In early 1995, I took my relatively new black Boston Bruins sweater to a sports store in New Bedford to get some gold numbers placed on it. In anticipation of this, I remember weighing whether to get Cam Neely’s no. 8 or Ray Bourque’s 77 on the back, or perhaps Adam Oates’ 12. I think even Don Sweeney’s 32 came into consideration.
That I walked in and — without hesitation — requested Blaine Lacher’s name and no. 31 be heat-sealed to this thing should attest to how ridiculously hot Lacher was at the start of his career.
Fresh off a national championship at Lake Superior State, Lacher entered a vacuum in the Bruins’ goalie depth, with just veteran Vincent Riendeau, who had served as Jon Casey’s backup, as a viable option. Casey had been allowed to walk as a free agent, while John Blue had been decamped to Providence in the AHL.
The NHL returned to play from the lockout in late January, and by the end of the month, Lacher was 3-1 with an absurd .958 save percentage and 0.98 goals against average. Lacher wound up appearing in 35 of the Bruins’ 48 games that season, plus all five starts in the playoffs. He finished fifth in the Calder Trophy voting (losing out to some guy who no one ever heard from again), and the Bruins had their goaltender for at least the next decade. Continue reading
Thinking about the idea of the NHL’s dueling “bubbles,” the image I couldn’t get out of my head was that, best case scenario, this ends with a team getting the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and celebrating to the echo of a nearly empty arena. No boos for the commissioner, not even the resigned gaze of those unfortunate fans who have to watch the visiting team hold the trophy aloft.
And because I’m not a player, my real issue with this was from the self-centered perspective of a fan — how is it going to feel watching a team win the championship in a vacant rink?
I don’t have an answer for that, and I won’t until this tournament winds down to a close some time in late September. But I do know, after watching the Bruins set the Carolina Hurricanes aside in five games, that I’m just about as invested as I ever am. I can’t go to a bar with friends to watch a game and I can’t even partake in the futile exercise of seeing how expensive playoff tickets are getting. Even the start times of these games — 11 a.m., 4 p.m., etc. — is messing with my equilibrium, nevermind the incongruous act of watching hockey in the middle of oppressive August heatwaves.
But I’m here, and I’m in, pretty much as deeply as I’m ever in. And while the Bruins are alive in the bubble, I’m in on Jaroslav Halak. Continue reading