The Bruins

I remember the little TV. It was a tiny black & white, maybe 6 or 8 inches and it had a little handle on it. My dad usually kept it in the garage to watch stuff when he was down there working on a car or whatnot, but one day the TV in my parents bedroom crapped out and he hauled it upstairs, tin foil, antennas, little crappy speaker and all. This had to be somewhere in the 1978-1979 time frame, but I really can’t remember. But I remember this – that was my first exposure to the Boston Bruins, or at least the first one I can remember. The Bruins were my original must-see-TV.

There were countless nights after that, spent laying on the bed watching the games with my dad. Probably hundreds of them. It is one of the stronger fabrics of my childhood. The years flew past, as they do. The mini-TV got moved back downstairs in favor of a bigger, color one and the Bruins kept playing, every fall through spring. With each passing year, my idols would retire, be traded or just change. Brad Park. Pete Peeters. Terry O’Reilly. Barry Pedersen. Rick Middleton. Steve Kasper. Ray Bourque. Cam Neely. Adam Oates…..they all just faded, one into the other, not for lack of personality or accomplishment, though — it all just rolled along like your favorite TV show – some were good episodes and some were not.

My first game was Thursday, December 11, 1980 at the old, dusty, wonderful Boston Garden. I was nine. My dad was 34. But it feels like yesterday – I can still taste the Garden pizza, can still probably draw for you the view from our seats, just under the Garden balcony overhang between the blue and red line, looking across to the Bruins bench. I have such vivid memories of being in the pro shop before the game, looking in bewilderment at all the cool Bruins stuff. Walking across through the slightly dark North Station lobby, full of smoke,  old thick wood benches and a few people living on them. The big old clock down there right before you walked out to your train. The gray-walled, winding ramps up to the arena. They played the Quebec Nordiques (so BLUE!), with the Stasney brothers flying around and a local kid named Ftorek, too, early on in his career. They lost 5-3. I remember so much about it all. I was already very much a hockey fan by then and had been playing for five years already, but THAT was something else. To BE there! I remember walking outside on Causeway St after the game, my dad holding my hand. He asked “so what did you think?” I don’t remember my answer, only the question. But I can probably guess what my response was.

Spring of 1983. I’m twelve. My mom and sister are watching the big TV in the living room, so my dad and I are back in the bedroom for game 7 of the Buffalo-Boston Adams Division Finals at the Garden. We watch intently and when, in overtime, Brad Park buries his own rebound with a slap-slot from the top of the circle, we rejoice, big hugs and laughs. See it here, the video is only :33 seconds:

It’s truly like yesterday for me.

1987-88. I’m a junior in high school. We split season tickets with a family friend and thus began our regular trips into the Garden, right at the time Bourque, Neely, Moog, et al, hit their peaks. A wonderful time to be seeing live games. Of course, my dad and I attend many of them and see some great games, the most memorable is one in which he has a new company car (’88 Chevy Cavalier) and we park it at Alewife, as we always did, and take the Red Line to Park Street and the Green line to North Station. I don’t remember the outcome or who they played, but I know I had a high school game the next day. We get back to the garage, turn the ignition and……nothing. No way to get home. We end up in that flea bag motel right on Route 2 and I miss half of school the following day, which, by MIAA rules, makes me ineligible to play that night. Or so I thought. Our Athletic Director Pete Richards calls me into his office and TELLS me I was there all day (and apparantly tells the main office the same thing). I fall in line, nod in agreement and play that night.

So it goes. In and out of Bruins games, year after year after year. They make the playoffs all the time, but can never reach the pinnacle. I go off to college and watch several seasons from afar, hitting Pittsburgh and the Igloo when the Bruins are in town. At one point, I painted the large rock at Kent State with the Bruins logo, but they always end up losing to Pittsburgh in the playoffs, who were an absolute force. Neely’s career basically ends and it’s a slow, steady downward spiral. For about ten years the Bruins are irrelevant – I go to games while living in Somerville, pay $20 bucks or whatever for the back row of the balcony and always sit in the first 5 rows off the ice. Easy. A few blips here and there, such as the night I watched Anson Carter bury one in double overtime during the Tar Hut years, while drunk and watching one of our bands play at the Bay State in Northampton, MA.

But for the most part the Bruins are silent players. Then….the lockout. Suddenly there’s 30 teams (something I still hate).

Then, in the 2006-2007 season, the Bruins are relatively awful, but I watch every game, because Stephanie is pregnant and in bed every night by like 8:30, so I have nothing to do. There’s a flicker of hope in their game, though, and the next few seasons are exciting. And then there’s this season. Much like what is now a generation ago, I split season tickets with a friend. I go to 12 games and see 10 losses, but the Bruins still do well. You know the rest, right?

