As I walked through Springfield neighborhoods torn apart by the June 1 tornado that permanently changed the landscape of the City of Homes, I received a text message from a friend that offered a brief moment of levity to a grave situation.
“Last time there was a tornado in Springfield: 1972. Last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup: 1972,” it read.
I don’t recall this to trivialize the suffering that any may be feeling in the wake of the terrible natural phenomenon. No one would be daft enough to believe that the latter outweighs or is even of equal importance to the former.
But it does provide perspective on just how long the Boston Bruins and their fans have waited for another Stanley Cup. An entire generation of fans – yours truly included – had gone their entire lives without ever seeing one.
I learned of legends of the Bruins’ past through stories told by family and old newspaper clippings, as well as grainy video footage that in the world of high definition television makes most wonder how anyone could ever watch hockey on TV in that era.
My grandfather, a now retired Springfield police officer, mounted an antenna on the roof of his Springfield home large enough that you would think he was trying to land large aircraft.
Its purpose? To pick up the signal of the Boston television station the Bruins were carried on. If the winds were just right and the moon’s gravitational pull wasn’t too strong, he would get it – a static filled screen on which you could see only the shadows of players and objects. But it was enough for him. He would sit in his living room and deliver a live play by play to everyone else in the room.
But kids, both big and small, who have listened to the tales of the legendary Big Bad Bruins did so with a melancholic heart, wondering if there would ever be a moment when we could tell our children that we witnessed greatness from a Bruins team.
To this point, we had nothing but tales of mediocrity, of close but no cigar, and of three-game leads blown.
Now it’s our time.
Just as our parents and grandparents told the tale of Cup legends like Orr, Espo, Sanderson, Bucyk, and Cheevers, so we shall be able to recount the triumph of Thomas, Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, Horton, Krejci and Recchi.
We can tell the tale of the fastest four goals in Stanley Cup finals history.
We can revel in having witnessed firsthand Tim Thomas’ hair-pullingly bizarre, yet incredibly effective style that earned him two shutouts, including one in Game 7.
We can reminisce about how Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg shut down twin brothers who formed one of the most powerful offensive tandems in hockey.
We can marvel at Mark Recchi, the ageless wonder.
We can relate the tenacity of players like Brad Marchand and how Patrice Bergeron knew the “right way” to play the game.
And of course, the number of male babies born in Massachusetts the name Timothy Thomas (insert surname here) no doubt will be at an all-time high.
And the question will be asked for years to come: “Where were you? Where were you when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011?”
I was at Paddy’s Irish Pub in Sixteen Acres in a room packed with strangers united as friends with the common passion. As Brad Marchand buried the empty net goal that set the minds of fans who had seen three-goal leads blown before, a deafening cheer: “We got the Cup! We got the Cup!”
The moment, surreal. The feeling, indescribable.
After faltering against Philadelphia last season, blowing a three-game series lead, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli bolstered the team by drafting 19-year-old Tyler Seguin and trading for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.
At the trade deadline, he acquired Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and gave away a first-round draft pick for Tomas Kaberle making a statement that anything short of winning Lord Stanley’s Cup would be a failure.
He took a stand and, in the end, so did his team. And now a new generation has their own story to tell.