Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bruins Title Reminds Region Of Its Hockey Roots

Crowds lined Boston's downtown streets Saturday for the Bruins "rolling rally" celebration. (AP)
Crowds lined Boston's downtown streets Saturday for the Bruins "rolling rally" celebration. (AP)
BOSTON — After watching the other three major professional sports teams bring home titles in recent years, Bruins fans were thrilled to have Saturday’s parade to celebrate their team — and a sport loved by New Englanders for generations.
While the victory parade was a celebration of the current champs, it was also a nostalgic moment for many of the fans wearing Bruins jerseys, T-shirts, face paint and anything else they could get in black and gold. Duxbury resident Jerry Smith remembers watching games on TV in the 1970s and squeezing in some practice during the broadcasts.
“I couldn’t actually sit and watch the game because I would have to get up in between periods and go play street hockey in the garage,” Smith said. “I have a couch that I still remember diving over because I was Bobby Orr flying through the air and I needed to land on something soft. Yeah, me and every other kid in Boston. This is a hockey town.”
The gold dome of the State House was gleaming and a massive banner congratulating the Bruins hung in front. Smith and his son, Owen, were standing on the grassy hill below looking toward Tremont Street where the duck boats carrying players were about to pass.
“The last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, I was 11 years old. He’s 11 years old,” Smith said. “So this was sort of symbolic in a lot of ways, and I felt like everything was lining up. And this might sound a little hokey, but I knew from Day 1 that they were going to win.”
Despite his love for hockey, Owen admits that baseball is his top sport, but among his favorite athletes a scrappy goaltender is gaining on a certain scrappy second baseman.
“I would choose Dustin Pedroia right now because he’s one of the best on the Red Sox, but Tim Thomas is still really cool.”
Orr and the Big Bad Bruins helped hockey’s popularity in New England soar in the ’70s. Pete Traversy, who coaches youth hockey in Cambridge, expects this Stanley Cup championship to give the sport another boost.
“When I was a kid, they built rinks based on the Bruins’ success,” Traversy said. “I don’t know that they’re going to build rinks, but I think you’ll see an uptick in enrollment, which has been slacking in this area.”
Something that’s definitely more popular today than it was when the Bruins last won the Cup is girls and women’s hockey. Alex Martini lives in Cohasset, plays girls youth hockey and wears No. 17 in honor of B’s winger Milan Lucic. The 13-year-old says the Bruins performance in the playoffs definitely increased the interest in hockey at her school.
“A bunch of [my friends] who don’t play sports watched [Game 7 against Vancouver],” Martini said. “I was like, ‘How you can you not be into this at all?’ ”
Bringing home the Cup has guaranteed Thomas, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara their places on the list of household names among Boston’s sports heroes. And if you’re worried about the legends of Stanley Cup-winning teams of 1970 and ’72 fading from memory, don’t. Seven-year-old Cohasset resident Danny Talacci is among the young fans who have a solid sense of Bruins history. When asked to name his favorite Bruin, he doesn’t even more.

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