But I have to tell you about the ride this year during the playoffs. I can’t be silent about it. I was at every game except for Game 2 of the Montreal series. I was invested – financially, mentally, physically. Walking out of that arena after these games, I truly felt like I’d played. As cliche as it sounds, it was one of the rides of my life. I will never, ever forget game 7 of the Conference Finals vs. Tampa Bay, perhaps the best hockey game I have ever seen. Those Cup Finals games were terrific and raucous and fun and LOUD, but I have never heard a crowd that loud in my life that night after Horton scored the only goal of the game and then the moment they clinched it. Just unforgettable. Now the memories come rolling through – Thomas stopping Gionta. Horton’s double OT goal, then doing it AGAIN in OT four nights later to eliminate Montreal. The SEGUIN game! Too many amazing memories…..

My dad was with me when the Bruins said bye to Philadelphia, then again for game 3 of the Cup Finals, which I will forever remember as the night real life took over hockey (see my work blog post on that here). The memories of this run are endless and I will hold them dear for the rest of life. It might be the best money I’ve ever spent. To be a part of the crowd, to hug strangers, to high-five EVERYONE in sight, to continuously be able to trot friends and family in that building with me for the playoffs is something I will cherish for so long. The result, as you know, was tremendous. The company and the enjoyment and the feeling that you were really, truly, a part of the team is unbeatable.

So this morning, the circle for this season got closed. We brought our own boys with us right to the base of the TD Garden, where the old barn used to stand. And I swear it would have been right at center ice of the old Boston Garden where the Bruins players came out, trotting the hardware just 15-20 feet from us and spoke of their appreciation for us fans – and I felt like they meant it. I couldn’t help but think of all the games I’d seen in person and all the games I watched as a kid with my dad, which happened right on that very spot where I held my boys and stood next to my wife, watching the Cup, the Prince of Wales trophy and the Conn Smythe trophy sitting there on the stage. I felt nine again. Bewildered. Almost wide eyed. I felt the same elation I’d felt so many times growing up watching this team. But most of all I loved hearing that crowd. All as one. Can’t even imagine what it must have felt like as a member of the Bruins these past few days.

Later on, just like that Decmeber night in 1980, I asked my own boys “so what did you think?” Maybe they’ll remember their answer someday or maybe they won’t……but I got to close out the season this morning with my family next to me and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people who, just like me, got to exhale this year. And boy did that feel good.

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US-Canada

That US-Canada hockey game last night was captivating from start to finish. Not just because the Americans won it, either. Because it was simply an excellent hockey game, a treasure of a night if you’re a hockey fan. However, a word of caution. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Canada outshot the US by almost a margin of double, pouring roughly 45 shots on Ryan Miller, the US goaltender. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Canada dominated the game at certain points. I mean, the way the US team was manhandled in the last ten minutes of the third period should be evidence enough. By no means should the US get too high and I don’t even have to say that next week, Canada will be in the thick of the medal hunt. Though I guess I just did say it, didn’t I?

But sometimes a game transcends who you are cheering for. When you see a game like the one last night, it becomes more of a deep appreciation for the game. If the Americans had lost, I’d still be just as blown away by the quality of the game, the intensity and the constant back-and-forth breathlessness of it all. A showcase, indeed. I’d even venture to say that there was only one single truly dirty play in the game – and that would Scott Neidermayer’s hold-and-throw of an American player as the second period ended. What a great night.

Oh, and Ryan Miller? Good god, man. Ryan Miller! He coolly handled everything the Great White North threw at him last night. His disposition was that of a second string goaltender playing an AHL game. What a performance. It’s rather obvious that he is the reason the US won the game last night, but that’s why he’s there. To put the team on his back if he has to – and last night he had to.

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Trip Through Our Murky World

  • Tiger Woods. What a complete, total dumbass. Some people who have everything just can’t be satisfied with everything, can they? They just have to have MORE. Dumbass.
  • Walmart. Here in Massachusetts, they just got handed a $40 million ass whooping for “denying breaks, refusing overtime, and manipulating time cards.” I can tell you this: I’ve never shopped there. Ever. And I don’t intend to if I don’t have to. Oh wait – there was one time I forgot a dress shirt on a trip to North Carolina so I got one there. But that’s it. Or was that Costco? I don’t remember. Either way – evil.
  • Are you telling me that they actually have performances at the Grammy Nomination Announcements now? WTF? Come again? Am I totally sounding like the 76 year old bitter old man? I am shaking my fist over here, yelling “cripes!”
  • OK, this sounds interesting. I keep wondering and wavering about ownership vs. streaming. I always thought I’d be an ownership guy because I’ve always loved owning my music, but I think I’m coming around.  I’m in the middle of trying to figure out the next steps for our house and music/audio, so this throws a wrench into things. It’s always friggin’ something.
  • You have to watch this. Hockey player from the Florida Panthers got frustrated when his team gave up a goal and he tried to break his stick on the net……but OOPS! Instead he broke his stick over his own goaltender’s head. OOPS. Um, sorry dude.
  • I able to catch the Tom Petty feature on CBS This Morning the other day. I’m so-so on Tom Petty. I love some of his stuff and some other stuff I can’t bear to listen to. But the feature was quite good. My favorite part? When he was asked about turning 60, Petty sheepishly says “well, if you’re not getting old, then you’re dead.” Love it.
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My Life In The Game

