Category Archives: Hockey

Why Boston Loves Its Teams

      On Wednesday night, Boston sports fans were treated to their seventh title since 2001. Boston has truly become Title Town, U.S.A. As a sports fan, I feel that the way that we have gone about winning those championships has made them all the more impressive. There is a common core to our sports teams. They are all well coached. Our ownership has been willing to spend money and make moves to improve the team before, during, and after seasons. But perhaps the most amazing thing about all of these championship banners hanging from the rafters of the Garden, on banners along Yawkey Way, or hanging from the upper decks of Gilette stadium is the make up of the teams that won them.

     There are undoubtedly similar threads among the rosters of every single one of these teams. Boston, for some reason has become a place where old veterans come to play, hoping that the passion this city has for it’s sports teams and our team’s commitment to winning will reinvigorate them and give them their first or last shot at a title. The best example of this is obviously the Boston Celtics, when a few years ago, three aging superstars united, shed their individuality, bought into a team concept and brought relevance back to the parquee floor of the Garden. How can we forget Curt Schilling coming to the Red Sox and invigorating a talented team and convincing them that not only could they win a their first World Series in eighty six years, but there was no way that they wouldn’t. There is no doubt that the Patriots relied heavily on their group of old men Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, and Rodney Harrison to win a string of Super Bowls. Of course, we can’t forget Mark Recchi and thirty-eight year old journeyman Timmy Thomas leading us to our first cup since the 1970’s.

     Another common thread to all of these championships is our own collection of scrappy little guys that just tear sh*t up. The superstar among this group is Rajon Rondo. Higher slotted teams avoided him in the draft because of questions about his size. He is six-foot-nothing, one hundred and nothing, but plays basketball at times like a giant. His dive, stealing the ball from White Chocolate, and lay-in are the types of plays that these often less heralded guys make all of the time. Although Scal wasn’t exactly little, he was the epitome of scrappiness and he had a cult following amongst loyal Boston fans. Look at the Patriots, for example. Troy Brown wasn’t the fastest guy, but he turned in great seasons as a receiver. He was a return guy and was even playing defensive back during a championship run. Tedy Bruschi, an undersized college D-End comes in and becomes the lynchpin of a Patriots defense at Middle Linebacker.  After years of making plays, he has a stroke, then comes back from it to be as good as he ever was. Wes Welker came to the Patriots after not making the Chargers and being traded, in the division mind you, from the Dolphins. I’m sure we all know what he has done for us. Finally, we have Danny Woodhead, a guy cast off by the Jets that made amazing plays all year. As far as the Red Sox go, we have Dustin Pedroia. At 5’3” (although he is listed as taller) he hits lasers, plays gold glove caliber defense, and is an animal on the base paths. If you ask me, when Tim Wakefield retires, I think that his number 49 should be up with 1, 4, 6,8, 9, 14, 27, and 42. Some of his pitches couldn’t break a window but he goes out there every fifth day and eats up innings and has been doing it for years. The Boston Bruins have supplied us with our latest undersized, scrappy hero; Brad Marchand, the Nose Faced Killer. Who will ever forget him using Daniel Sedin’s face as a speedbag, his bone-jarring hits, or his eleven goals as a rookie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

     Perhaps the most amazing commonality between our sports teams is the way that every member of all of our teams buys into the team notion. They buy into the team philosophy, they buy into their coaches’ game plans, and even the superstars among them seem willing to shed their individuality and realize that they are not bigger than the team. Pedro Martinez will go down as one of the greatest pitchers of his era, as will teammate Curt Schilling. But they were great teammates. Aside from Manny Ramirez late in his Red Sox career, the Red Sox cast of characters were a shining example of comradarie and teamwork. Tom Brady will be in the argument for best quarterback of all time. However, never once in his career has he put himself above the team. He is a master at giving his teammates or his coaches credit for some of the amazing things that he has done. The original “Big Three” were all superstars and will all undoubtedly have plaques in Springfield some day. They were willing to put aside their individual numbers in order to come together and win a championship. Which they did, with other guys that came to the Celtics like James Posey and P.J. Brown for less money than they could have made elsewhere. Zdeno Chara is one of the best defenseman of his era, but he was given a C on his sweater because of the way he plays, the way that he leads, and his love of this game. Tim Thomas is a superstar, but seems to shun the glory and talk about how much fun he has, how much he loves this team, and how happy he is.

