With the dog days of summer upon us, fresh hockey content can be tough to come by. Luckily, Yahoo! hockey blogger Greg Whyshynski recently launched a thirty part series extolling the virtues of every team in the NHL. Puck Daddy’s “essentials” collection asked writer’s from various team’s blogs form across the country to name the elements and moments that defined their franchise. I couldn’t have been more excited. Until I read the Bruins Essentials. Our colleagues over at Days of Y’Orr certainly had a very modern interpretation of what the Bruins “defining” moments have been. Fortunately, Causeway Crowd has you covered. Here are the Black and Gold’s true essentials.
Player: Them: Cam Neely. Causeway Crowd: Bobby Orr.
With all due respect to “Bam Bam Cam”, “Numbah Four” is arguably the greatest player to ever lace up skates, never mind don the spoked B. For a blog where the man is their site’s namesake, these guys kind of missed the mark. Before Orr came along, the Bruins were in a yearly competition with the New York Rangers for the so-called “Eastern Seaboard Championship” (5th place in a 6 team league). In just Orr’s second season, the Bruins began a run that would see them make the playoffs again for 30 years straight, ending one year after Neely hung ‘em up. Orr gave the team an instant star, credibility, and of course, two Stanley Cups, all when they desperately needed it. Now if only they’d both had healthy knees.
Honorable Mentions: Ray Bourque, Milt Schmidt, Eddie Shore.
Season: Them: Individual picks of 2008-11′. C.C.: 1970-71′.
Recent successes (and the failures that helped mold them) are an easy pick for today’s enamored Bruins fans. Give it at least a decade and maybe we can label the last few seasons as defining. Until then, they simply can’t compare with the Bruins past. Fresh off their first Cup in 29 years, the 70-71′ squad didn’t so much mop up the competition as throw them around like a rag doll. Led by Orr, the B’s went 57-14-7. Espo scored 76 goals, and the club set a then record by boasting ten players with 20 goals or more. The Big Bad Bruins were born and with them, a fierce new identity. Not only did that season change the face of the franchise, it changed the face of hockey in New England. Rinks sprung up in towns and cities all across the commonwealth. The Bruins had won the hearts of not only a generation… but that generation’s children. Without the original Big Bad Bruins, “Big and Bad is Back” would have never been possible.
Game: Them: Various 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Victories. C.C.: May 10th, 1979.
Recent success does not a franchise make. Remember Carolina, Anaheim, and Edmonton? They’ve all made the finals since the lockout, including two Cup victories. They all missed the playoffs last year. By allot.
Meanwhile, May 10th 1979 is a franchise defining game for all of the wrong reasons. 9 years to the day of Orr’s highlight reel goal, the Bruins hit one of the lowest of lows. Up by a one in the 7th game of the semi-finals, the B’s were set to knock of the Montreal Canadiens for the first time in decades when the infamous “Ghosts of the Forum” struck. With two and a half minutes to go, the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice. The Habs tie the game, Lafluer scores in overtime, Montreal goes on to a Cup, Don Cherry is out of a job. The loss was tough to take at the time, and came to embody the short-comings the franchise would endure for the next 32 years.
That said, a few more games over the course of 87 years will enter into the discussion of “defining”. The importance of the 1970 Cup clincher can’t be over-stated. In 1988, the lights went out during game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins were already out of it at that point, but the moment marked the beginning of the end for the old Boston Garden. Cam Neely nearly brought the house down early in 1994 when he potted his 50th goal in just 44 games. In 1952, bloodied and battered opponents Sugar Jim Henry and Rocket Richard were captured in one of hockey’s most iconic photos, shaking hands after a hard fought series, indicative of the rivalry at large. In 1933, Eddie Shore nearly murdered Ace Bailey with a vicious check. Shore wore a helmet frequently after that and the first All-Star game was born.
Goal: Them: Bobby Orr. C.C.: Orr
Orr majestically soaring across the Garden ice after scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal is a must have photo for any New England sports bar. No debating it.
Trade: Them: Joe Thornton to San Jose
C.C.: Esposito, Hodge, and Stanfield from Chicago. Cam Neely from Vancouver.
Thornton to San Jose makes an interesting pick. It was a bold move by the franchise, essentially saying, let’s blow it up and start over… right now. While a gifted player, Thornton was never going to get it done in Boston (and 7 years and counting, not yet in San jose either). He didn’t fit the Bruin mold and was handed the reigns without reason, driving Bill Guerin out the door. While it help to set up the team’s current success, two other trades come to mind as “defining”.