I couldn’t but laugh as I walked down the supermarket aisle recently. I was just hopping along on my way to get orange juice (I’m back buying Tropicana again now that the cartons are back to normal) and on the way to the OJ section, you have to pass by the magazine section. I had no intention of stopping at the magazines until a casual glance stopped me. A Dustin Pedroia book sat on the shelves. Now, for those of you that don’t know or care, Pedroia is the Red Sox current second baseman.Now, by anyone’s admission, Pedroia has had an impressive first couple of years in the major leagues. All of 25 years old, he’s already won himself a Rookie of the Year trophy and was last years AL MVP. All well and good. But a book? Come on! A BOOK!? Even better, the book is called “My Life In The Game,” as if he’s 62 years old or something. He’s twenty-freaking-five! If I want to read “A Life In The Game” I want to read it from Hank Aaron. Or Sandy Koufax. Hell, even Ron Luciano (old school reference…..and yes, I saw him ump a game in 1979). OK, I get that kids might look up to him. I get it. But a book from a guy whose been a major leaguer for about 2.5 seasons? Cripes! Off my soapbox.

I know, I know. There are a lot of obnoxious parents out there who blog, talk and pontificate endlessly about their children. I try really hard not to be that guy, unless, of course, you ask me. Then I’m a proud, blabbering idiot. But today I’m posting this video, just because I feel like doing it. So enjoy.

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Random

  • Small world story:  Yesterday I get in a cab to go to LaGuardia to fly home and there’s another person who also needs to go, so we split the cab. She calls a few friends and tells them about “the worst day of her life.” I try to sink into the seat and be quiet, because it does sound like she’s had a bad day.  Then she tells her friend the name of the person she’s having a problem with and I snort. I work with the guy! Yikes! She knows it right away and tells me this is now officially the worst day of her life. She’s lucky, though, because I’m not a fan of the dude either. So her secrets are safe with me. Even if I was a fan of the dude, her secret would have been safe with me (I’m a trustworthy fellow, people), but she doesn’t know that. Still, a pretty funny story.
  • I picked up a copy of The Atlantic magazine a few weeks back and I’ve been making my way through the issue. It is a keeper! The cover story is about Barack Obama and how this country might change when whites become the minority (it’s coming sooner than you think). It’s a very good piece, written with enough pop culture references to keep us interested. The author is actually an old roommate of a friend of mine, too, so it was cool to see his byline. The other piece that I implore you to read is the article about Bob Fishman, a Director for CBS Sports. I did some interning/gophering with CBS Sports when I was in college and got to meet and watch Bob Fishman work at the 1992 and 1993 World Series. The man is a freakin’ marvel to watch. I mean it. Watching sports on television is a very easy job. Making it happen and presenting it to us is more work that you could EVER imagine. Watching that group of people present the World Series to millions of people, to this day, remains one of the highlights of my entire life. This article is the best attempt I’ve seen at putting that work into words. If you watch sports on TV, read this. Bob is also a tremendously nice man. He didn’t hesitate to stop and talk to the little college kid interning. Knowing a good contact when I meet one, I kept in touch with him as I explored TV sports jobs after college.
  • I have a component based home-theatre system at my house. This basically means I have a) a cable box, b) a receiver, c) an AppleTV box and d) a DVD player. The receiver, about nine years old, is on the fritz. I am now doing a complete reevaluation of the setup, wondering if the whole component-based system is still the optimal solution. I believe it is, but I’m not sure. First off, the DVD player will most likely go away entirely. We’ve used it exactly once in the past 18 months. The physical DVD era is coming to an end soon. Sure, some of our lack of DVD usage is because we had kids and we don’t watch movies as much, but MOST of it is because we have the AppleTV box (hacked with Boxee) and/or we use video-on-demand. So with the DVD player going away, that leaves us with AppleTV and the cable box  – and possibly a reciever. I’m curious to know if there’s a solution out there that would simply be ONE box that acts both as a receiver AND a media hub that stores all my media. I do love the AppleTV, but if I can minimize boxes (and the energy that they produce) , I’m gonna.
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