FANS WILL PAINT THIS TOWN BLACK AND GOLD IF BRUINS WINBy Joe McDonald
Boston is a hockey town.
Always has been. Always will be. Sure, the Red Sox have historically been No. 1 in the hearts of Bostonians, but right now the Bruins are arguably a close second.
Would a Bruins Stanley Cup match the elation of the Red Sox ending their 86-year drought in 2004? No. Nothing can touch that. But it would mean more in this region than when the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl in 2002 or when the Boston Celtics hung banner No. 17 in 2008.
Like the Red Sox, the Bruins have a long-standing history in Boston with the fans. There is no such thing as a "pink hat" in hockey. You're either a fan, or you're not.
Bruins fans know all about the golden years with the team. They know all about the last two Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1970 and 1972. Fans suffered through the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup losses at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.
Fans have wanted this more.
The best part of the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series was the way in which they did it, beating the rival Yankees in historic fashion after going down 3-0 in the ALCS before sweeping the Cardinals in the Fall Classic.
This Bruins team has taken a similar path, beating the rival Canadiens in overtime of Game 7 in the first round after rallying from a 2-0 series deficit before sweeping the Flyers (slaying last season's demons in the process) and then winning another Game 7 against the Lightning to reach the finals.
Now only one team stands between the Bruins and their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years: the Vancouver Canucks. If the Bruins can pull this off, they will once again own the landscape in Boston.
The players who have helped create a legacy here are unmatched. Players like Bobby Orr, Milt Schmidt, Johnny Bucyk, Ray Bourque, Terry O'Reilly and Cam Neely.
It's old-time hockey that has never gone away.
Need proof? The opener of the Stanley Cup finals drew the best preliminary rating for a Game 1 in 12 years. The rating was boosted by heavy interest in Boston, which posted a 25.5/39, topping the 19.1/34 for Game 1 of last year's Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals.
Sure, the Patriots have a strong following, but the bandwagon filled up only recently, during the 1996 season, with the team's trip to the Super Bowl under coach Bill Parcells. The fact that the Patriots have won three Super Bowl titles is satisfying, but it won't match the jubilation that would come with the Bruins hoisting the Stanley Cup.
If the Bruins come back to win this thing, the duck boats will be on the streets of Boston once again and the town will be draped in black and gold. Can't wait.
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BRUINS CUP WOULDN'T TOUCH PATRIOTS' STORYBOOK '01 SEASONBy Mike Reiss
When the New England Patriots shocked the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, there were three meaningful layers to what had unfolded:
The Patriots were 14-point underdogs. The question wasn't if the Patriots would lose the game, it was more a question of "by how much?" The Rams had a lethal offense, aka The Greatest Show on Turf, but the Patriots pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. It was a reminder that anything is possible.
The Patriots were introduced as a team. In what was one of the more memorable, powerful displays of what can happen when players come together for one purpose -- and sacrifice personal glory for team success -- the Patriots were introduced as one before the game. That was part of what made the moment special.
First championship in franchise history. The Patriots had appeared in two other Super Bowls, losing both times, so the victory was in the "nothing like the first time" category. The Patriots' inaugural season was 1960; that's a long wait for a first title.
From this view, those elements put the 2001 Patriots in a class above the Bruins' possibly winning the Stanley Cup this year when it comes to comparing the impact in the region.
No doubt, the Bruins are a great story and their inspiring run to the Cup is a terrific reward to a passionate, loyal fan base that has endured more tough times than memorable ones since the team's last Cup in 1972. Goalie Tim Thomas seems to be as likeable as any Patriots star.
But it was the way the Patriots came out of nowhere in that 2001 season, and the way they ultimately won it, that made it a can-you-really-believe-this-is-happening experience. They were 5-5 through the first 10 games of the regular season before taking us on that magical ride. No one saw it coming.
Little did we know it would be the start of a dynastic run, the springboard to the Patriots being viewed as one of the NFL's premier franchises over the next decade, a time in which the Bruins missed a season as a result of the NHL's lockout. The Patriots' Super Bowl run also sparked increased popularity in football, which a decade or so earlier was the fourth major professional sport in the region.
Football can't compare with hockey when it comes to history and roots in New England. So if that is the criteria, score the victory for the Bruins.
But this isn't about history -- it's about which singular victory would be considered bigger in the region. A Bruins Stanley Cup triumph this year would be great, but not enough to top the remarkable, out-of-nowhere accomplishment of the Patriots -- the consummate team -- in that 2001 season.
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