Category Archives: Hockey

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

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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

I stole this from a hockey card

I’ve gone through a revival with the Tragically Hip in the past couple of years. I’d seen them live about a decade ago and kept a few of their albums close, but obviously, the news about Gord Downie’s condition and ultimate fate spurred a re-inspection.

In what’s sure to not be a shocker, there was a lot more there than I’d initially found all those years ago. There was a depth to the lyrics that was much richer than I’d realized, the music was at once involved and catchy … the Tragically Hip was a goddamn great band. This shouldn’t be breaking news to anyone who cares about rock and roll.

Obviously, a song that’s captured my attention in the past year is “Fifty Mission Cap.” It’s one I knew, but I clearly listened to Day for Night a lot more than Fully Completely. So it found its hooks into me in a new way — I catch myself singing it to myself constantly now, and I also decided to finally dig into the story. And so we meet Bill Barilko, a 24-year-old defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs who scored the decisive goal in the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. In a still that almost previews Bobby Orr’s famous, Cup-clinching goal 19 years later, Barilko is seen lunging forward on a loose puck, firing it past Montreal’s Gerry McNeil. Continue reading