Widely thought of as one of the most lopsided trades in history, Boston swindled the Blackhawks out of Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, and Fred Stanfield in 1967. Espo became the most prolific scorer of his day, while Hodge provided scoring and size from the wing and Stanfield contributed solid back-checking and depth. 20 years later, Harry Sinden swindled the Canucks out of an unproven right winger for an aging Barry Pederson. Neely’s career took off and the term “power-forward” was coined. The atmosphere was electrifying every time this prototypical Bruin stepped onto the Garden ice.
Unsung Hero: Them: Ken Hodge C.C.: P.J. Axelsson
Truthfully, this title could be given to probably about a hundred different Bruins over the years. Ken Hodge is certainly up there, sometimes forgotten among all of the Bruins early 70’s star power. Still, you’ve got to give some credit to a guy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. P.J. Axelsson came to Boston as a rookie in 1997. Overshadowed by top picks Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov, Axey quietly carved out his niche in Bruins history. For 11 seasons, he showed up, worked hard, killed penalties, and became a leader on some directionless squads. In a decade where the B’s were constantly trying to find their identity (Jason Allison succeeds Ray Bourque as captain???), P.J. was the one constant. And then, just as things were getting good, he left the party. Axelsson deserves credit for providing some stability during arguably the B’s leanest years since the Kennedy Administration.
Franchise Villain: Them: Ulf Samuelsson, et al C.C.: Ulf Samuelsson.
Ulf Samuelsson is the villain of this franchise. Period. No one person or team has done more to earn the hatred of an entire region than Ulf. The Canadiens are a close second, but hey, someone’s gotta win, and someone’s gotta lose. Nobody had to go low on Neely.
Fight: Them: P.J. Stock C.C.: Bruins vs Stars 2008
Fan favorite P.J. Stock was a bright spot on some lean Bruins teams. While it’s true that they weren’t very good or talented, they also weren’t that tough either. Teams during that era were infamous for first round playoff collapses. Not exactly indicative of the traditional Bruins fortitude. 2008 was a different story. A young Bruins squad searching for an identity found it that night. Even though it would be a few more years before the ultimate payoff, this is the moment that “Big and Bad” came back. The B’s pulled together and had each others backs. They’d been kicked around long enough and weren’t going to take it anymore. Not exactly V-Tek vs A-rod, but it got the job done. The team’s current identity was forged.
Notables:1979, Terry O’Reilly leads the charge as the B’s head into the stands at MSG. Mike Milbury beat a guy with his own shoe. In 1970, Wayne Maki nearly imploded Ted Green’s skull in a stick swinging incident. And circa 1994, who could forget this incident where Cam Neely finally had enough of Claude Lemieux and tossed him into the Garden boards.
Coach: Them: Don Cherry C.C.: Don Cherry
Hard to argue here. The enigmatic Cherry set the bar for over-achieving teams through hard work and a grind it out attitude. The spirit of the Lunch Pail A.C. lasted long after Cherry was gone.
Broadcaster: Them: Fred Cusick C.C. Fred Cusick
Jack Edwards is the best broadcaster the B’s have had in a long time. His fun, off-beat, complete homer attitude makes watching the games a blast. That said, Cusick was a legend. His classic delivery matched the old time feel of any tilt from the Garden and his exciting “SCORE!!!” call on any Boston goal was a trademark piece of his broadcasts. Cusick was also an innovator in how hockey games are covered and many of his techniques are still used today.
Arean Tradition: Them Rene Rancourt C.C.: Rene
Nothing gets the crowd going quite like Rene’s golden pipes. Don’t forget about Zombie Nation’s goal song/the ship horn. And of course, there’s also Nutty.
Swag: Them: 2010 Winter Classic/”Pooh Bear” Jersey C.C. Late 70’s – Mid 90’s kits.
These uni’s, with their clean lines, simple spoked B, and cheesy cartoon bear (for the kids) are just classic.
These are the true Bear Essentials. While Boston’s history is steeped with legendary toughness, thanks to a nearly 30 year dry spell after World War II, everything we know about the Bruins today was earned in the late 60’s through the early 80’s. Those teams, the Big Bad Bruins and the Lunch Pail A.C., defined what it means to play for Boston. Ten or twenty years from now, we may be afforded the benefit of hindsight on recent successes, but until then, it’s the past that has defined what we know today.