Boston Bruins take the team photo with the Stanley Cup
Dear Boston Bruins,
Congratulations on becoming the 2011 Stanley Cup champions!
I don't usually do this sort of thing, but I decided to for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is, well, as we all know, it has been 39 years since the organization has won the Stanley Cup. I was nine years old when it was achieved in 1970 and, of course, 11 years old when the Cup returned to Boston in 1972. Since then, I have had a long love affair with hockey. I've been a player, referee/linesman (I officiated your team's training camp games in the late 1980s) and coach.
My ex-wife and I met in a rink. We have two children.
As you can see, your club and the game of hockey has been very good to me.
During my childhood, my buddies and I idolized Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito while they were the leaders of Bruins teams that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1970, 1972 and 1974. Every time we played on the ponds, people could hear the voices of boys yelling, "I'm Bobby!" "I'm Espo!" "I'm Cheevers!" We were all going to be Bruins some day.
And let's not forget, there is a generation of men named Derek because their mothers had planned on becoming Derek Sanderson's wife some day.
We watched and agonized in 1977 and 1978 when Bruins teams lost to Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals, only to be followed by the "too many men on the ice" game in the 1979 semifinals. The club just could not get past those Canadiens, but we loved coach Don Cherry—along with Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Gilles Gilbert, Rick Middleton and, of course, Terry O'Reilly.
Your organization continued to add elite-level players, but none better than Raymond Bourque, whom you drafted in 1979. He went on to become, arguably, the second greatest defenseman who ever played the game. (Of course, Orr is the greatest player to ever play the game.) Bourque became the player whom management could build a team around.
You also added a kid from the Vancouver Canucks who was a third-line wing. When the trade was announced by general manager Harry Sinden, all of Bruins Nation asked, "We got who?" It did not take long for the fans to find out, and it did not take long for Cam Neely to become a cult hero in Boston.
In the early 1980s, the club displayed promise and was always in contention as one of the better teams in the league. The boys made the trip up the mountain in 1988. We had hope and we believed the Cup could come back to Boston on Bourque's shoulders (and those of his supporting cast of Neely, Andy Moog, Reggie Lemelin, Doug Keans, Kenny Linseman, Steve Kasper and Craig Janney).
The Edmonton Oilers had other ideas and although the Bruins gave it their best efforts, they were no match for Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Glen Anderson and the juggernaut that was in the midst of winning five Stanley Cups in seven years.
Two years later, New England got what they wished for when Boston made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals and took on the Oilers again. The Oilers were good, but they no longer had Gretzky; everyone felt 1990 would be the year the Bruins ended the Stanley Cup drought. But it was not meant to be and everyone knew it the moment Petr Klima scored in the third overtime of Game 1.
Our boys put up a good fight, but it was Messier and Oiler goaltender (and former Bruin) Bill Ranford who would drink from Lord Stanley's Cup. Still, we were convinced it was just a matter of time before Bourque and the Bruins would get their turn to drink from it.
If we only knew then what we know now.
After Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins won conference final series against the Bruins in 1991 and again in 1992, the lean years hit Boston.
The organization went through turmoil and misguided direction, and in 1997, for the first time in 30 years, the Bruins failed to qualify for the playoffs. They finished with the worst record in the National Hockey League.
Boston's management brought in the No. 1 draft pick, Joe Thornton. He was going to be the "savior," but it was not meant to be. The club was good, but not good enough to be an NHL power. Thornton was a good player, but the pressure may have been too much and he was traded to San Jose in 2005 without leading the team to a Stanley Cup.
It was around that time that the organization made the commitment to getting back to the elite status that many fans remembered. New fans did not understand what it was like to get "Stanley Cup fever."
General manager Peter Chiarelli took over the reigns in 2006.
He hired Claude Julien to guide the club through the NHL waters, and Cam Neely went from Hall of Fame player to team president. The three put a plan in place and brought in players who understood what it meant to be a Bruin.
Over the next few years, we began seeing players with the desire and determination to put the once-proud franchise back to the upper echelons of the NHL. Players such as Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic put on the spoked B and, all of sudden, hockey was becoming popular in Boston again.
It was not an overnight change, and we were never more frustrated than in that 2010 series against Philadelphia. You know the one, where you had that 3-0 lead and then...oh, never mind, it does not matter any more.
So...here we are. The Boston Bruins are back on top of the hockey world. 2011 Stanley Cup champions. Bruins fans around the world cannot say nor hear that enough.
The last time the Bruins were Stanley Cup champions, I was a boy and I shared it with my dad and my mom. They are no longer with us. I thought of them as the seconds wound down in Vancouver on June 15, 2011. I thought of them and many Bruins fans, such as my son's high school defense partner, my former father-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who would have been celebrating this victory with us if they were still here.
I shared this Stanley Cup with my kids.
My 12-year-old daughter (like most soon-to-be teenage girls in New England) thinks "Tyler Seguin is so cute."
I watched that seventh game with my 26-year-old son, who spent five years in professional hockey's minor leagues. It was his first Stanley Cup as a Bruins fan and when Game 7 ended, he put a bear hug on me that I thought was going to crush me.
This brings me to the second, and more important, reason for this letter. As my big, strong, strapping son hugged me, he, like so many of us, had tears in his eyes, wishing those he loved and are no longer here could have celebrated with us. The memories of him yelling, "I'm Bourque!" on a pond in Billerica, Massachusetts, and many others, came flooding back.
Yes, that is the reason for this letter.
Thank you Bruins. You let us all be Bobby, Phil, Cheesy, Ray and Cam one more time.
Congratulations and thank you.