O, Canada? No, Canada! Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup!
Well, here in the Hub of the Universe, the Boston Bruins – “our” hockey team – has just won the Stanley Cup.
They did so by beating the Vancouver Canucks on the Canucks’ home ice, where the home team had won each of the three earlier games played there by one goal each: one game in the last 18 seconds of regulation play, another in sudden death overtime. Each game in Vancouver, up until the final one – which really counted - was what we used to call a “squeaker.”
In contrast to their up-to-now performance in Vancouver, where each game was a near miss, on Bruins’ home ice, the Canucks were completely whipped: 8-1, 4-0, and 5-2. In two of those games, their $10 million a year goalie was replaced – the ultimate in sports humiliation. Each game in Boston is what we call a blow-out.
Last night, I was hoping for a Bruins-led blow-out on Canucks ice.
It wasn’t quite the blow-out I was looking for – my heart didn’t really stop racing until the Bruins scored that death-stake fourth goal late in the third (although I did call my sister Trish to ask “are you breathing now?” when the B’s went up 3-zip).
Anyway, after all these years, I’m happy (and relieved) to see the Stanley Cup back in Boston.
Since this post is about this series and the teams that faced off in it, I must admit that I have always been a bit perplexed/amused by the Canucks name. In Canada, apparently,“Canuck” is a term of affection. Growing up in Worcester, it was a derogatory term – think “Mick” or “Polack” or “Dago” – used for French Canadians. But, eh, it’s their country and their team.
The Canucks have been around for 40 years, and have never won the hockey big kahuna. Because of this, and because hockey is Canada’s game, and because Vancouverites are such avid fans, the Canucks believed themselves to be deserving of a win.
As if 40 years is an eternity to wait to win it all… Just ask any Red Sox fan, who twiddled their thumbs for 86 years between World Series victories. Or Chicago Cubs supporters who’ve been twiddling away since 1908. But that’s baseball, and this – even though it’s the middle of June – is hockey.
Even in hockey, the ‘we deserve it, it’s been 40 long years’ whine didn’t quite cut it. The Bruins, after all, hade not won a Stanley Cup since 1972, which by my quick mental arithmetic – look, Ma, no fingers – is pretty darned close to 40 years.
Plus the Bruins, along with Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York, and Chicago - are one of the Original Six teams in the National Hockey League. This, in itself, made them something of a sentimental favorite – if any Boston team, once the Red Sox won, would ever be able to claim the mantle of “sentimental favorite”. Canadians, of course, counter-argued that they invented hockey, and there’s been a medium-length drought since any of the Canadian NHL teams won it all. (The national team did, however, win the 2010 Olympic Gold.)
Predictably, when two teams are locked in the deadly combat of a championship series, there’s all sorts of online he say-he say name calling, bad blood letting (metaphorically, anyway), and trash talking. Not to mention blood-curdling accounts of how out of town fans are being treated – especially if those out of towners are nice Canadians in Big Bad Boston.
Thus, I read online of a mother and 9 year old child in Canucks gear dragged from a cab and assaulted, when in actuality what most likely happened is that some stupid drunk Bruins fan pounded on the window of a cab containing a stupid drunk Canucks fan. Yet when emotions run high… And I’ve no doubt that there’s been taunting, popcorn throwing, and beer tossing on both sides. And I’ll admit it may well be worse on the Boston side of the equation. (But not necessarily: in the face of the ‘Nucks loss, there’s rioting in Vancouver.) Still, if a mother and 9 year old child had been pulled from a cab in Boston, information about the incident would be more than an online rumor. Even the Boston Herald – the local “no apologies” tabloid – would have run an “it’s only a game” editorial.
My personal contribution to the fray was this: I passed a couple of Canucks fans on the street the other day. I smiled warmly at them, and in my warmest and most good humored of voices wished them “Bad Luck.”
This has no doubt translated online to “verbal assault and over the top abuse by a mean old Boston lady.”
Anyway, the buzz in town about the Bruins has been fun, and it should continue sky-high for the next week or so. There’ve been lots of signs in window, lots of flags on cars. Finagle a Bagel had a Bruins bagel – plain with some sort of black-dye swirl in it. I took a pass. There’s been a Bruins jersey on the statue of George Washington in the Public Garden. And my personal favorito: the Make Way for Ducklings ducklings all decked out in black and gold. Mack, Pack, and Ouack are no different than other Bostonians in this regard. There’s an awful lot of wearing o’ the Bruins gear, which is somewhat new this year. Of the four major sports teams in Boston, the Red Sox – based on my informal walking around survey – have the most fans wearing something Red Sox related. Probably followed by the Patriots, with the Celtics a close third. Then there’s the Bruins.
