As the Boston Bruins won their 3rd game 7 to finally hoist the most sought after trophy in sports, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky I was to witness the event. How lucky it was that my dad got to see it after waiting 39 long years and enduring some painful seasons. How lucky my older son was to get to see his first game at the TD Garden in the same season (even if they did lose to Carolina in a shutout).
My dad introduced hockey and the Bruins to me when I was a baby. According to him, he used to walk around with me while watching games in attempt to get me to go to sleep while my mom worked. This may explain my inability to sleep without noise. Or my love of the sound of a hockey game – the swishing of metal blades on the ice, the sound of a stick hitting the frozen puck, the ping of a puck off the goal post, the crashing of bodies against the boards. You get the idea.
My husband and I lived in Denver when Ray Bourque won the cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. While it was tough to see Bourque in a uniform without a big B on the front, I, like others, really wanted to see him win it all. And that clearly wasn’t going to happen in Boston. One of my favorite Stanley Cup memories was watching Avalanche captain Joe Sakic pick up the cup and hand it directly to Ray Bourque, going against hockey tradition and allowing Ray to be the first teammate to hold it up in the air. I was on the phone with my dad when it happened. We were going on and on about the game and how happy we were for Bourque. We both went silent when he raised it. And then we cried.
After Bourque won the cup, he brought it back to Boston. I loved that he did that, and a part of me thought that it might be the only time I ever see the Stanley Cup in Boston. Luckily, I was wrong.
At G’s first game in November, the Bruins played terribly. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and it looked like they ate a full turkey dinner before they lazily skated on the ice. They didn’t even score, which drove me crazy since I really wanted G to get the full experience of what the Garden was like after a Bruins goal. My dad didn’t show a whole lot of confidence in the team at that point. He’s been a fan for a lot longer than I, and I think he got too accustomed to being disappointed year after year. I assured him that the team was good, and that they could really do something this season. And, boy, did they ever.
It was truly fun to watch the Bruins this year. I can’t remember a team that was this fun to watch. I can’t even pick a favorite player. Tim Thomas, who had 792 saves in the playoffs, was always calm and collected in goal and gave interviews after games that were more like fireside chats. Shawn Thornton used his insane amount of energy to put a spark in any game (or series, in the case of the Stanley Cup finals). Rookies Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand contributed huge goals and more, despite their young age. And then there was Nathan Horton who proved to be a clutch player for the team. And when Horton couldn’t play in the final game due to a severe concussion from game 3, he made sure to bring some “Boston ice” from the Garden and dump it on the Canuck’s ice so that the Bruins could have a bit of home with them.
My favorite Bruin to watch growing up was Cam Neely. Bourque was pretty awesome, but he didn’t hit like Cam. It was great to see Neely win the cup this year, even if it was wearing a suit and not a sweater.
I feel fortunate to have witnessed all the major teams in New England win championships. But, for me, watching the Bruins win was much more exciting and emotional than seeing the Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots win. And that’s because of my dad. Because he taught me to love hockey and to appreciate its history.
To see the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup was truly exciting. After the game, I went upstairs to check on my two sons. G, who is a light sleeper like me, opened his eyes. I told him that the Bruins won. He smiled and went back to sleep. The next morning, I replayed the coverage of the team taking turns hoisting the cup and explained to G what was going on and why everyone was crying, full of joy and disappointment.
And so the tradition continues.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I don’t think there’s a better gift out there.