Folks, I am a historian at heart, and days like today, when someone like Tom Johnson leaves our presence, hit me like a ton of bricks.
No, unfortunately, I did not know him very well, but Mr. Johnson, as I knew him, was a fixture in the Garden -- a true delight to know and talk to, even just in passing.
However, he always represented something amazing to me, and I am not afraid to admit that I stood in awe of the man.
Long story short: I missed the days of the Big Bad Bruins, but for many of you, in your mind, the B's will always remain Orr, Bucyk, Sanderson and Cheevers, coached by Tom Johnson.
I know how important teams are to a person, great teams even more so. And it's a shame that real life must intrude on hockey, that great teams break up and championships slip into history and exhilaration slips into memory. Of course, nothing can escape time.
Except words on a page...
As I grew into the hockey writer, the hockey fan
, that I am today, names like Green, Johnston, Middleton, Hodge and even Jim "Seaweed" Pettie, captivated my imagination, as did out the strong personalities of Sinden and Johnson who lead many of them to the "Holy Grail" of the Stanley Cup.
Through words on the page, these men became my heroes, my modern Odysseus, my Hector, my Perseus -- taking on the Sirens, Achilles and Medusa, all curiously wearing the CH of Montreal.
| Boston Bruins Tommy Johnson dons his sweater as he gets ready for the first day of hockey practice with the Bruins at Boston Garden, in this Sept. 12, 1963 photo. (AP Photo) |
Reading of their exploits in books like Plimpton's Open Net
, Dryden's The Game
and, believe it or not, Goaltender
by Gerry Cheevers, I could not imagine a better life than being part of hockey each day. At first I hoped to be a player, but alas, that was a sincere pipe dream.
But writing, well, that was my way to make it happen -- my way to "The Bigs."
Today, when I tell someone what I do, many times people tell me they are envious of my being able to interview Zdeno Chara
or Marc Savard
or Tim Thomas
nearly at will. That being able to talk to Wayne Gretzky or Joe Sakic would be a trip.
I will tell you this; it's quite a perk.
But what makes my job the best job in the world is being able to actually run into people like John Bucyk, Cam Neely, Bob and Don Sweeney, Harry Sinden and, of course, Tom Johnson, nearly every day.
I never had the nerve to interview Mr. Johnson. But now, I think that maybe I didn't want to. After all he, and his Black & Gold charges, filled my imagination as a kid and when I met him last year he became my own minor link to people like Bobby Orr and Rocket Richard.
|John Bishop is the beat writer for BostonBruins.com. |
No, for me it was always enough to say "Hello, Mr. Johnson" to him whenever he came by to chit chat with Karen and Heidi in the front office, play cards downstairs in the pressroom or stop to talk to one of the Bull Gang.
In my head, I could never pass by without saying to myself: "That's TOM JOHNSON, he played with Rocket Richard and coached Bobby Orr."
In any case, there are so many people who feel a loss when someone like Mr. Johnson passes on and I send my condolences to his friends and family.
Certainly, when someone passes on it is a reminder to all of us that our own call-up to the big club in the sky will come sooner or later. But we also lament that a piece of our world is gone forever and that someone who represented wonderful times, someone that
wonderful, will no longer be around.
Thankfully, however, all we have to do to remember Mr. Johnson is look up inside the Garden. When we do, we'll see the banner that reads Boston Bruins: 1972 Stanley Cup Champions
Thanks for the memories Tom. More people than you could have possibly imagined will miss you.