Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reasons For Bruins Bitterness

As the playoffs near and some of you are wandering through the city on the Charles or maybe in a week or so back in Montreal, you'll run into people from Boston, maybe players, maybe just fans, and come out from the encounter wondering how anyone in the world got so bitter.

It's a good idea to understand a few things about the Bruins before this happens:

1. 25 years in a league with just 6 teams – 0 Cups

We may not think of the Bruins as the weakest of the Original 6 teams now, but their record during the span when only 6 teams played certainly challenges that. During that time, they did make it to the Finals (won a playoff round) four times, only to lose each time to guess who?

Any rational fan can do the math and work out that the Bruins did not make any hay while the sun was shining. None at all. You might be bitter too if you realised you'd thrown in your lot with a team that will always be behind the teams you hate in total Stanley Cups. (It doesn't help that the situation in your second favourite sport is identical)

2. Scoring records, revolutionary talent – 2 Cups

Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito come in at around the same time (along with expansion) to save the Bruins from a a 1960s without playoffs. The team wins a Stanley Cup in 1970 and prepares to settle in for a decade’s worth. 1971 they are upset. 1972 they recover. 1973 upset again, this time for good. New dynasties cast a shadow over the Bruins.

Making hay when the sun was shining really was not this franchise's strength. Despite themselves, they won two, but anyone can see how a fan watching these players would have expected more.

3. The need to fight for fans

Boston has 4 major sports franchises. All are relatively successful and so in competition for hearts and minds. Football is just football, so even though the Patriots weren’t always good, the Bruins needed to remember they weren’t football. Boston’s measuring stick against New York is in baseball. The Celtics are basketball royalty. The Bruins needing to find fans somewhere look to appeal to the fans who like the crasser side of the sport.

Hence the Big Bad Bruins. A team made for a niche of fan support. The bitterness comes with the niche in some cases, and then when the popularity spills over, I'd think the bitterness about always playing 4 skill-less goons must wear.

4. Regular season tease

A lot of division titles over the past 35 years have translated into a few heroes and a couple of final appearances, but also a lot of playoff goats and disappointments. The fans of Boston would probably trade a lot of those Art Ross, Norris, Vezina, Jennings, Calder and Adams trophies for credit towards a trophy they could talk up a bit more.

Being Cinderella is fun. Not so much being Cinderella's older and supposedly more eligible sister. The Bruins have spent many seasons beating the eventual Eastern Cup challengers all season long, that it's no wonder there's a bitter fan here and there.

5. Men who are wrong about nearly everything support their team

Don Cherry and Mike Milbury, the men behind the random idea generator on HNIC and the comedic punctuation for Saturday night hockey in Canada support the Bruins. Men who find bad ideas and bad contracts like moths to a flame. Wouldn't you be perturbed too, if you agreed with them?

6. Wearing Yellow

They know they can call it gold. They all know we can see it's yellow.

To the average Bruins fan it must seem like a cloud hangs over them at all times. Only this can explain the penalty calls, the career-ending injuries, the rotten luck that has kept them from winning a Cup. When they look up at the cloud, the sickening darkness is only punctuated by flashes of bleu, blanc, rouge. This we must understand.

So the next time you are called a "Wicked Retard" or a "Douchebag" by the fan in Black and GoldYellow spare a thought for the embattled mind behind the angry eyes.

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