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Sunday, May 29, 2011
Jeremy Jacobs shows his passion

By Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- He owns the Boston Bruins, TD Garden and Delaware North Companies, and at a time like this -- with the Bruins reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1990 -- he could own the town.

It won't happen, of course.

Jeremy Jacobs can take a bow for the Bruins' exciting surge to the Cup finals that has whipped Boston's passionate fan base into a frenzy, but he's probably better off keeping his head up when skating through the neutral zone with the team's loyal following.

Jacobs I can't speak enough for the total organization. I'm just so proud of what they've achieved. … it's what this city deserves and [for] this fan base, it's long overdue.

-- Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs

This isn't John Henry and the Boston Red Sox, the feel-good story of creating new excitement and finally bringing a World Series to the city. It isn't Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots, rescuing a franchise from relocating to St. Louis and later overseeing a dynastic run with three Super Bowl titles. And no, it isn't Wyc Grousbeck and the Boston Celtics, breathing new life into a once-proud franchise and raising another championship banner.

Jacobs' place in Boston's sports ownership landscape is quite different. He's always had the dough (he once hit No. 746 of the Forbes list of American billionaires), but it seemed easy to question if he had the same commitment and passion as Black and Gold followers who were investing in his team each year. While Henry, Kraft and Grousbeck were visible at events, Jacobs often wasn't, which contributed to the perception of him being an outsider from Buffalo.

So here was Jacobs on Sunday morning, arriving at his Garden for a 10:45 news conference to acquiesce the growing press corps curious about his mindset at this exciting time in franchise history, the Bruins with a chance to bring the Stanley Cup to Boston for the first time since 1972.

What we learned is that Jacobs, easily the lowest profile and least accessible owner in town, indeed does have a little fan in him. Turns out he was riding the same emotional roller-coaster as those in the Garden's upper deck during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Exhausting. I haven't been that tired for a long time," the 71-year-old Jacobs said. "I haven't slept for three days afterward."

Such words won't suddenly vault Jacobs into Henry/Kraft/Grousbeck territory, but they had to be refreshing for some longtime followers of the team to hear. Jacobs bought the Bruins 36 years ago and, oftentimes, fans have seen him as more interested in the bottom line than the goings-on around the red and blue lines.

But that certainly wasn't the Jacobs we heard Sunday.

That Jeremy Jacobs talked about how Friday was one of the great all-time 1-0 playoff hockey games, how the Bruins opened the season in Prague 100 games ago and built a special bond, how fortunate he feels to be in this position, the rich history and tradition of the franchise, how president Cam Neely has brought what it means to be a Bruin to the management level, the steadiness that coach Claude Julien has delivered behind the bench, the "dream team" assembled by general manager Peter Chiarelli, how the team has evolved over the year and is not an "overnight wonder," being proud to live with the Spoked B and how the fans deserve this moment.

It all seemed pretty genuine.

Knock Jacobs if you wish, but earlier this season he went on a local sports radio show and said, "We need a trophy, a big one" -- and now his team is in position to bring it home, in part because he's put the right people in positions of leadership and checked off on some bigger-ticket items. Jacobs spoke with players Sunday morning, telling them how proud he is of what they've accomplished, and the shared vision of lifting the Stanley Cup.

"As a fan, as a principal, as a custodian of a great franchise, this is a wonderful, wonderful experience," he said in a low-key news conference in which he sat at the interview podium in front of a single microphone, a bottle of water to his right, his arms folded in front of him most of the time.

"I can't speak enough for the total organization. I'm just so proud of what they've achieved. As a fan, you look at it and say, 'Look at what happened Friday night in this building' and it's what this city deserves and [for] this fan base, it's long overdue. I just commend the guys on the ice."

As for the family in charge of it all, Jacobs shared his vision for the future. He looked back on 36 years of ownership and talked about 36 more.

"I'm extremely proud to own this franchise," he said, referring to it as a great civic asset. "We're in good shape, the family is fortunately in position where we can continue to own this franchise for generations going forward. We've brought great stability to this franchise. It's been in the Jacobs family for 36 years, and I would be proud if it could stay there for the next 36 years.

"I couldn't be happier than I am right now."

When it comes to happiness, the owner and Bruins fans find themselves in a unique spot -- on common ground.

Just imagine what it would be like after four more wins.

Mike Reiss is a columnist for ESPNBoston.com.