Dear Mr. Thomas,
My name is Andrew, and I am forty years old. For most of my life I have lived in Rhode Island . I believe in you like some six year olds believe in Santa. To be honest, I have not been a fan of hockey that long. It is all because of a friend who introduced me to the Bruins and the man who minded the net for them.
I did not like sports growing up. I was small for my size until the start of senior year in high school. I was always picked last or very close to it for games. That didn’t help matters. That I was a total geek in high school helped even less. For example, when asked about my favorite sport, I would offer some snarky remark like “full contact scrabble”.
Twenty years later, in the 2010-2011 season, things took an odd turn. I have a co-worker who got the ball rolling. He had invited me to go to a Bruins game with a lot of people but I ended up getting to third base with a hand mixer and spent the day getting forty stitches put in my left thumb. This co-worker has evolved over the years from being a guy I could make small talk with in the break room to being an honest to God brother. He took pity on me and began teaching me the 101s of hockey. He’s a rabid Bruins fan… no wait, rabid might be a gentle word. He played hockey since he was four and its been a part of his life for decades.
This friend was usually abused with a near endless litany of questions that popped into my mind. I had two strokes in the late 90s and it tends to make me spit out whatever pops into my mind. He put up with it. He was patient and accepting up until the playoffs. In the middle of one of my rants I crossed a line. He glared.(For those of you who grew up in Catholic school like I did, remember the glare of doom the nun would give you whenever you asked a question that pushed the boundaries of propriety and/or orthodoxy? Yea, one of those!)
The Bruins went on to have that magical season. His faith in the Bruins kept my faith going. It only faltered once. He expressed a sincere fear that it wouldn’t happen. I was honest with him. “<NAME REDACTED>, the last time the Bruins won, I was seven months old, and the doctors were guessing it was a 50/50 that I’d live to see a year old. The last time they got this far, I was graduating high school. I wasn’t a fan then, but I am now. I swear to you…they got this.”
You got it. Oh boy, did you have it. Game seven wasn’t a game. It was a statement! Only time I have ever seen him speechless with joy. First time in a very long while for me that I could say I was surrounded by joy. You played a major part in that. That is a night I can replay in my mind. I remember the first Shuttle launch, the loss of Challenger and Columbia, the LA Riots, deaths of loved ones… It was the first day since 1981 that I could remember a good day perfectly down to the second. However, it wasn’t the most emotional affirming day of my life.
That day was March 8th, 2012. I took my friend and his girl to see the B’s play the Sabres. Used a fair slice of my income tax check to buy the tickets. It was their five year anniversary, and I wanted to make it special. Since the Cup, I had bought my first jersey. Then I bought a second one, and a third one. That night, I had my Marchand jersey on. Instead of saying his name it had BALL OF HATE across the back. The Bruins scored their first goal of the night. I got up to chant the Zombie Nation song. My brother grabs me by the shoulder and swings me around. I have no idea what is going on and then I look up. BALL OF HATE is covering the jumbotron. Fans are cheering and laughing, people two rows behind me are giving me the thumbs up and for five seconds…. I am the nexus of the Bruins Nation. Three months later, I still haven’t told him how amazing that moment was. I was getting him tickets to celebrate with his wife, and he goes and does something like that. I don’t think I’ll ever have the words.
Mr. Thomas, I have those moments because of you. My brother showed me a goalie very close to my age who had suffered from injuries that would have made most normal people slow down or quit. I liked you because I could understand you. The strokes left me with some permanent damage. My setbacks from the strokes only made me try harder to achieve in life. With all your setbacks you still went out there and performed a little miracle for Boston and the Bruins Nation. Stay, go, be traded, or open up a frozen yougurt franchise on the moon….you’ll always have a fan. A fan who got a sport, an army of fellow believers, and a brother because of your actions.
Respectfully forever in your debt,