A haunting reminder
“Time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days.’’
— Bruce Springsteen
They skate arm-in-arm with the ghosts.
Milan Lucic’s No. 17? That’s Freddie Stanfield. Andrew Ference is No. 21, which makes him Don Marcotte. Nathan Horton is certainly worthy of Eddie Westfall’s No. 18 jersey, but we’re not so sure about Tomas Kaberle getting to wear the sweater (No. 12) once worn by the great Wayne Cashman. Tyler Seguin is a fan favorite, which makes him a perfect fit in Pie McKenzie’s No. 19 jersey. Tim Thomas wears Gerry Cheevers’s 30. Nice symmetry there.
No matter how far they go, no matter how many games they win, the Bruins of 2011 will be compared with the men who wore the Spoked-B in the early ’70s. It is nobody’s fault. It’s just the reality. The Bruins who will play in the Stanley Cup finals tonight in British Columbia cannot escape the shadow of the great players who came before them.
The video clips of today’s Bruins are juxtaposed against footage of Bobby Orr’s classic rushes. The New Garden’s goal song somehow will never be as cool as “Nut Rocker’’ played by Channel 38 back in the day. Dave Goucher is compared with Bob Wilson. Claude Julien has to answer to Harry Sinden and Tom Johnson. Our Globe puck guru Kevin Paul
Most of the Bruins ghosts are alive and local. Sinden and John Bucyk still work for the Bruins. Derek Sanderson was honorary team captain for the epic Game 7 last Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Phil Esposito was in the broadcast booth for the Lightning. Orr represents players from just about every NHL team (including the Bruins and Canucks) and plans to be at Game 3 at the Garden Monday. Walk around the halo on the ninth floor of the Garden and you’re bound to bump into Ken Hodge or McKenzie. There are guys on today’s Bull Gang who took up the parquet and made ice for No. 4.
And always we tell the youngsters that today’s game will never be as good as it was in the ’70s when nobody wore helmets and everybody watched every regular-season game. Back when a power play actually meant the Bruins were going to score.
Maybe it’s a Baby Boomer thing. Those of us born after World War II always think it’s about us. Our music was better. Our cars were faster. A sport was a sport. It was OK to hitchhike and eat cheeseburgers and nobody wondered whether Richard Nixon was born in the USA. Tom Menino is great, but he’s no Kevin White.
The early 1970s forever will be the golden age of the Boston Bruins. The Bobby Orr Bruins get credit for building dozens of local rinks and spawning two generations of players. They even get credit for the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid in 1980. Without Orr, Espo, and Hodge, there’s no Jim Craig, Jackie O’Callahan, Dave Silk, and Mike Eruzione.
Happily, today’s Bruins are comfortable in their own skates and quite tolerant of their forebears. Your 2011 Boston Bruins, talented millionaires who never saw Orr play, are respectful and reverent when asked about No. 4. They believe what their dads told them; Orr was the best ever.
It could be worse. At least the Bruins are following in the footsteps of success. The 2004 Red Sox, and every Sox team before them, were measured against the flops of their forebears. The Sox team that got close to the postseason always had to hear about Pesky holding the ball, blown leads, and grounders between the wickets. Our hardball history was all negative and young athletes recoiled at the notion that they were somehow responsible for the sins of the fathers.
Basketball was different, too. The 2007-08 Celtics got to win on their own terms. They weren’t compared with the Russell Celtics or the Bird Celtics.
Boston’s older basketball fans have multiple championship memories. The Celtics won banners in four consecutive decades. There are almost too many to remember. In this spirit, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce were allowed to carve out their own championship identity.
It’s not the same for these baby B’s. They perform in a workplace populated by thousands of middle-aged crazies and senior citizens who cannot give up the ghosts of the 1970s. The Bruins with the playoff beards can’t outskate the graybeards in the stands.
Can’t wait for the champagne celebration. Anybody got a case of Perrier-Jouet, vintage 1970?
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.