Category Archives: Hockey

One thousand games with Patrice Bergeron

I have a framed picture of Patrice Bergeron in my kitchen. I’ve had it up wherever I’ve lived since at least 2008, when it was given to me as a kind of joke present. It features Bergeron during his rookie season, in those horrid yellow pooh-stained jerseys the Boston Bruins insisted on wearing for more than a decade, and there’s a thought bubble over his head with an indelicate joke I’ll spare you for now — it’s funny within the context of my apartment but probably less so on the internet. Anyway.

That’s one of a few reminders of Bergeron I keep nearby. There’s a growing collection of hockey cards in the binder I maintain of all things Bruins, and pulled from that is his rookie card, currently sitting on my desk alongside cards of Bobby Orr and Roberto Clemente. And maybe most importantly, there’s a hockey card I keep in the console of my car’s dashboard that I’ll typically toss into my bag whenever I travel. It’s bleached out from the sun, and its plastic protective case is getting pretty scratched and dulled. But it carries on.

★ ★ ★

Tonight, when Boston steps onto the ice at the Garden and the lights blare and finally the linesman drops the puck at center ice to officially begin the 53rd game of the 2018-19 schedule, there’s a decent chance it’ll be Bergeron taking that drop. And if that’s the case, there’s an even better chance he’ll win that draw and the puck will fly back to Zdeno Chara or Charlie McAvoy to trigger a rush up the ice. Notably, it’ll be his 1,000th game, and how he got here is just as impressive as all the things he’s accomplished in that time. Continue reading

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Rick Middleton, a nifty defender

Earlier this season, Rick Middleton attained his rightful place among the greats. The Boston Bruins made his no. 16 the 11th number to be retired to the TD Garden rafters. And a quick look at the career numbers are enough to explain that — 448 career goals (402 with the Bruins), 20 or more goals a season 12 out of 14 years — along with his position among the leadership of an era of consistently excellent teams. He’s got a decent case for the Hockey Hall of Fame; his place in the rafters should be without question.

I never really got to see Middleton play at his peak. But even when I was a kid, I was enough of a student to have quickly gotten the picture that he was as smart and professional a skater as anyone. Knowing anything about the Bruins, that had to mean that he had what Jack Edwards often refers to as the 200-foot game. He was a captain and he was nifty and then he retired and Jozef Stumpel took his number.

So the reality that he’d been a one-way player — and one that coach Don Cherry wasn’t too keen on acquiring — was new to me. Continue reading

A brief history of the Captials’ ownership of Boston

The Bruins had a nice thing going recently. They’d won five in a row and they were just about back to full health (with just Charlie McAvoy out, and he’s reported to be on his way back soon). Solidifying one of the three automatic spots in an increasingly challenging Atlantic Division seems more likely now than it did a few weeks ago. Just about everything’s going well here.

Naturally, all this made the Capitals’ arrival in Boston perfectly timed.

For the 14th consecutive game, the Capitals had their way with the Boston. There are a number of reasons and explanations for all 14 of these losses, I suppose — timing, injuries, roster turnover, etc. — but it’s hard not to feel particularly victimized by goalie Braden Holtby and the indominable Alex Ovechkin. Continue reading

Torey Krug and cures for the winter blues

Welcome to the first days of the dead of winter. Work schedules have resumed, unabated by holiday cheer and all the festive goodies that come with it. Snow is starting to appear and the days are getting colder and colder as they ramp up towards the real stuff we’re likely due in February.

So when I come home, it’s nice to change into something comfortable, sit by my desk and have something pleasant to focus on, possibly in the background or possibly with rapt attention. A hockey game is great for this, of course. There’s the swishing of skates and pucks against the ice, the roars and groans of a crowd when appropriate, goal horns and whistles to signal your more significant moments, on and on.

But it’s more than just the sound. It helps to have a team to root for, and the Bruins have been that team for most of my life, with the added benefit of actually becoming a good team for most of my adult life. There’s Jack Edwards screaming about some improbable save or grave injustice, there’s Patrice Bergeron winning another faceoff, there’s Zdeno Chara clearing pucks and bodies away from Tuukka Rask. The constants are comforting, and the competitiveness just feeds into that compelling nature.

Another competitive constant has to be Torey Krug. He’s a frantic ball of energy on the blue line, and he’s prone to the occasional ridiculous play.

Continue reading

Searching for Bobby Orr and the other great Bruins

A few months ago I finally crossed “Searching for Bobby Orr” by Stephen Brunt off my reading list, and it was fantastic. It painted a vibrant picture of rural Ontario in the 1950s and early ’60s, and set the stage for how Bobby Orr was able to remake hockey forever. And it began at the earliest stages, when a coach with incredible foresight realized the benefit to taking his most talented young player and having him anchor his team, rather than merely placing him at center like any other coach would.

The result was the greatest player anyone had seen to that point, and only Wayne Gretzky has a true argument as a better one. For nine years, Orr was an offensive force from the blue line the likes of which the NHL had never seen, and he was as good at reading defenses and skating back to stop oncoming rushes as anyone.

Reading it made me wish I could’ve been born about 15 or 20 years earlier to watch Orr take over Boston and turn New England on its head. But it also pushed me to wondering about other eras of Bruins hockey, and then comes the inevitable sketching of imaginary rosters, all-time teams and the like. Continue reading