The city of Boston is lucky. We have 4 major sports teams that, at any minute, can take over the entire region. They’re all good, or at the very least talented enough, to go on a deep playoff run every year. It’s been that way for the better part of two decades and it doesn’t look to be slowing down. I know other places have had this moniker, but Boston truly is Titletown.
Now of course, the Patriots have been spearheading this 20 years of greatness with a league wide domination that our country has never seen and will never see again in the NFL, but the Celtics, Sox and Bruins have been doing their part as well. All have won at least one title in that span and have been in the mix almost every year for another.
But with the Patriots going through somewhat of a pseudo-rebuild/revamping, they look to be taking the backseat for a couple years. The Red Sox are one of the best teams in baseball, but this is coming off one of the worst seasons in recent memory so their success is still fragile and new. And the Celtics…well…they’re the Celtics. Blue balls personified. Constant “overachievers” who are always that “fun team” who are “just a piece or two” away. So they’re in no danger of taking over the #1 spot in Boston. But still, they’re always in the mix year in and year out.
The Bruins though? The buzz around the B’s this year was palpable. It wasn’t like when the Celtics are in the playoffs. It wasn’t like when the Red Sox are playing out of their minds like they currently are. It was even different than when the Patriots are running roughshod over the NFL. This just felt like…more. Your regular fandom turned up to 11. You have to be a fan to understand. The boys were indeed buzzin. It got me thinking about a question that always gets thrown around (no, not the “Brady or Belichick” bullshit debate you all try to shoehorn into our region)…What team runs Boston?
On the surface, the answer is simple: whichever team is doing better at that time gets most of the shine. In the street. On the radio. In the stores. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” mentality in terms of who is on the forefront of the city’s collective mind. But this time of year, Boston had THREE teams doing well: Celtics were in the playoffs, the Red Sox are volleying the “best team in baseball” title and then you had the Bruins who were starting their playoff run.
And I gotta say…the groundswell of support for the B’s overshadowed the Sox and Celts by a long shot. Could it be due to the fact that the baseball season is way too long and it’s tough for fans to get invested so early? Maybe. Could it be due to the fact that everyone knew the Celtics didn’t really deserve to be in the playoffs? Eh. Both were probably factors, but I don’t think there was any fan support that could’ve rivaled how Boston felt about the Bruins. It was just different. It was a more visceral, passionate side that seems to only exist when the Bruins are playing well.
It got me asking myself why and I think I figured it out. The Bruins core is getting old. Chara getting shipped out last year in favor of a youth movement was the first sign of that. Bergy and Krejci (due to be a free agent) are both 35 and Tuukka is 34. Those are your top 2 centermen and your starting goalie (who’s also due to hit free agency) who are walking towards the light as they say. Tuukka has already expressed how much he wants to stay in Boston, so there’s definitely a strong chance he comes back:
And Krejci is arguably one of the most underrated players in hockey over the last however many years, so it’d be nice to bring him back to play with (hopefully) Hall and Smith.
But still, those aren’t certainties. Which brings me back to WHY the support for the Bruins outshines any other team.
Boston fans are pretty knowledgeable. They understand stakes, moments and what things mean. Bruins fans are well aware that this team, as it’s currently constructed, has a finite number of years left in them to make a Cup run. And each year they fall short, that window moves closer and closer to being shut for good. THAT is why us fans take it so hard when they fall short. We’ve grown with these players every step of the way. Every failure. Every success. Every fight. The connection with Boston sports and their fans is unique and that’s what makes us fans want our teams to win, not only for our enjoyment, but because we genuinely want to see our players happy.
And the connection fans have with hockey players is just different. To say you relate to them would be silly, but I don’t know the right word to describe it. The players don’t look larger than life like football players do. They’re not wearing tank tops showing off their muscles towering over everyone like NBA players are. Baseball players can look “relatable” too, but again, that sport is just not on the level of intensity as hockey is.
NHL players throw on a few pads, a helmet, a big jersey and go hit people. There’s no showmanship. There’s no frills. It’s a fast paced sport that doesn’t let up which is why you’re on the edge of your seat half the time. It’s skate, hit, skate, shoot, hit again. Throw in a few fights and you got yourself a sport that should be 10x more popular than it is. I know I’m doing a rough job explaining this, but if you’re a hockey fan you can sift through the word vomit here and somewhat understand what I’m saying.
But I go back to the aging core. Simply put: Bruins fans not only want to see their TEAM win for selfish reasons, but they now really want to see the PLAYERS win. There’s a difference between rooting for a jersey and rooting for the guy wearing it. We know every next season might be the last and we’ve loved this team and enjoyed watching them so much that we truthfully aren’t ready for it to end. But if it HAS to end, we want the last scene to be our guys holding the Stanley Cup. If these old dogs have to ride off into the sunset, let it be after they’ve reached the pinnacle as opposed to stumbling when you’re one or two steps away.
The Patriots and Red Sox are rebuilding with new faces. The Celtics are still figuring it out. The time is now for the Bruins to take back Boston and I think they have. With enough recognizable veteran faces to go along with some exciting new ones, this team has Boston in its clutches until their championship window is officially closed. Which, hopefully, won’t be for another few years.
New Englanders obsess over their sports teams. I’m not using hyperbole when I say it’s a religion to us. And the Bruins have no shortage of history to draw from when it comes to what they mean to this city. Most players that get the chance to play here recognize that and ingrain themselves in that fandom for the duration of their stay in the greatest sports city on Earth. They understand the weight that jersey carries and do what they can to live up to it. If it sounds like I’m taking “sports” too seriously, you just don’t get it.
P.S. The tattoo in the cover photo is mine and yes it’s fucking awesome.