Americans want to see winners. They don’t really mind if you’re a sleazebag (Woods), rapist (Kobe), or a cheater (Armstrong). If you win consistently, the American public will love you. Time heals all wounds? Win an MVP and that will cure leprosy and a PR nightmare.
Fan bases work the same way. Full disclosure: I live in Maine and I’m 50% Canadian. French-Canadian even. We are genetically engineered to enjoy the cold, and play sports in it. I hate curling, so that leaves hockey, really the only sport where Canadians dominate. Baseball? Jason Bay crapped out as soon as he signed his name on the Mets’ dotted line. Basketball? Steve Nash and Cory Joseph are not enough. Soccer? There is ONE Canadian (Simeon Jackson, Norwich City) currently in the EPL, and he hasn’t even played a game for them yet.
Now I’m Canadian, but I hate The Canadians. Most New England hockey fans cheer for the Bruins, after the Whalers were harpooned, bound, and shipped to Carolina. I’ll admit that my fanhood waned in my high school and early college years, but only because the Bruins franchise was run by knuckleheads that make Omar Minaya look like Red Auerbach (Triple Sport GM cross-reference!) Hamstrung by poor decisions (trading Joe Thornton being near the top) and soft players (Brian Leetch haunts my dreams), the Bruins have been frustrating for as long as I can remember, while every other Boston-area has had their championship parade pass outside the Garden.
Two years ago, a heavily favored Bruins team got bounced at home in the second round by the ghosts of the Whalers. Last year, after upsetting Buffalo in the first round and taking a 3-0 series lead against the Flyers, it looked like the B’s were primed for a run. Yea, no. They lost. Season over.
Down 2-0 to Montreal in the first round this season, it looked like it was another disappointing end to a promising season. But this team has shown grit and resolve all season, and the playoffs have been no exception. After winning Game 7 in overtime, the Bruins swept their demons out the door by knocking off the Flyers in 4, and then a Nathan Horton goal against the Lightning sent Boston to the Finals.
Cue the 2-0 hole again. Then eliminate Horton, thanks to an illegal hit from Aaron Rome (is burning). I remarked that the hit on Horton would be the pivotal moment in the series, and it looks like I was right. Since the hit, the Bruins have outscored the Canucks 12-1. 12-1! Are you shitting me? Without their No. 2 leading scorer in the playoffs. Without their No. 1 center, out most of the season. Imagine if the Yankees lost A-Rod and Teixiera in the playoffs. I doubt they’d be playing for the goofiest trophy of all time. (Seriously, that trophy is butt-ugly. I have ‘Most Improved Athlete’ trophies that look more distinguished)
So now the Bruins board a flight back to the west end of the Great White North, momentum in hand. I’ve been blessed enough to have my favorite baseball and basketball team win championships in the last 4 years, and my college went to the Final Four. I’m spoiled.
But Bruins fans have been suffering for a long time. Almost 40 years of suffering. They had to watch their beloved Ray Bourque win a title with another team. They threw the guy a parade they were so desperate to celebrate. Needless to say, it’s been tough.
I really want to think of something witty to end this post with, but I’m tired and I really just want the Bruins to win. So let’s throw a band-aid on 40 years of suffering. It’s been a hell of a run, and at the very least, if you don’t like hockey, cheer for America.
P.S. Only one Bruin that has played in this Finals is American: TIMMY THOMAS FTW