Let’s get this out of the way first: I was born to be a Bruins fan. My dad, a notorious cheapskate, bought his first TV set in 1970 for the sole purpose of watching the Bruins games, especially with Bobby Orr wearing the Black and Gold. I never had a choice as to what team I would cheer for; I was born and raised locally, and it’s in my blood.
That being said, I LOVE this team. I could go into the legacy of the Bruins, the old-time hockey party line, regale you with tales of the notorious Big Bad Bruins who climbed over the glass of Madison Square Garden to brawl with the fans. I could get unreasonably excited about the intensity of the rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, a rivalry that started at the very dawn of the two franchises and has not waned to this day, one of the longest and most fierce in all of sports.
But there are reasons to love the Bruins for what they are today as well as who they were in the Original Six days or the Orr era. They are a team that is, if you aren’t a fan of another team, easy to love. They hit hard– really, really hard. They give other teams fits. They don’t back down from fights. They defend each other on the ice, and are a family off of it. The Bruins have character.
Take Tim Thomas, our goalie. He was the best goaltender in hockey last year, and deservedly won the Vezina as a result. As he said in his wonderfully heartfelt acceptance speech, “I had been more worried about getting my name on a roster than about winning the Vezina Trophy.” He played in Finland for years, completely dedicated, until he finally earned a starting spot on an NHL team in 2005 at the age of 32.
Our captain, Zdeno Chara, took home the Norris Trophy. Yes, he’s the tallest player in NHL history at 6′9″ barefoot, and it is highly amusing to watch people try to avoid getting into the corners with him. But more than that– this is a player who was passed over by his last team, the Ottawa Senators, in favor of a younger (shorter) player. The Bruins signed him, put a C on his jersey, and he developed into a fantastic team leader and one of the most feared defensemen.
Milan Lucic is the crowd’s favorite, and for good reason. This kid is 21 years old, and has found his way onto the Bruins through sheer grit and determination. First, at 15 he was diagnosed with Schuermann’s Disease, which caused a pronounced curvature in his upper spine, giving him the appearance of always being hunched over. No matter: he was going to play hockey. Passed over in a draft to play in the juniors in Canada? Kept trying. Cut from the first junior team he was invited to try out for? Still didn’t stop. The Bruins signed him, invited him to training camp, and he made the team the first time out. First game in the jersey, he got in a fight, won decisively, and Bruins fans fell madly, madly in love. He isn’t a great skater and isn’t the most skilled player out there, but you will never see him half-ass a single shift, never see anything but total dedication from him on the ice. He’s a scary guy to play against, and that’s everything the Bruins want to be.
Marc Savard struggled with incorporating defense into his game as a young player and he got the reputation of a selfish player, a one-way player, a guy with no discipline. The Bruins signed him at a discount (considering his talent level) as an injured free agent, and since then, Savvy has become the keystone of the Bruins offense and a team leader.
Michael Ryder was essentially benched by the coach when he was on the Canadiens, but has become a major feature in the offense in Boston. At the start of this year, people were doubting whether Patrice Bergeron would be able to come back fully from his concussion problems the last two seasons, and he has been the most consistent player on the team.
Our young players always bring excitement to the ice. David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Matt Hunwick, Byron Bitz, Vladimir Sobotka and Tuukka Rask are all players new to the league in the last couple of years and have shown real talent at the NHL level– and they will continue to get better.
The Bruins roster is filled with guys who haven’t reached their potential elsewhere. Some were slow to develop, others just didn’t click. For whatever reason, they came to Boston and have found a locker room and a coaching staff that works for them, that pushes whatever buttons need to be pushed, and they are thriving.
This talent is supplemented by developing youth and a couple solid veterans in the mix.
Thirty-seven Stanley Cup championships have passed since the Bruins won their last one in 1972, and that is a long time. Too long. The fans are hungry after several failed playoff runs, most notably last year’s painful end in the second round after a season of dominant play. The Bruins are loaded with potential right now, but really, that’s all we’ve seen. Potential hasn’t gotten us the Cup so far.
In addition to trying (thus far unsuccessfully) to repeat last year’s success, this season also will feature a game in Fenway Park– at FENWAY PARK, which makes a Boston sports fan’s little heart swoon– against the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Day.
This year has been a struggle so far, with injuries to critical players and slumps across the team leading to a disappointing record. But the Bruins are not known for going down without a fight. Well, really, doing anything without a fight, or at least a scrum after the whistle. And when the bear shows its teeth and claws, there’s nothing better.
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