Ray Bourque going to work, every day

This is a man at work. The beard indicates that, in this moment, the guy hopping over the boards is probably in pursuit of the Stanley Cup and in the midst of a particularly stressful day at the office. There’s a couple of week’s worth of growth or so, which indicates that we’re maybe in the mid-stages of the playoffs, perhaps the Adams Division tilt with the Montreal Canadiens.

The guy jumping onto the ice with such cold jubilation is Ray Bourque, of course. He broke into the NHL with the Bruins in the fall of 1979 and spent the next 22 seasons hopping the boards as often as possible. He never played fewer than 60 games in a full season and logged 1,826 games between regular seasons and the playoffs.

This image has lived in my collection for years, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a unique action shot of no. 77 doing a job he seemed to quietly relish, and a job that he did more often and for longer than most. It was another day, and there was work to do. Continue reading

Five games to get you through the doldrums

Hockey card of Gary GalleyI’ve referenced at several points through this odyssey that I’ve been spending my free time watching an inordinate number of classic hockey games via YouTube. Whatever I can find or whatever seems interesting in that moment, that’s what I’ll go to.

This is where I let it be known that I have spent a lot of time in the 1970s and ’80s, when the boards were off-white and the red line was in play, when helmets were sparse and most masks were of the fiberglass, halloween variety. And even if the pace is a bit slower because of the rules and the conditioning regiments of the time, the game is still largely the same — both teams are trying to get odd-man rushes, both trying to hit a goalie’s weak points, both trying to outdo the other in terms of skill or strength, whatever’s on hand.

To take us into the weekend after more than a month of quarantine, I thought I’d pass along some games that caught my attention. These aren’t necessarily the five greatest games ever, but they were definitely entertaining. And what more can one ask for at a time like this? Continue reading

Reliving Nifty’s glory days

Hockey card of Rick MiddletonIn this era of distance and isolation, I’ve probably been on more text threads than I have at any other point in my life.

One of them is, not surprisingly, rather sports centric. And through the many twists and turns that begins as a basketball highlight and mutates into complaining about the Red Sox, poking fun at the NFL and then debating various eras of various contests, the thread turned to educating one friend about Rick Middleton, in which I happily participated.

He was sold right from the get-go of Middleton’s highlight reel, which begins with him chilling on the bench, hair swept back, mustache in full glory, casually sporting a black eye and waiting for his next shift. That video does have a few ridiculous moments packed into just over a minute of footage, but there was obviously more to his game. Continue reading

Normand Léveillé and the Greatest Hurrah

Hockey card of Normand LéveilléWatching all this vintage hockey while I’m at home has provided an opportunity to catch games I never would have seen. But taking in old games isn’t a new pastime. It used to be a pretty frequent activity for me.

Moving from middle into high school, I had a decent little library of hockey games on VHS. It started with taping the All-Star Games, but eventually moved into the regular season — home openers, maybe a Saturday afternoon game that had a marquee matchup, whenever the occasion called for it. These helped to fill the time in the summers, maybe putting in a game with yet another Cam Neely hat trick while I ignored my summer reading, who’s to say.

To tape the final game at the Boston Garden — The Last Hurrah — on Sept. 26, 1995, was clearly a no-brainer. This one would earn it’s own tape, not tacked onto the back half of an eight-hour cartridge, so that I could relive whatever the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens had in store for the evening. It was an exhibition game, divided into two 25-minute halves instead of three periods to maximize the festive portion of the night.

It was an education in itself. I knew Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Bobby Orr of course, but I gained a little appreciation for Derek Sanderson and John Pierson, by then TV personalities but fondly remembered by the faithful for their time on the ice. And there were names I’d never heard at all, guys like Gary Doak, Fern Flaman, Leo Boivin and Bill Quackenbush. I was pretty familiar with tracking down books and almanacs at the library to soak up as much of the history as I could, and these were new names to bring to those searches.

But none of this — the goals, games on tape, studying of hockey cards, historical retellings — prepared me for Normand Léveillé. Continue reading

In which we discuss the sustained brilliance of Mark Howe

Hockey card of Mark HoweI have never run into Mark Howe at a hockey game. But if I ever do, I’m going to be extremely excited. And that wouldn’t have always been the case.

I was at a Providence Bruins game with my dad and cousins when I was 13 years old, where I heard an older fan [1] excitedly mention that he’d just run into Mark Howe on the concourse. I remember thinking, “that is so cool! He’s Gordie Howe’s son.”

Not that that was so cool because Mark Howe played 22 seasons of big league hockey. And that’s a ridiculous oversight, one that could be excused of a kid who was still learning about the game, but honestly one that wasn’t corrected until years later. Continue reading