They’ve certainly had their die-hards, but they haven’t been THE Team since the days of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, et al., when they last won the Stanley Cup. And when Derek Sanderson had a song written about him:
Not too long ago, up in Canada land
There lived a little boy name of Derek Sanderson…
Hockey games aren’t won on dreams.
But Derek’s always been this way it seems.
When a hockey player has a song written (and sung) about him, you know that this has always been as much a hockey town at heart as it has been anything else. But winning teams do tend to bring out whole retinues of johnny-come-lately band wagon fans.
And I will admit to being one of them.
My primo sporting allegiance has always gone to baseball in general and the Red Sox in particular. First runner up probably goes to the Celtics, largely because my husband is a big basketball fan and historic follower of the Celtics, so we watch a lot of basketball games – including this year’s NBA finals, during which we rooted lustily for the Dallas Mavericks to beat the craven Miami Heat. Whodda thunk I’d ever find myself cheering on a team from Texas, but there you have it. (Congratulations, Mavericks.) I like football well enough – at least until I think about the head-butting violence and all those retired players with their brains destroyed, not to mention the martial music, militarism, and pomposity of the sport. If I never watched another football game in the course of my life, I’d live. In fact, during this year’s Super Bowl, we tuned out for a while during halftime to watch a show on the 2004 Red Sox, which we’d already seen a couple of times. Nonetheless, we stuck with it, still goose-pimpled and misty-eyed about The Olde Towne Team’s vanquishing the Yankees. So much so that we forgot to turn back to the Super Bowl until the fourth quarter.
As for the Bruins, I confess that I’ve been on the band wagon this year, an absolute front-runner (although I didn’t wait for them to hit the play offs to start following them, so I’m not the front-most of the front-runners).
Basically, I have only followed the Bruins with half-an-eye cocked their way since the Bobby Orr era. So I can pick Cam Neely, Mike Millbury, and Ray Bourque out of a line-up. I know that Ray had to go to the Avalanche to win a Stanley Cup, and that he was the mensch – sniff, sniff – who gave up his number 7 jersey so that Espo’s number could be retired. I know who Milt Schmidt is. And Eddie Shore. I generally know how the team is faring, watch a couple of games during the regular season, and will catch a few Stanley Cup games, no matter who’s playing.
But this year, I’ve been (almost) all in, and have watched (and enjoyed) a lot of games.
So, band wagon maybe, but I am definitely not a Pink Hat.
This is the term coined for the nouveau Red Sox fans who glommed on to the team once they started getting good, driving up the cost and availability of seats at Fenway, even if they don’t know a damned thing about baseball.
Not so me with hockey. I know icing. I know high-sticking. I know pull-the-goalie.
And I’ve been glued to the playoffs.
Yesterday, I was distracted pretty much all day, sitting there hoping that the Bruins would win. Hopeing that they’d score often and early, and that the game wouldn’t be a cliffhanger. I
hoped knew that Boston goalie Tim Thomas would win the Conn Smythe trophy as the series MVP.
Yesterday, I resisted the urge to head to The Garden and pick up a Bruins something or other, and rub the flying Bobby Orr statue for good luck.
But I’m sure that by the time the first puck is dropped next season, I will be in possession of something Bruinish, even though I’m not that fond – sorry, guys – of the color scheme. It will not be a pink hat, but I’m hoping that they have something available in blue. And I will have at least blown a kiss to FBO.
As for the Canucks, let me asssure you that
40 41 years ain’t nothing. When the Bruins won it all in 1970 – the year when Bobby Orr took flight – I was watching the final game on my family’s black and white TV. It was Mother’s Day, but I don’t remember my mother watching with us. (She was probably making us dinner. Happy Mother’s Day, Ma!) My father was, watching the game. Less than a year later, he was dead. That was 40 years ago this January. We all whooped and hollered when Bobby Orr went air-borne. Note the helmet-less players. They don’t make anything like they used to, but the current edition of the Bruins are tough, physical and engaging – just like the Big Bad Boston Bruins of the early 1970’s. Forty years – give me a break. It’s gone in no time. Snap of a finger, blink of an eye. Try waiting 86 years for something to come along. Now that’s a lifetime, mes amis Candaiens.
Gotta say this for the Canucks. Not that I prefer it to our, but I do like your national anthem. And nice touch, your playing “Love That Dirty Water” while the Bruins were taking turns skating around with the Stanley Cup.
O, Canada? No, Canada, I’m afraid.
Maybe next year.
Meanwhile, for the next while at least, Hockey ‘R Us.