This SI cover, from 1977, used to be a part of a 16 square foot collage that hung in my room, right over there at 2474 La Condesa Drive. I’m not entirely sure why, but I loved that cover and gave it a prominent spot in my evolving tribute to Boston Sports.
Now I was not even eight years old when that SI came in the mail box. And it had only been eighteen months since I had adopted the Red Sox. But in the meantime, I had scooped up the Celts and tied myself to the Pats. So by April of 1977, all I was missing was the Bruins. That all changed when I got my hands on that SI.
Now hockey has never been a passion of mine. I’ll admit that. But it was never because I didn’t’ like the game. Instead, it was because it wasn’t that easy to get into a sport when you live in Southern California, your team is in Boston and there is absolutely no coverage available. Sure, my dad stepped up every year and took me to see the Bruins when they came to town. And I would track the Bs through boxscores, stat tables, and 50 word blurbs in the LA Times. But that was the extent of my commitment early on.
But being a “Boston” fan in the eighties, I would step up my commitment each April when the playoffs rolled around. And while I never made big investments in the Bs and therefore was never despondent over a playoff exit, I did have some skin in the game. The one exception was 1983 when I thought Pete Peters was going to lead the Bs to the Cup and was pretty upset when the Islanders squashed that plan.
Fast forward to 10:30 last night when it was clear that the Bs were going to win their first Cup in 39 years. Given my level of fandom, I would have expected to be enjoying the moment. Perhaps even excited. But to my surprise, I was really feeling it. Not quite “2004” feeling it. And not down on one knee “feeling it” like when Adam Vinaterri split the uprights at the Superdome. But feeling it nonetheless.
At that point, a few things struck me. First off, winning the Stanly Cup is a grind like no other, both for the players and the fans. In Boston’s case, they played 25 post-season games, three of which were for their lives. You simply can’t get on that roller coaster and not feel something when the ride is over.
Second, over the past two weeks, I came to loathe the Canucks. The diving. The cheap shots. The goofy facial expressions. Alex Burrows. The Sisters. The Goalie. That is some collection of mutts and while I was excited to see Boston win, I was almost as jacked to see that other group lose.
Lastly, as the final seconds ticked off, I realized that while I had never made huge investments in the Bruins ….. all those little investments add up. Add in some big disappointments from the past two years and I noticed that I actually had a decent size of my portfolio invested with the Bs. Perhaps not enough to be considered a loyalist but big enough so that I was shaking when Patrice Bergeron slammed the door shut on the Canucks.
With a few hours to reflect, it seems clear that this team had a lot going for it during this trip. First, Pittsburgh got banged up, Washington couldn’t get on track and Phily fell apart. But beside that, the Bs had the great goaltender with the great back story. Then there was the old guy – who everybody loves – playing his last game. They had the embattled coach. There was an injured player on the side serving as inspiration. And on top of all that, there was the story arc where they had to overcome last year’s debacle with Philly. Add it all up and this club had plenty of drama and mythology to fill its sails. And people, that stuff counts for something.
Now if it were up to me, the Bruins would once again be on the cover of SI this week. With the same headline from 1977, of course. That headline proved to be slightly premature back then. But as I see it, it works just fine today.