It was one year ago yesterday that my wife gave birth to our second child, and the little guy was even kind enough to emerge with plenty of time to spare before the Celtics took on the Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Boston, of course, won that game, 92-86, to take a 3-2 series lead before eventually falling to Los Angeles in a Bad News Bears-style “Let them play” Game 7.
In 1974, it was just a mere four months before the first Boston championship of my lifetime, when the Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games to win their 12th NBA title. In 2007, my first son was only 15 days old before his first, when the Red Sox finished off their sweep of the Colorado Rockies for their second World Series title this century. Good luck, no?
But then, along came Boy No. 2, the Celtics with a chance to keep the streak alive, and…bupkus.
Tomorrow night, both will be long in bed (or had better be) prior to the outcome of Game 7, but the reverberations will remain. The Bruins may hoist the Stanley Cup in Vancouver, and it will be an image that will be etched in their Boston sports genealogy regardless of their age or memory.
The parallels to the Red Sox’ run in 2004 have been brought up repeatedly, but no other Boston title chase since has had the same feel as what the Bruins are giving their fans in this magical spring of 2011. The Celtics’ reemergence was splendid, but wasn’t immersed in a generation of shortcomings. The Patriots may be Kings of New England, but even Gino Cappelletti doesn’t have the same historical impact that a name like Eddie Shore does.
And even when the Red Sox won in ’04, ending an 86-year drought, did we really see children flocking to their local diamond with bat and glove in tow?
Much like when the Bruins won their last Cup in 1972, when construction companies made their fortunes building ice rinks, thanks to Bobby Orr, hockey has gripped the region with a fervor that relays even to casual fans why it’s the No. 1 passion for our neighbors to the north. The game can consume you like no other sporting event can. Hockey wasn’t re-born in New England on this playoff run, for the sport remains the passion and bane of early morning mothers and fathers throughout the region. And the zeal for the Bruins hasn’t simply made an instant return, for I would argue on a grand scale it started to trickle back after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2008.
But there’s a feeling of…something. Isn’t there?
I said the other night that I fully expected the Bruins to win Game 6, but saw them falling in Game 7. I take that back. That’s not a Daniel Sedin prediction, mind you, but a feeling that this whole thing has an ending appropriate for the way the saga has unfolded. Vancouver may need the Cup. Their fans may be among the most rabid and hungry in the NHL. But it says something when the majority of your fellow countrymen are rooting for you to fail. After a fortnight of the Bruins, Canucks, and media members from both cities trading barbs and other nonsense, it’s easy to see why.
My older son is now hurtling ever so quickly toward his fourth birthday in October, and already has two Boston titles under his Frisbee-sized belt. He hits the baseball around a little bit, and while his father plays with the Nerf hoop that is set up on the deck more than he does, he dabbles in that too.
But two weeks ago, when he picked up the wooden hockey stick three times his height and shuffled the puck around in the driveway, the emotion you’re supposedly supposed to have after a first catch with your son came over me. I may or may not be in for years of expensive equipment, long road trips, and early mornings down the road. But I instantaneously understood why I would want to be.
The Bruins play the first Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final in franchise history tomorrow night. All Bruins fans under 40 may see their team raise a big trophy for the first time in their lifetimes.
The only definite is that hockey is going away for four months after tomorrow. Plenty of time to plan the backyard rink.