Monday, June 20, 2011

Congrats Bruins, you made me eat my words

I made a very bold statement a few weeks ago – one that I was sure was true: “Maybe the Bruins will come back to beat the Canadiens in the first round; maybe they’ll even make it to the conference championship – but they won’t win the Cup, and all of the fans, bandwagon or not, will be disappointed in the end.”

Well, I’m eating my words. Last week, they proved me wrong by winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972, and doing it in impressive fashion. 

I won’t give you a run-down of their Stanley Cup run – their three Game 7 wins, their dominance at home or their epic turnaround after Game 2 in Vancouver, when a Canucks victory parade seemed inevitable. I won’t give you a summary because the Bruins run to Lord Stanley was a strange one for me. I didn’t fully jump back on the bandwagon because, as I said in April, I’ve “lost that loving feeling” for the B’s and I just couldn’t trust them. I tuned into the games and cheered for them to win, but it was all halfhearted because I couldn’t truly invest in something that I was sure had a heartbreaking ending.

Before I was born, the Bruins were IT in Boston. In the 1970s, they were bigger than the Celtics, the Patriots and even the Red Sox. But after the Jacobs Family bought the team, things changed. I assumed I’d never see the Stanley Cup hoisted by the black-and-gold because, well, they’re the Bruins – owned by a man who doesn’t even live in or around Boston (he lives in Buffalo!) and always spent enough money to compete but never enough to win. 

I loved hockey until I was 22. But since 2005, I haven’t truly cared about hockey unless the Bruins or my alma mater, Boston University, made the playoffs – even then, I didn’t really care. So I can’t take as much pleasure in the Bruins Cup win as the die-hards who stuck with them through thick and thin – people like my cousin Shawn, who hasn’t turned on them in his 35 years and has worn a Bruins hat since the day I met him 10 years ago (he is technically my cousin’s husband). When they won Game 7, I was thinking about how happy people like Shawn must be, and wishing I was still one of them. 

One Saturday, the Bruins held their championship parade and it was the biggest parade in Boston history – even bigger than the Red Sox parade in 2004 after their first World Series win in 82 years. The thing about hockey is it fits in Boston – Boston is a tough, working-class city, where the men drink and fight, and the women are just as tough. Hockey is a sport for real men – if you look at someone wrong in the NBA you get a foul; if you blow on the quarterback or a receiver in football you get penalized; but in hockey, players stand up for each other and themselves. 

I grew up loving Ray Bourque, Cam Neely and Adam Oates, but they lost me in the post-Joe Thornton days. Now, kids in Boston are idolizing Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic in that same way and I think it’s great. I hope they never feel the gut-punch I did when I realized the management didn’t care about the fans.

And I hope those real, true fans like Shawn – who never abandoned the team and always believed this day would come – are enjoying every second of the Stanley Cup being in Boston.

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