Sunday, October 9, 2011

Interior Decorating, Boston Style

As a Boston sports fan, I am privileged.

Despite blemishes such as Bucky Bleeping Dent, Too Many Men on the Ice and David Tyree's miracle catch, I've been fortunate to witness many great successes from the local sports entries (with the exception of my beloved Revolution).  Even better, I've seen a bunch firsthand: Clinching the AL East pennant in 86 and 07, the Celtics' epic 30 comeback against the Nets in 2002, last minute victories for the Pats on MNF in Denver and Baltimore and raising the 2008 NBA championship banner.

They were all great.

But the other night took the cake.

If there's one thing the Bruins do right, year in and year out, it's knowing how to throw a celebration.

Even in the lean years, when it came to throwing retirement ceremonies for Taz, Bourque and Neely, opening night festivities or honoring past cup championship teams, the B's did it right: killer video montages, a-list alumni, the whole shebang.

So, you figured for something as big and as extravagant as a banner raising, the Bruins would pull out all the stops.  And they did.

So let's take a look back at an absolutely epic day.

Just the Facts, Jack (Edwards)

  • Game 1, Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
  • First game between these two since the Bruins swept the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-0)
John Blue Plate Special

Certain non-holiday days of the year require banging out of work: Patriot's Day, championship parades, road trips to away games, etc.  Having had to take a couple of hours off earlier in the week for my Stanley Cup photo shoot, I couldn't devote the entire gameday to being out of the office.  So I compromised and took a a half day instead.

Got to the Fours around 12:45 after flying into town on the Pike.  It's amazing how quick that commute can be when there's not traffic.  Met up with Heather, Pete, Cornelius and the heretofore mysterious Sarah Connors.

Part of the beauty of the Bruins winning the Cup is the fact that Heather and I are no longer tied to our superstitions.  That meant we were free to order whatever we wanted for lunch.  So we each went with the Johnny Kelly in a wrap with bacon and fries on the side.  Damn, that was good.

The Cup takes a ride on a BFD ladder truck down Canal St.
But because part of the theme of the day was closure on the Stanley Cup celebration, and the fact that we were going to be pregaming at the Four's for a few hours, we figured it'd be a good idea to give our playoff menu one last go-around before we headed in for the game.  So we ordered up a plate of boneless wings to sustain us.

BPD parades with hockey sticks in hand
Even better, being at the Fours allowed me to stake out an excellent vantage point to view the Stanley Cup parade down Canal Street.  The Cup was riding on the top of a Boston Fire Department ladder truck and a procession of local cops and firefighters carrying hockey sticks (in lieu of riffles) followed.  Truth be told, it was pretty cool.

Couture Corner

This was opening night and we were celebrating last year's team, so I went into this game fully expecting to see sweaters with mostly recent players names on them.  I had no pretenses about seeing anything overly special, but I was ok with making an exception for this one night.

So what did I find?

Let's take a look:

2001 Ray Bourque Avs/Bruins combo sweater

OK, let's get this over with: Time to put this away forever.

Seriously, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.  We don't have root vicariously through Ray Bourque anymore.  That was 10 years ago.  It's a new era.  Hang it up and get a real Bruins sweater already.

1996 Ray Bourque All Star sweater

Now, this is more like it.  This was a replica of the sweater Ray wore when he captured the All Star MVP on home ice.  He scored the game winner on a backhanded shot from above the right circle.  You couldn't have scripted it any better.

As for my attire, I went with what I wore throughout the playoffs - my 2010 Milan Lucic Winter Classic.

The 307 crew
The Row 11 Rundown

For the first time that I can remember, the entire 307 crew was in the house for this one.  Paula, Patty, Cassie, all three Kasper kids, the Hoyts, the Barrys (Tim, Maureen and John), me, Heather, Pete (the seat 11 designee for the night), Robyn, Charla, Kathi and the kids, lest we forget Reader's Digest (her real name still escapes me).  It was nice that Robyn, John and Lauren were able to get tickets on their own to to be there.

Doosh of the Day

I had to think about this one for a bit, but then it became obvious to me.

The DoTD goes to anyone who booed Jeremy Jacobs during his speech in the banner raising ceremony.

Look, I used to absolutely detest the guy (and his son Charlie).  An absentee owner who was more concerned with maintaining his profitable concession operation than with his storied hockey franchise.  Never willing to spend money to make his team a true contender.  Out of touch with his fanbase.  Always raising my ticket prices, justified or not. Denied Ray Bourque and Cam Neely chances to win the Stanley Cup in the black and gold.

You know what?  That all changed post lockout.  Sure, they royally effed up their strategy as far as forming a roster in 2005, getting stuck with players like Alexi Zhamnov while losing out on ones like Brian Rolston and Mychael Nylander.  And there was that whole Dave Lewis fiasco.

But to his credit, he brought in Peter Chiarelli, who, in turn, brought in Claude Julien.  He allowed Chiarelli to spend up to the salary cap and bring in players like Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard while also re-signing guys like Bergeron, Thomas, Krejci and Lucic to big extensions.  He brought in Cam Neely to help restore the aura of the Big Bad Bruins. He allowed the people he hired to run the on-ice aspects to the franchise to operate somewhat autonomously and succeed wit the resources he gave them to work with.

And they won hockey's ultimate prize.

So, for all of those "fans" who chose to boo him (rather than remain silent in the absence of applause), grow up.  Booing him was a classless act.  On a night where we were collectively celebrating one of the greatest accomplishments in franchise history, in a ceremony where we should have all been rejoicing, a number of individuals were content to bring a measure of shame when there was no reason for it.

The Lobel Prize

With Sean O'Donnell departing for Chicago, the Flyers have no ex-Bruins on their current roster.  So the prize goes unclaimed for another day.

Interior decorating, Boston style
The Home End

Simply put, the banner raising ceremony is one of, if not the greatest spectacle at a sporting event I've ever been fortunate to witness firsthand.

From the parade down Canal Street, to the video montage on a special curtain hanging from the scoreboard, to the curtain dropping to reveal the 2011 banner, to the 2011 team (with Mark Recchi and Shane Hnidy in full gear) taking a triumphant spin on the Garden ice with the Cup being passed around amongst the players), to the team photo at center ice with the cup, to the speeches by Jacobs, Neely, Chara and Chiarelli, to the presentation of the Starter jacket by Andrew Ference to Rex, to the 1972 cup-winning team coming out (complete with replica sweaters) to help raise the banner alongside the 2011 team, it was classy, stunning and amazing.

With all the hoopla over the banner raising, it was not far fetched to think that the actual game was going to be an afterthought.  There was bound to be some sort of emotional letdown as the game progressed.  The Bruins came out strong, scoring the first goal of the game on a Brad Marchand power play strike halfway through the first period.

But the Flyers struck twice in the last minute of play in the same frame as the Bruins got caught a bit off guard.  Tim Thomas was solid in net, but the Flyers, behind new netminder Ilya Brzgalov, were equal to the task.

It was a disappoint loss, especially considering that a win would have been the perfect ending to a spectacular evening.

Then again, the Bruins did open the 2011 season with a loss.  To a team backstopped by Bryzgalov.

Perhaps it's a good omen, then?

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