Some players get free rides on their way to a championship. They don’t do much and get their name etched on the Cup or receive a ring engulfed with diamonds. Hello, Tomas Kaberle, the much-maligned Bruins defenseman, and J.J. Stokes who won a ring with the Patriots for providing nothing but a pulse.
However, there are players who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and have their opportunities for championship glory stolen. If they had any luck, it would be of the bad variety. Someone has changed the script to their anticipated Hollywood happy ending.
Former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe played eight seasons before Mo Lewis, with one thunderous hit, changed the football landscape in New England forever. Brady took the helm, and the Patriots won their first championship in 41 years in existence. Bledsoe laid the foundation for the revitalization of the franchise, but Tom Brady built a championship team upon it.
The same can be said for Marc Savard with the Bruins. After years of playoff failure, Boston turned their franchise around with the marquee free-agent signings of Zdeno Chara and Savard in 2006. Savard was coming off a career year with the Atlanta Thrashers by scoring 28 goals and adding 69 assists for 97 points. He was a hot free-agent commodity, and the Bruins franchise needed a shot in the arm desperately.
Savard paid instant dividends in his first season with the Black and Gold. The talented forward missed his career best by just one point, but the Bruins were still a work in progress. Savard and Chara provided veteran leadership that team needed desperately if they wanted to be competitive again.
The following season, the Bruins made a baby step forward by qualifying for the playoffs. Savard had a slight drop off in points with 78, but the bottom line is the team reached the postseason for the first time since the lockout. Boston would play the No. 1 seed Canadiens tough, pushing them to the brink in a hard-fought, seven-game series. Marc “Savvy” Savard was almost good for a point a game by posting one goal and six assists in the playoffs.
In the ’08-’09 season, Savard had another great offensive year by posting 88 points which was his third most productive season as a professional. The Bruins would move another rung up the ladder by dispatching the hated Canadiens in four straight before succumbing to Carolina in a seventh game overtime heartbreaker. Savard continued to produce when it mattered most. He scored six goals and added seven helpers in 11 playoff games.
After a promising start to the ’09-’10 season, where he tallied 33 points in 41 games, his season was cut short by a malicious hit by Penguins goon, Matt Cooke. The devastating blindside hit to his head left Savard with a severe concussion which caused him to miss the remainder of the regular season. Savard did make a miraculous return to the playoffs highlighted by a Game 1 overtime winner versus the Philadelphia Flyers.
Savard did make a comeback, but he was not himself. He was not as sharp mentally as he once was, and it reflected by mistakes on the ice. Marc Savard was passionate about the sport he loved and played his entire life. He was not about to give up; Savard would fight through the post-conscussion syndrome symptoms.
He returned for the ’10-’11 season only to be dealt another horrible hand by fate. In a game versus the Colorado Avalanche, former teammate Matt Hunwick rode Savard into the boards. He would fall to the ice clenching his face. His worst fears were soon realized with his second concussion in less than a year. He season was over just 25 games into the season.
With Savard out for the season and his cap hit off the books, the Bruins were able to make some moves to help bolster the club for the playoff run. Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley were acquired and played pivotal roles in the Bruins' postseason success. The disappointing Tomas Kaberle was also acquired by Boston due to cap space cleared by the Savard injury.
Just like Bledsoe, Savard’s misfortune indirectly led to the Bruins winning their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Marc Savard was instrumental in bringing the Bruins back to respectability, and his playing days may now be over due to his concussion. Savard made the ultimate sacrifice for his team—his health.
The Boston Bruins petitioned the NHL to have Marc Savard’s name engraved on the Stanley Cup. Savard did not play enough games that season to be eligible. A player needs to play 41 regular season games or one game in the Stanley Cup Final.
Other players such as Detroit’s Vladimir Konstantinov had their names added to the Cup after a petition filed by their teams. Konstantinov did not play a single game in the ’98 season due to a serious car accident during the off-season. However, his team knew he was an important part of the Red Wings family.
And the same can be said about Marc Savard. He will always be part of the Boston Bruins family and will be always be recognized as a champion. On Sept. 12, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli made the announcement that Marc Savard will have his name forever emblazoned on Lord Stanley’s Cup.
An honor much deserved.
Chances are that Marc Savard may never lace up his skates again. And to be honest, most Bruins fans hope he doesn’t. He needs to get healthy for himself and his family.
Hockey is still just a game.
And Marc Savard sacrificed his well being for his undying love for it.