     Every single one of our teams and their players recognize how much we love sports in Boston/New England. They understand how connected to our teams we are, how we live and die by them. When they win they always say how happy they are for us. They, like us, relish “the moments” that were a part of all of our championships. We have Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, Dave Roberts’ steal, and of course Varitek’s shot to A-Rod’s pretty face. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have hit a number of shots that iced games. We will never forget Vinatieri’s field goals or Brady’s game winning drives. The Bruins gave us polarizing moments, in my opinion Thomas’ stick save against Tampa Bay is probably the biggest one. Yet there are other moments that we relish just as much as the game winning goal. I have a picture of Tedy Bruschi throwing snow in the air after a touchdown against the Dolphins on the wall of my “man cave.” I will always remember  Orlando Cabrera’s handshakes, Manny coming out of the monster after a few bong rips mid-game, the spit hanging from Big Baby’s mouth while Nate Robinson hung from his neck like a cheap gold chain, and most recently Nathan Horton not so stealthily pouring ice from the Garden onto the rink in Vancouver. I get goosebumps every time I see the replays, hell I have them right now just thinking about this stuff.

     As a sports fan, looking back on the last decade of Boston sports, I realize that we have witnessed something that no one before us has. For most of us, our grandfathers and great grandfathers never got to see the things that we have. Mine never got to see the Red Sox or Patriots win a Championship, but I’ve seen two and three titles respectively. We are living in an unprecedented time in Boston sports and in sport in general. Never before has any city seen such success over a sustained period of time and who knows how much longer it will last. I like to think that as long each organization continues to do what it’s doing; bring in guys that know and love the game, have the perfect mix of age and youth, and hold on to the coaches in place for as long as they will stay that success will stick around. I know that as a fan; I will watch, I will hang on every moment, and I will celebrate each and every win like it’s a championship because that’s how Boston fans are whether they are eighteen or eighty.

-Satch

 

 

 

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Filed under Baseball, Basketball, Bruins, Celtics, Hockey, Patriots, Red Sox

The Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight… and even I’m pumped!

 

     First of all, to my fellow keepers of the Boston Sports List, I apologize for not posting in so long.  Part of the reason is unlike all of you, to be completely honest, I’m not that big of a hockey fan.  I couldn’t join in on all the “hockey talk” or respond to any hockey blogs, because I really have no idea what you guys are talking about sometimes. That being said, I am pumped for the game tonight!

     Part of the reason that I don’t watch hockey anymore is that I don’t live and hang out with a bunch of dudes from the Boston suburbs that are rabid Bruins fans anymore.  Going to Merrimack College, hockey was kind of a big deal.  Not to mention, everyone that I hung around with had played, continued to play, and loved to watch hockey. The other part of it is that I kind of stopped watching hockey after the strike as well.

     The other reason that I don’t watch hockey all that much is because I really don’t get it.  I can honestly say that I don’t really “know”  the game all that much. I kind of know what icing is. I know what most of the penalties are. I played Fantasy Hockey once and that was a total disaster. I don’t know the names of many hockey players that aren’t on the Bruins and I really only cheer for the Bruins because they are from Boston (and because the Celtics aren’t playing anymore).

     However, this playoff run that the Bruins have gone on has been a revelation.  These have been great games, even someone that isn’t into hockey could tell you that.  This team has been doing amazing things. I don’t know what “style” Tim Thomas plays. I really don’t know what he did this  year to with the Vesna (sic), but just in watching these playoffs, I know he is good.  The stick save he made against Tampa was one of the most unbelievable plays in all of sport that I have ever seen; and being from New England we have had our share of those in the last ten years or so.

     Watching Patrice Bergeron has been a lot fo fun.  Again, even not knowing that much about the game, I can tell that he is good too.  He makes the unbelieveable look easy.  I always hear my buddies say that Milan Lucic is a beast. How? I would always wonder, but watching these playoffs I see it. I didn’t really know too much about the Seguin kid either, but when he was needed he has come big too. I hear a lot about Chara being soft on the radio, but I really haven’t seen that. He has been physical and he has shutdown some of the other teams best players completely.

    Then there is Nathan Horton. This year at our annual Fantasy Baseball draft, I tried talking some hockey with the guys.  I commented on how the Bruins had been playing well and what a beast that guy “Thornton” that we got from Florida had been. Yup, I said it. I feel bad now, because HORTON has scored two of the biggest goals in the playoffs.

   I have also gained an appreciation not just for the players, but for the game itself.  The line changes, the match ups, how important Bergeron is taking face offs. I have also learned how tough these guys are. Chris Kelly came back and scored a game tieing goal two days after breaking his face on the goal post. I appreciate the sack it takes to lay out in front of shot even when you are not the goalie. Shit, I even saw one guy take one in the face and come back ten minutes later!

     If anything, the Bruins run has made me more of a hockey fan. I appreciate this Bruins team and I realize how well they are put together. I think that I can say that Claude is a good coach. I think I can say that this team can handle adversity and pressure. I think that the Bruins have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, even though I hear that they are over matched talent wise. I’m excited to see all of these guys from Vancouver that I hear are supposed to be really good. But more importantly, I am glad I’m getting into hockey because it really is a lot of fun to watch (even on Versus)!  Let’s go B’s!

