Still basking in the glow of Boston’s Stanley Cup victory Wednesday night, I boarded a plane bound for the homeland of captain Zdeno Chara, Slovakia, to play for Team USA in the World Ball Hockey Championships, which will be contested in Bratislava from June 19 to 26.
The fact that the championships will be held in the home nation of two Bruins is just one of the connections to the recent Stanley Cup final. In 2005, I played against current Vancouver Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows, who was still trying to find his way to the NHL at the time. Burrows was perhaps better at ball hockey than ice, and he led Canada to gold while taking home MVP honors for the second consecutive world championship. Last year, Burrows was enshrined in the International Street & Ball Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame.
After Game 2 of the finals, Burrows was asked about scoring in such an important game. He said he probably had never scored in a game as important since he played ball hockey. So though I do not like the fact Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, I do appreciate the fact he still gives kudos to the great game of ball hockey.
In fact, most Canadians love ball hockey. Virtually every past and current NHLer from Canada plays ball hockey in the summer, including the likes of Patrick Roy, Guy Charbonneau, Taylor Hall, Tyler Ennis, and Teddy Purcell all played ball hockey at one point or another. The sport is huge in the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Slovakia, as well as elsewhere in Europe. Maybe more Americans should take notice of that. So many adults scoff at ball hockey, not understanding that it is not only beneficial to stamina, strength, and the skills needed for ice hockey, but it also a great game. Maybe Burrows speaking up about it will change perception in the United States.
Anyway, here are some more thoughts while on the 13-hour journey from Boston to Bratislava.
- Even as someone who bashed Harry Sinden during his tenure as general manager of the Boston Bruins, I have to admit it was classy of the organization to invite the team’s “advisor” to join them in Vancouver and then on the ice during the Stanley Cup celebration. Sinden did always have the best interests of the NHL at heart, though that often conflicted with his job trying to get the Bruins a Stanley Cup. Though the criticism of Sinden was warranted at the time, all can be forgiven now. Enjoy this one, Harry.
- It was amazing to see Chara and Andrew Ference wheeling the Stanley Cup around the North End in a baby carriage. The excitement from the fans was expected, but the joy and happiness in the faces of Chara and Ference was even more spectacular. I cannot even imagine the exhilaration the players must feel after battling for 25 games and two months. Simply amazing.
- I am also thrilled to see the 44 share that Game 7 pulled. That is the hghest rating a hockey game has pulled in Boston since 1972 and is higher than any Celtics final. The only sporting event of the past forty years that beat the 44 is the New York Giants Super Bowl upset of the New England Patriots.
- As a high school teacher, I am used to seeing Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtic jerseys and the talk of those teams in the hallway and the teacher’s room. For once, it was great to hear people chatting about the power play, the forecheck, Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand, and the rest of the Bruins.
- My hope is that this love affair between New England and the Bruins breeds a new generation of hockey player, just as the 1970 Bruins and the 1980 Olympic team did. Find an ice hockey league near you at www.usahockey.com or a ball/street hockey league at www.mystreethockey.com.
- Sad I will miss the parade, so hopefully all of you will take pictures and video and save it for those of us out of the country, I am actually hoping that since Chara is from Slovakia, they may televise the event in his home country.
- There are a lot of great stories from the Cup, but Tim Thomas’ graciousness and humbleness is at the top. He was thankful in his post-game interviews, and he also paid respect to Roberto Luongo and the Canucks. Lastly, he demonstrated his respect and love for his family by pointing out that his family is more important to him than anything – including the Stanley Cup. Remember, this is a guy whose parents sold their wedding rings so Timmy could play hockey. He was brought up right, and it is always great when good things happen to great people.
- Claude Julien, I was wrong. You were the guy to bring the Bruins to a Stanley Cup. Bravo, and for once, I was glad I was wrong.
- I cannot wait to see the banner raising in October. It will be breathtaking.
- Thanks to the Bruins once more for an amazing two months. On to Bratislava!