Sunday, September 25, 2011

A New Season. A New Era

Not bad at all, but it definitely could use some more banner.
Before we get into the 2011-2 season, I feel that I owe you an apology of sorts.

When I last left you, the Bruins had just dropped game 1 of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals to the Montreal Canadiens.  I wrote a blog recap of that game.  The Bruins then dropped game 2 to the Habs to go go down 0-2 in the series. Disheartened, I just didn't have it in my heart to relive that game.  Faced with that deficit, I resorted to the superstition card and said I wouldn't blog further in hopes of doing whatever I karmically could do to change things around.

In addition, being the playoffs, I really wanted to focus on the game.  Trying to shoot pictures and jot down mental notes was somewhat distracting.  As much as I wanted to preserve memories of each game, I wanted to live in the moment.

Obviously, we all know how things turned out.  Simply put, it was the most exhilarating, exciting and exhausting two months of die-hard fandom that I've ever experienced.  The game seven OT victory over the hated Habs.  Vengeance achieved for last year's epic collapse with a four game sweep over the Flyers.  Another seven game series win against a really good Tampa Bay squad. And, of course, a win for the ages in game seven against the talented but unlikable Canucks.

So many memories.  The lowest of lows triumphed by the highest of highs.  And none of them written down, only in my mind.

Having brought you all the way through the regular season, I feel, in a way, that I let my audience down by not bringing you along for the ride in the playoffs, especially with how things turned out in the end.

So, for that, I'm sorry.

Now, let's move on to the fun stuff.

Friday had the Bruins playing at home on Causeway Street in their first game action since game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, a span of 98 days.  Sure, it was only a preseason game against the New York Islanders, but it was live hockey!  Honestly, the Sox were playing the Yankees at the New Stadium, trying to stave off a late season collapse and secure a wild card playoff spot and I cared more about a preseason hockey game.

Think about it for a second.  The Bruins who won the Stanley Cup were the embodiment of everything a Boston sports fan wants: A blue collar work ethic, a mix of talented scorers mixed with lunchpail gang grinders.  Guys who will stick up for their teammates.  And the fact that they genuinely seem like decent guys off the ice is only icing on the cake.  Contrast that with the Sox: A few guys who have the "Dirt Dog" charm, some decent talent, but way too many guys who make way too much money for too little return.  For every Pedroia or Youkilis who have to be missing a limb to not want to play, there are twice as many guys who are more than happy to take a day off due to minor aches and pains.

Hockey players are a different breed.  And I love that about them.

Being preseason and all, I was using this game to get back into the swing of things.  The slog into town on the Pike from my work.  The pregame festivities at the Four's. Meeting up with the 307 crew in full.

Much like people who own a vacation place up by the lake, this was my opportunity to check into the home away from home before the season starts up and get things prepped.

At the same time, now that the new season is upon us, this was our chance to hit the reset button, to a degree.  With established customs, traditions and superstitions that we strictly adhered to throughout the regular season and even moreso in the playoffs, any deviation could have been catastrophic.  But now that its over, we are free to do whatever we want.  Case in point: Throughout the playoffs, Heather and I could only order one plate of boneless chicken wings at the Four's before the game.  No sandwiches.  No wraps.  Not even a side of BBQ sauce.  Captain and diet for me, Stoli vanilla and diet for her. No exceptions.

But with carte blanche in our hands, it was game on.  In this case, it meant splitting the buffalo chicken mac & cheese, washed down with a couple of pints of Guinness.  If  you are at the Four's and are game for it, order the mac & cheese. It's fantastic.

Another superstition gone bay the wayside (for now): Every game, enter the Garden from the west end, go up the right side escalator, go through the right-most turnstile on the east side, up the right side escalator, proceed counterclockwise to the escalator behind Section 4, up to the balcony and then counterclockwise to our seats in 307.  Sure, it sounds dumb.  But when you're superstitious as all hell and the Bruins are winning, are you going to be the ones who change things up?  Yeah, thought so.

So we basically did the polar opposite the  other night, because we could.  And you know what? The Bruins won 6-3.  Rich Peverley filled in the wing spot on the Bergeron-Marchand line that was vacated by the retired Mark Recchi and boy did that line click.  There was definitely some chemistry there.

Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara got their first action of the preseason. Zach Hamill continued to make us wonder why in the hell the Bruins drafted him 8th overall in the 2007 entry draft. 2011 second round drfat pick Alexander Khokhlachev showed some good flashes and the team was able to rebound from a 2-0 deficit with 2 powerplay tallies to boot.

Now, being a preseason game, I didn't expect to see any real sweaters of significance.  And throughout the game and during intermissions, I didn't see anything that I deemed camera-worthy. The closest was a 2009-10 Manny Fernandez home sweater.  Yeah, that ain't gonna do it.

I was pretty much resigned to having nothing to post.  The game finished up and we headed downstairs.

Then I saw this:

That, dear friends, is a replica 1973 Philadelphia Blazers Derek Sanderson sweater.

The Philadelphia Blazers, you ask?

The Blazers were a team in the World Hockey Association (WHA), that paid the Turk a record $2.6 million, 5 year deal to jump ship from the Bruins to the fledgling franchise  Alas, the Blazers were only around for one season and Sanderson didn't even play out the first year of his contract, having been bought out and returning to the Bruins.

I've seen hundreds of unique sweaters at Bruins games throughout the years, but this has to be the first ever Non-New England Whalers WHA that I've come across.  Awesome.