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Amazing Goal by Finland

Have you seen this goal yet?  Incredible!  19 year old Mikael Granlund scores from behind the net during the 2011 World Championship semifinals vs Russia.  This goal was first seen in the 1996 NCAA tournament when Mike Legg of Michigan pulled it off.  However, considering this was done against professional hockey players and on such a grand stage as the world semifinals I find this even more impressive.  What a goal!

-Size

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U.S.A. Hockey Eliminated

The United States were eliminated from the 2011 World Championships today losing 4-0 to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.  Jaromir Jagr led the Czechs with a hat trick and Tomas Plekanec also scored.  Goalie Ondrej Pavelec of the Atlanta Thrashers saved 29 shots for the shutout.

This U.S.A. squad bore little resemblance to the silver medal winning Olympic team as only two players from that team, Jack Johnson and Mike Komisarek, appeared.  Instead this tournament was used as an opportunity for the younger American players to gain international experience.  The U.S. team averaged only 24.4 years of age.  Chris Kreider(Boston College), Blake Wheeler(Atlanta Thrashers), Nick Palmieri(NJ Devils), Derek Stepan(NY Rangers) and Kevin Shattenkirk( St. Louis Blues) were some of the players who excelled in this tournament.  Despite the disappointing result, the future certainly looks bright for U.S.A. Hockey.  We can expect to see some of these players mixed in with the more established American stars in future international competitions. 

-Size

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Jumbo Joe comes through in the clutch

Throughout his 13 year career, the biggest criticism of Jumbo Joe Thornton has been his inability to really raise the level of his play come playoff time. Admittedly, when Thornton wore the spoked B, he was probably my favorite player on the team. However, even as a fan, I was not blind to his faults and the fact was, despite his usual strong play during the regular season, he definitely had a tendency to disappear a bit when the post season rolled around. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that even to this day I’m a little bit bitter about the way he was run out-of-town by the media and many fans, and the way the trade went down just 23 games into the 2005-2006 season, after the lockout. The guy was only leading the Bruins in scoring with 9 goals, 24 assists and 33 points. Whatever, though, what’s done is done and obviously everyone has moved on from the trade for the most part. Joe has obviously found a comfortable home in San Jose, and the Bruins have rebounded and come back to legitimacy over the course of the last 5 years or so.

Despite the fact that he’s found a new home out in Cali, Joey T has still continued to face his fair share of scrutiny about his lack of production and inability to be clutch once the playoffs roll around. I mean, the fact is that since Thornton got to San Jose, the Sharks have come into nearly every regular season with pretty lofty expectations from their management, the hockey media and, most importantly, their fan base. They are generally always atop the Pacific Division and challenging for the top spot in the Western Conference, boasting a roster full of talent and carrying cup contending expectations. However, for the past five years, the Sharks have only gotten past the second round once, in 2009-2010, before getting swept in the conference finals by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Needless to say, they have certainly been playoff disappointments more often than not.

Now I’m not saying that all of the blame for the Sharks’ playoff failures have been placed squarely on Joe Thornton. He certainly was not the only player who hasn’t lived up to expectations when push comes to shove. However, as one of the highest paid players on the team, and a guy who comes into every season slotted as the number one center, I don’t think it’s unfair to place higher expectations on Jumbo Joe. And looking at his numbers, his playoff stats are certainly modest. In 97 career NHL playoff games, Thornton has only accumulated 17 goals and 53 assists for 70 points. For a guy who is a career point-per-game player in the regular season, those playoff totals are simply not good enough, and can certainly be attributed at least a little bit to the failures of his teams.

Last night, however, in  a series clinching game on the road against the Los Angeles Kings, Thornton played one of his better playoff games to date. He was strong all night long in every facet of the game. He was sound defensively, a monster at the face off dot, and ended up with a goal and an assist on the night. His goal, however, was where the word “clutch” comes into play, as it was the overtime game winner that effectively ended the Kings’ season and sent the Sharks on to the second round of the playoffs. Personally, this Lister was really happy to see Jumbo Joe get the series-clinching goal, because for all of the deficiencies in his game, I’m still a fan and continue to root for big number 19.

Now, he still finished the first round this year at less than a point-per-game pace, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 games. So he was still not stellar in the first round. However, his performance last night at least showed that he has some ability to step it up in the clutch. Of course we’d all like to see much more of the Joe Thornton we saw last night throughout the playoffs, but this could at least be a good first step. And if the Sharks are able to put together a legitimate cup run this year, or perhaps bring home the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, Thornton’s goal last night could prove to be a defining moment for both the San Jose Sharks and Jumbo Joe himself.

– Fredi

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