, it was with long lines and intense security, so she spent a lot of time waiting in lines. One day at Boston’s Logan airport, from which both planes that flew into the World Trade Center towers had taken off, she was stuck in a security queue right behind Bobby Orr. They were chatting with each other and others in the line, the way you do when you’re all suffering the same indignity and just trying to pass the time. When she returned from her trip and told me the story, I asked her if she had gotten his autograph for me. “Of course not,” she said, “that would have been an intrusion.” I still haven’t forgiven her. I don’t think she told him the Eddie Johnston story, either.

If you’re still reading, then either I tell a great story (as author/illustrator Jef Mallett once said, “Writing well means never having to say, ‘I guess you had to be there'”) or you’re bored, obsessed with the Bruins, or in love with me. In any case, I guess I should give you some visuals to go with all those words. You know the drill; click on the image to view larger.

The Den Mother and DMM at Perfect Game after the victory

The Den Mother and DMM at Perfect Game after the victory

It was a good time at the sports bar last night, much more fun than watching at home, although at home I’d have been able to hear the television.

A funny story I forgot to tell last night: I arrived at the bar first and entered without being asked for identification. After a few minutes inside, I looked toward the front door just in time to see DMM hugging the bouncer and planting a big wet kiss on his face, apparently in response to his having asked her for ID, and he had a great big shit-eating grin. When you’re my age and you do that to a young, studly bouncer, you’re a skanky ho. When you’re 71, you’re adorable. Therein lies the advantage of being old and gray instead of aging and slightly gray.

This morning on my SI BlackBerry app - it's all good for Boston

This morning on my SI BlackBerry app - it's all good for Boston

It isn’t often that the top three stories on my SI app are of interest to me, but this morning was different. I can’t get enough of seeing (and saying) that the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup. As for the Vancouver riots, let’s just say that I realize there is an element within society wherever you go who are looking for an excuse to act like animals, but that element seems to be particularly dominant in Vancouver. The same thing happened in Boston after the 2004 World Series victory, and the worst of the trouble-makers turned out to be some of the tens of thousands of college students that descend on the city every year, rather than sports fans celebrating. What I don’t remember happening in Boston, though, is robbing stores. This I don’t understand.

But the rioters in Vancouver weren’t using a Canucks victory as an excuse to party. A late-evening headline on my CBC feed had described the situation as the work of “angry fans,” but I’ve read other reports saying that the violence started even before the game was over. I don’t remember any problems like this after championship losses here, whether it was the Celtics’ loss to the Lakers in seven games in 2010, the Pats’ defeat by the Giants in 2008, or the Red Sox’ devastating collapse against the Mets in 1986. If anything, the fans were too stunned and numb to cause any trouble, even if they were so inclined. And the losses, for some reason, didn’t draw out the criminal element. (One listener texted The Sports Hub and called the Vancouver trouble-makers “Canuckleheads,” which I thought was very clever.) Maybe this rioting after major sporting events is a uniquely west coast thing. Los Angeles had similar problems following the Lakers’ 2008 Finals loss to the Celtics—and again after the Lakers 2009 victory over Orlando. Go figure.

The third item on the SI app was Josh Beckett’s one-hitter (almost no-hitter, actually) against Tampa Bay last evening in what must have been the least watched Red Sox game in decades. That shutout, the Bruins’ shutout, and the Revs’ scoreless tie against Toronto FC meant that nobody scored against New England’s major league teams yesterday. Sweet.

My playoff bracket, complete at last

My playoff bracket, complete at last

I made this playoff bracket and hung it outside my office, where it waited patiently to be crowned with the Bruins logo. I actually couldn’t set it up at the beginning of the playoffs. Why not? Because the matchups in subsequent rounds depended on who won the conference quarterfinals, with the top remaining seed facing the lowest remaining seed in each conference, etc. So I had to set up my bracket after the first round and go from there. I had fun with it, no doubt more than I’d have had if we had lost.

Dick's Sporting Goods, Worcester, MA - check out the window panes

Dick's Sporting Goods, Worcester, MA - check out the window panes

As I vowed in the wee hours of this morning, I took my lunch hour to go hunting for championship t-shirts. Dick’s Sporting Goods in Worcester had already run out of a big shipment of four different t-shirt designs and a bunch of hats, but they were expecting more to arrive in the afternoon. Rather than wait, I went over to Bob’s Stores in Shrewsbury, which had plenty of shirts in only one design, the so-called locker room shirt. I picked up one each for me, DMM, and DS, then will hit Dick’s again after work for another. I wouldn’t mine a long-sleeved tee or even a sweatshirt, something I can actually wear during most of hockey season. Right now, my only winter-appropriate Bruins garment is a Bruins/Red Cross shirt that has the spoked B and says “Bleed Black and Gold.”

To the one of you that is still here, I love you too 😉 and now I’m off to enjoy the rest of The Day after the Cup. No doubt I’ll write more about this before I return to my customary mundane ramblings. I just hope the rest of my readers don’t leave and never come back.

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