Discovering Hockey and the Boston Bruins

Warm weather has reached New England.  Bostonians are flocking to the city’s parks and gardens to finally enjoy outdoor life after a miserable winter.  With the changing of the season, attention naturally shifts to the city’s beloved sports team….the Bruins?

That’s right.  Hockey is IT in this town right now.  Football players are currently locked out, the Celtics season was over when they traded away their starting center (and with him, their identity), and the Red Sox are still below-the-fold reading material, despite their much improved play of late.

The Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990, and my butt has sunk deeper into its seat on the bandwagon with each win during this exciting run.  For the first time in my life, I’m 1. enjoying hockey 2. understanding hockey and 3. actually rooting for a non-Los Angeles sports team.

Hockey isn’t popular in California, so the coverage is pretty scant in the papers and especially on sports talk radio.  Not so out here. Hockey is the #1 topic on sports radio (98.5 The Sports Hub is my station), and spending as much time in the car as I do, I couldn’t help but learn the game and get to know the players.  (And yes, I listen mostly to sports radio because I love sports and get tired of hearing nothing but Aerosmith, Boston, and J. Geils on the other FM stations).

And a couple things happened with the Bruins shortly after moving here.  First, their rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens intensified to new levels.  The two teams played a game in February in which every player on the ice, including both goalies, brawled.   The re-match of that game featured the ugly incident where the Bruins’ giant defenseman Zdeno Chara crushed Canadien Max Pacioretty into the boards, almost taking the guy’s head off.  These games dominated local media.  I started to learn the differences in style of play between the B’s and the Habs (the Canadien’s nickname, short for les Habitants) and the type of fans that each team draws.  In short, Montreal hockey fans are regarded as big time elitists – their team has won 24 Stanley Cups, but none since ’93 – who think that their finesse game is the only way to play hockey.  The Bruins style reflects their loyal hard-working fan base: defense and physical play.

The second thing that happened was the Bruins’ seven game win streak in late February.  Nothing brings out new fans like a winner.  I was officially into hockey.

The playoffs came and of course the first round opponent was the Canadiens.  After losing the first two at home, the Bruins stormed back and won the series, with an epic overtime win in Game 7.  I’m not sure there is anything in sports more exciting than a Game 7 OT in hockey.  (Actually, the best thing wasn’t the game itself but rather the strange postgame speech by the Bruin’s inimitable play-by-play man, Jack Edwards.)  Then the sweep of the Flyers (avenging last year’s playoff collapse) and another epic seven game series, this time vs the not-so-storied Tampa Bay Lightning.  This town was pumped for that Game 7 this past Friday night.  Even Dee got into the game (sort of – she looked up from Words with Friends when I started yelling).

I’m hooked now.  The Lakers’ season is done, the Dodgers are dismal – I need a team to root for and I’ve found one in the Bruins.

Four more wins to the Cup.  Game 1 is Wednesday.


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