As my beloved Boston Bruins are playing the St. Louis Blues for the Stanley Cup, someone asked me the other day, “Why do you like the Bruins?”
It is a good question, given I live in the heart of Calgary Flames country and spent another 11 years of my life living in the heart of Edmonton Oilers country.
My loyalty to the Bruins pre-dates the merger that brought the Oilers into the NHL in 1979, and the re-location of the Atlanta Flames to Calgary a year later.
It goes back to a family gathering and is rooted, in part by sibling rivalry.
In the beginning
My interest in the Bruins was first peaked in the 1978 Stanley Cup final where they faced the Montreal Canadiens, defending Stanley Cup champions. In fact, I soon discovered the Bruins had been swept by Montreal in the previous Stanley Cup final in 1977 as well.
To be honest, the main reason I cheered for Boston was that everyone else cheered for Montreal, led by my brother George. We were all at a family gathering, crowded in my Uncle Ed’s basement. It was the first hockey game I remember watching. Everyone was cheering for Montreal, and I wondered what the big deal was. They did seem better, stronger, faster. So, I resolved to take up the cause of the under dog – I was rooting for the Bruins.
They lost the first two games of the series in Montreal, including the one we watched at Uncle Ed’s, but managed to win Game 3 at home in the Boston Gardens. Game 4 was crucial, but I was unable to see it. I was in Grade 2 and we had a field trip to Drumheller. It kind of slipped my mind until I heard some of the adults talking about it. Our bus driver was a fellow named Abe Ens, so when we were filing onto the bus I asked him if I knew who won the hockey game. I was pretty sure I had heard one of the teachers say Boston had won the game 2-0, and Mr. Ens confirmed that. I was thrilled. Not only had Boston won, but goaltender Gerry Cheevers, one of my more favourite Bruins, got a shut out. He blanked the mighty Montreal Canadiens!
What I really liked was Cheevers’ mask. It was white with a bunch of stitches painted all over it. The team trainer painted a stitch in the spot a puck hit every time that happened, demonstrating how many times it saved Cheevers’ face. I even recall trying to make my own Gerry Cheevers’ goalie mask out of a magazine. I used white water colour to paint the front all white then tried to paint on some stitches. Then, I cut some holes in the side and laced some baler twine through. When I tried to put it on it was really stiff. Only later did I discover that masks were custom made and form-fitted to the shape of the goalie’s face.
Sadly, we returned from the Badlands, and things went bad for Boston too. Montreal won Game 5 at the Forum, and wrapped up their third straight Stanley Cup shortly thereafter in Boston.
Quite simply, I was hooked. That first series 41 years ago began an association that has gone through heartbreak, and triumph, and led to this point.
There have been other teams I have rooted for when the Bruins either were not playing, or had already been eliminated from the playoffs, but through it all I was, and remain, a Bruins fan.