Monday, February 18, 2013

Boston Bruins: My All-time Team

My wife asked me who I’d include on my all-time Bruins team. On the bench (and behind it), the list below has less to do with the players’ popularity or statistics than it soes with my personal connection to them.

Claude Julien, Don Cherry, Pat Burns. Who would be the head coach? Would they rotate executive leadership? I love Julien’s patience and imperviousness to those who question his line combinations. Grapes: Colourful with words and attire. Pat Burns: My wife once got special access to one of his press conferences (thanks, Steve Babineau) and developed a crush on Burnsie.

I didn't see Gerry Cheevers play, but I read about him first in George Plimpton’s book, “Open Net.” Cheesie was kind to me when he signed my copy of his memoir, “Unmasked.” Tim Thomas: Before the off-ice shenanigans tarnished his image, Timmy was superb between the pipes and delivered uncommon post-game quotes.

Sorry Number fORR; I never saw you play and haven't met you yet. My wife and I did fly to the Big D to watch Ray Bourque, though. Ray-Ray (as my wife calls him), still wearing his Boston Bruins-issue hockey pants (magic marker couldn’t cover completely cover the Spoked B) was twenty days removed from The Trade. He logged more ice time than any other player as his Avalanche beat the Stars, 2–1. Don Sweeney, Bourque’s defensive partner, was under-sized and under-rated. One of the fastest players on any Bruins squad he played for, Sweeney’s work ethic and commitment to the Bruins lands him on my list. Gary Doak's  heyday was before my time here in Boston, but I hear tell of his shot-blocking acumen. Aaron Ward: His dedication to blocking shots and his proclivity with a stiff-arm to an opponent’s chest (as well as his fondness for the Boston Kreme) make him a favourite. Hal Gill: Yet another Boston Kreme fan, his most memorable goal was against the Avalanche (February 2003), a crafty shot from beyond the blueline that beat Patrick Roy.

Patrice “Selke” Bergeron's demeanor and dedication to defense, as well as his face-off skills, endear fans to him. Derek Sanderson, who was also great on the draw, owned (owns?) a nobby Nehru jacket and a neat nickname. Reading Turk's memoir gave me hope for those who strive to redeem themselves. Jean Ratelle was before my time, too, but my dad (a Rangers fan) rooted for him. I’ve heard only fine things about Gentleman Jean.

Right Wings:
Stephen Herbert Heinze: I like this guy because he had the audacity to wear #57 (but not as a Bruin) and because I owned one of his game-used hockey sticks. I recall skating on a pond in Stow (MA), cradling the puck with that twig (remember my motto: wood is good). Willie O’Ree: Well-known for being the first black player in the NHL (again, before my hockey days), people respect him for his off-ice attributes. For example, he excused himself from his lunch guest to share, with my wife and me (on vacation in New Brunswick), his excitement about the Bruins winning the Cup in 2011. He said that after the Bruins swept the Flyers, he knew the B’s would go all the way. Miroslav Satan: The fire in the outside pit crackled and hissed as my wife and I joined a friend for Hockey Night in Hudson (MA). At this backyard gathering on a Saturday night in April 2010, we watched Satan score twice—the second goal in OT as the Bruins beat the Leafs.

Left Wings:
My wife’s favourite player is Marco Sturm. Whether he’s on a Bruins behind-the scenes show, wearing lederhosen, or front and center, scoring the game-winning goal in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic, Sturmie's smile is magnetic. John Bucyk: More Ukranian than Native North American, “Chief” is a happy go lucky whistler; at least that’s the way he seemed off-camera. Per Johan Axelsson: At a Wives' Charity Carnival (the year escapes me), I told him I admired his commitment to defense. “That’s my game,” he said. That was before he scored this beauty to beat the Blackhawks in 2008.

Healthy Scratch:
John Wensink played for my Colorado Rockies, but I don’t remember any of his game action. His wild hair and how his tough-guy persona is tempered by his fascination with doll houses (as documented in “Open Net”) means he belongs here.


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