As a true child of New England, I have spent the majority of my life allowing Boston sports teams to preoccupy my thoughts, feelings and priorities—with the exception of the Boston Bruins.
Maybe I was never interested in hockey because I never played a hockey video game, because I could follow the puck on television broadcasts or because I could never understand why the game stopped so many times for a face-off.
Regardless of the reason, the times that I stopped and watched Bruins’ games were few and far between. I always followed the results of their games, their standing in the league and tried to follow the playoffs as best as possible. However, unlike the Celtics, Sox, or Patriots, I never lost sleep over a crushing loss. That is, until this year.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs have hooked me, especially the Bruins. I have revolved most of my days around being home in time to prepare for the puck to drop and the game to begin.
Recently, I have spent an inordinate amount of time pondering why I have suddenly become emotionally invested in the doings and happenings of the bastard stepchild of Boston sports, the Bruins.
After reflection, I have come up with three main reasons why the Bruins have earned my emotional support.
Reason 1: Resemblance to the Red Sox
In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins had the entire city of Boston buzzing after taking a commanding 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. Suddenly, the 3-0 series lead became a 3-1 lead, then a 3-2 lead, then a 3-3 tie.
In the blink of an eye, the Bruins had one game, at home, to avoid being one of the only teams to blow a 3-0 series lead in a best of seven playoff series.
Before this series, I had always cheered for any playoff team to take a 3-0 series lead so that I could see the graphic showing teams that have came back from such a deficit, and see the 2004 Boston Red Sox on that list. Now, the Bruins were about to fall victim to such a team.
The Bruins ended up losing that game by a score of 4-3 because of a too-many-men penalty. Following the crushing loss, famed Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe wrote, “…watching the Bruins blow a series on a too-many-men penalty is like watching the 2010 Red Sox lose a one-game playoff on a homer hit by a guy named Bucky,” which compared the 2010 Boston Bruins to the 1978 Boston Red Sox—a team that epitomized heartbreak.
Every other Boston team suffered heartbreak at some point during my life. The Patriots kicked off down the middle to Desmond Howard in Superbowl XXXI. The Celtics went through a stretch in which our season rested on the shoulders of names such as Antoine Walker. The Red Sox had Grady Little and Aaron Boone (and that is just in my lifetime).
Reason 2: A Rival Worth Hating
Everyone loves a villain. Batman would not be famous without The Joker. NBA ratings are at an all time high right now because everyone loves watching LeBron shrink under fourth quarter pressure. Personally, I would like nothing better than to see the Yankees lose every game they play for the rest of my life.
I am starting to feel the same way about the Vancouver Canucks.
When Alex Burrows took a bite out of Patrice Bergeron’s gloved finger in game one of the Conference Finals, he became public enemy number one. To make things worse, Burrows was not disciplined for his actions, because the NHL could not find proof that he bit Bergeron. I guess Bergeron’s bleeding finger was not good enough. Since then, Bruins players have gone out of their way to stick a finger in Burrow’s face, tempting him to repeat the despicable act.
More recently, in game three, Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome ended Nathan Horton’s Stanley Cup run with a vicious hit and was suspended for the remainder of the series. During the game, the commentators immediately condemned the hit because of the fact that Horton passed the puck well before he was leveled by Rome. The Bruins recovered from their teammate being stretchered off the ice to play an inspired game, winning 8-1. However, it was the Canucks players’ reactions after the game that finished my judgment of their team.
Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said, “…we disagree with the decision, and it was a clean hit.” Really? My hockey knowledge is quite limited, but every analyst has said the same thing—the hit was late, Rome left his feet to deliver the hit, and the hit was directed at the head.
Reason 3: Likeable Stars
Not only do I know the names of the majority of the Bruins’ players this year, but I am emotionally invested in their success. “Timmy” Thomas, the 37-year-old Bruins goalkeeper has thrived under the pressure of the playoffs only a year after splitting time with backup keeper Tuukka Rask. He has provided many a highlight save this post-season and been the emotional leader of the Bruins team.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is Tyler Seguin, age 19. Before the Eastern Conference Finals, I knew little of Seguin other than the Bruins picked him No. 2 overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and that he was a bright young prospect.
Now, called into action in a crucial series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Seguin finally had his chance on the brightest of stages. He responded by scoring a goal and assisting on another in game one. In game two he upstaged his previous performance by scoring two goals and assisting on two goals, tying the NHL record for points in a single playoff period.
Finally, the man who brings the toughness to this Bruins team--Zdeno Chara. The 6'9" giant who stands over 7' on skates provides an intimidating force to all that attempt to start trouble with the Bruins.
Along with his visual intimidation, Chara also provides the hard work to back up his stature. He leads NHL players in ice-time both in the regular season and in the playoffs, and also adds to his list of accomplishments the NHL's fastest recorded shot, which exceeds 105mph.
These Bruins have earned my respect, admiration, and especially my attention. Because of my desire for them to overcome their recent unfortunate luck, my newly discovered disdain for the entire Vancouver Canucks team, and the presence of Bruins stars to whom I can relate, I will be tuning in to the remainder of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.