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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s been a long time ago but it still resonates in the memory.
I wasn’t sure what I was watching as I was then, a now so-called “Pink Hat.” But to this day, I will never forget it as it was Mothers Day 1970 and I had not watched any of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But for some reason, the TV was on Channel 4 in my house (yes, it was the NBC affiliate back then) and the late great Dan Kelly was announcing what is still noted as the “Greatest Goal;” one Robert Gordon Orr flying through the air as he scored 30 seconds into overtime to give the Boston Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 29 years.
Mesmerized by watching the celebration on the TV, that was my introduction to the National Hockey League and the Boston Bruins. Two years later I would enjoy it a lot better as the Big, Bad Bruins waltzed through the playoffs and beat the New York Rangers in the Finals at Madison Square Garden and once again Boston had their City Hall celebration.
I thought this was the greatest thing ever. At that point, I was not a Celtic follower and they hadn’t won since 1969. As a kid, baseball was boring to me and the Patriots were, well, just awful.
But here were these swashbuckling Bruins who scored at will, owned the city and had captured everyone’s imagination including me, a neophyte. But I was hooked. The Bruins were my team and I would follow them to the end.
Thus began the disappointments beginning with the 1974 Finals against the expansion Philadelphia Flyers. The Broad Street Bullies had muscled their way to Finals and would beat Boston in six games. A couple of things I remember about that series was it was the first season my childhood idol, Gilles Gilbert was in the Bruins goal and former Bruin goalie Bernie Parent would win the Conn Smythe trophy as MVP of the playoffs.
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After two seasons of early eliminations, Boston was back in the Finals in 1977 & 1978, both times against their hated rivals the Montreal Canadiens who they hadn’t beaten in any playoff year since 1945. That trend continued in both those years, a 4-0 sweep and in six games respectively.
In 1979 the Bruins, coached by the legendary Don Cherry, again met the Canadiens. This time it was the Semifinals, the winner goes on the Finals against the New York Rangers. This one was a crusher for me. Less than three minute left in Game 7 in the Montreal Forum, and Boston with a 3-2 lead until there was “too many men on the ice.” Guy Lafluer & Yvon Lambert later and the Bruins were in Ruins, as was I. Disconsolate!
The 80’s were not very good for the Boston Bruins as the team would again meet up with early round playoff dismissals until the ’87-’88 season. This playoff run would be magical. I was not only a fan, but was media member and covered the team the entire year and was there for the ride into the Finals against The Great Gretzsky & The Edmonton Oilers.
Although excited about the upcoming prospect, all hopes were dashed rather quickly with an Oiler 4-game sweep!
If you know anything about hockey and you take a look back at the roster of the two teams, you would see that really, the Bruins had no business being on the same ice as the Oilers. No team was going to deny them the Stanley Cup. Ditto for the ’89-’90 season.
They would not sniff the Eastern Conference Championship for another 21 years until last Friday’s defeat of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tonight begins another odyssey to see if 39 years was just the right number. I’ll be watching the game with my friend Todd, who is from Montreal and of course a Canadiens fan. He doesn’t have a big stake in this fire other than he is a Canadian, and will probably root for his native land. I can handle that. After all, it would be great for everyone in New England, including him, should the Bruins come out of this with the Chalice and send this town to a place it hasn’t been since the likes of Esposito, Orr, Cheevers, and Sanderson ruled the roost!
Ric Duarte has covered hockey and the Bruins for various media outlets since 1986. You can follow Ric at BruinsDieHard.com and at twitter @bruins_diehard.