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Rinkside chatter

Garden fans on the money

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / June 5, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — When the Bruins take the ice on Causeway Street tomorrow night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, it will be the first time the Hub has provided the stage for an NHL game in June.

The last Cup Final game played in Boston was May 24, 1990, the night the Oilers clinched their fifth — and most recent — championship. The Bruins and Oilers also played at the old Garden May 24, 1988, but that was the evening a power transformer blew up with the game tied, 3-3, casting the building into darkness and ultimately wiping Game 4 off the books. Boston’s second “home’’ game was played two nights later in Edmonton, where the Oilers completed their sweep.

The crowd that will fill the new Garden’s seats and suites tomorrow and Wednesday night for the building’s first Cup Final is considerably different than the group that sat in the rickety chairs and plastic loge seats 21 and 23 years earlier. Rising ticket costs alone have priced out some of the group, especially the big-haired girls from Chelsea and Revere who typically came decked out in their “NEELY’’ and “BOURQUE’’ and “MOOG’’ sweaters.

“We still have a lot of families from the ’80s filling our seats,’’ said Garden senior vice president of sales and marketing Amy Latimer, who arrived here yesterday with a contingent of Bruins fans/Garden clients. “The faces have changed, and maybe their style of clothes, too, but Bruins fans have been exceptionally loyal. And you know what? They’re still wearing their Bruins jerseys — not pink hats, pink jerseys, but real Bruins jerseys. They know the game.’’

There is a lingering sentiment in Boston, especially among many in the non-hockey media, that Bruins fans by and large are from the lower-middle and middle classes and don’t spend as much cash as their Celtics counterparts who fill the same seats. Latimer noted that the Bruins crowd actually spends 25 percent more than their Green Team counterparts on the Garden’s food and beverage services.

According to league data, the average household income (HHI) for NHL fans is $104,000, highest of the four major sports with Major League Baseball ($96,200), the NBA ($96,000), and the NFL ($94,500). Sixty-eight percent of NHL fans have attended college, more than the other three sports (ranging 60.4 percent to 63.6 percent). And 64 percent of NHL fans hold full-time jobs, also more than the others (57-58.1 percent).

All in all, hockey fans are a well-educated, well-heeled, Internet-savvy bunch, no matter what the perception. Not surprisingly, they also like their beer. According to Latimer, Bruins fans buy upward of 30 percent more brew at the Garden than Celtics fans. They also, perhaps more than any fan group in the world, love to see their mugs on the Garden’s huge video board.

Savvy sorely missed The Bruins sorely need Marc Savard’s touch on the power play. For now, however, their No. 1 center remains home in Ontario, still recovering from the effects of a couple of concussions, and can’t be the quarterback/cure-all to the Black-and-Gold man-advantage.

“We know what he is going through is not an easy thing,’’ coach Claude Julien said late yesterday morning. “We also realize from our end how good a player he was when he was at his best — and the power play was always good when he was on it. When you lose a player like that, you certainly miss him.’’

With “Savvy’’ hors de combat, the Bruins have been all but missing in action on the man-advantage. They were blanked in Game 1 Wednesday, including a five-on-three stretch of 90-plus seconds, and entered Game 2 a paltry 5 for 67 (7.5 percent) through 19 postseason games.

It would not be a surprise, said Julien, to see Savard make a return trip to the Hub, perhaps in time to see Game 3 or 4.

“We’ve done our best here to fill the gaps,’’ said Julien, again referring to Savard’s absence on the power play. “It’s gotten us here. Now it’s up to us to finish the job.’’

Flag day, Vancouver style On both game days here, the Bruins opted not to attend the morning on-ice availability at Rogers Arena.

Per league requirement, players were made available to the media, but each time at the club’s downtown hotel at the edge of Stanley Park — the 1,001-acre bucolic greenway named after, yes, Lord Stanley of Preston, the one-time British Governor General of Canada who purchased the original gold-lined silver bowl that eventually became the NHL’s Stanley Cup.

No sign of hockey being played yesterday in Stanley Park, but the city was awash in thousands of flags carrying the Canucks logo. True blue Canucks fans typically mount the small flags on poles that clip to the rear side windows of their cars and SUVs. We see similar flags on cars in and around Boston, but not nearly to the same magnitude.

Their own language Alex Burrows, who put the bite on Patrice Bergeron’s right index finger in Game 1, was back riding the wing last night with first-line partners Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Burrows, who began his pro career in the East Coast Hockey League (Greenville, Baton Rouge, and Columbia) isn’t nearly as slick as the Swedish twins, but he has made himself an invaluable contributor to the line’s success.

The Sedins, meanwhile, remain perhaps the most uncanny combo in the game, reading off one another with near-eerie precision and effectiveness. In a column by the Vancouver Sun’s Cam Cole, Burrows said the twins “communicate like dolphins.’’ Dolphins speak Swedish? Who knew.

An air of uniformity Korean Air flight attendants routinely stay at the Sutton Place Hotel, which this week served as headquarters for many NHL employees and media.

Early yesterday afternoon, a group of some 10 female Korean Air flight attendants sat silently, at perfect attention, in a corner of the lobby as they received instructions from their crew supervisor.

They were meticulously dressed, coiffed, and manicured, and they sat shoulder to shoulder, squeezed compactly on two small couches. They looked amazingly, eerily alike, dressed in identical robin’s-egg blue uniforms and very similar in facial shape, body type, and height. Each of them wore wooden hair sticks, accessorized by small blue ribbons.

One could only wonder how, say, a group of young North American hockey players, listening to a coach’s orders before busing to a local arena, would have filled those same seats. Silent? Attention fixed? Five to a couch, shoulder to shoulder, hanging on the coach’s every word as if mesmerized? Not likely.

But though it was endearing and impressive to witness, there was also something unsettling, cult-like, robotic to it all. Hard to explain. So perfect. So different. So from another world.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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