Many of the Bruins may not have arrived in New England as Patriots fans, but across the board, they have become Patriots fans over the course of their time in the Boston area.
Given the Patriots’ run of success over the last 14 years, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement.
“I think [it’s exciting] just to kind of see everyone now walking around with Patriots hats and things like that,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “Obviously, we cheer for them and support them, so it’s cool to have somebody to cheer for in the Super Bowl, and hopefully they can win and get the city going a little bit.”
Super Bowl XLIX will be a particularly exciting one for anyone in the New England area, as the Patriots will represent the AFC for the fifth time since 2001.
“It’s huge, for sure,” said defenseman Kevan Miller. “There’s been a lot finals in the last 14 years, I think, so it’s just another attribute for the city, which is huge.”
None of the players on the Bruins’ current roster hail from New England, and many of them come from areas that are closer to Seattle than Boston, but that won’t matter on Super Bowl Sunday. On Super Bowl Sunday, their allegiances will be clear — even for someone like Milan Lucic, who grew up a fan of the Seahawks.
“It’s my West Coast team against my East Coast team, but since ’09 when I had a high ankle sprain, I’ve kind of converted into a Patriots fan,” Lucic said. “I’ve got to stick with my team now and keep cheering for the Pats.”
The added excitement of having a rooting interest in the Super Bowl is only part of the reason why the Black & Gold are happy to see their New England brethren in the big game. It’s inspiring to see another team from the same city reach the pinnacle.
“It was the same thing when the Red Sox won, too,” said forward Daniel Paille. “We made it [to the Stanley Cup Final] that same year, and it kind of gives you that drive to continue having that winning attitude as a city. I’m not the only one who feels that way. Everyone kind of works into that mentality.”
When the B’s see the Patriots play in the biggest game the NFL has to offer, it reminds many of them what it was like to compete in the Stanley Cup, and it reinvigorates their desire to find themselves in a similar position — competing for a title — when their own regular season comes to an end.
“You know the feeling of being there, and you know the feeling of winning, and winning it all,” Lucic said. “You see the Patriots making it back to the Super Bowl again, and you know that feeling, and you want to do whatever you can to relive that feeling.
“As a fan, you want to enjoy the moment with the rest of Pats Nation, and have fun with it all, but also, as an athlete in the same city, you definitely feed off things like that and it definitely gets you excited for the next stretch we have here because we know what we’re capable of, and we want to be in the same spot as the Pats are come playoff time.”
Of course, the Bruins want to be there until the end every single year; that never changes. But perhaps seeing the Patriots leave it all on the line on Sunday will spark that desire even more.
“When you see them get there, you can kind of see it as a reality, a little bit,” Hamilton said. “You want to be in that position. Obviously, Boston’s pretty fortunate with the sports teams they have here, with the Red Sox and seeing them win. I think it’s been exciting, so hopefully the Patriots can win and we can keep cheering for them.”
The Bruins have more than just a recent championship in common with the Patriots. They can relate to Bill Belichick’s squad this year perhaps more than ever, when questions and doubts from outside the locker room seemed to dominate the narrative early in the season. The Patriots dealt with that doubt early on, after starting the season 2-2; the Bruins fielded similar concerns during a tough month of December.
“There’s ups and downs with every season,” Miller said. “We’ve had ours and they’ve had theirs — and look where they’re at. So we can kind of seek inspiration from that, for sure.”
Added Paille, “We had a lot of doubt from outside the room [earlier], but in the end, we’re working hard now and we’re really coming together.”
Clearly, the early-season adversity didn’t hurt the Patriots, and the Bruins are confident that they can follow in New England’s footsteps.
“Obviously, I don’t think we’re at their level yet — but we know what we’re capable of, and I think we need to keep building as a team,” Lucic said. “I think just seeing the way they came out against Cincinnati [in Week 5]— they went out there and showed, ‘We’re saving our season and we’re doing it right now,’ and I think we have to have that same type of approach.”
And of course, there is another facet of this particular New England team the Bruins have truly identified with this year.
In the second half of the season, the entire Patriots roster and coaching staff seemed to unite around three simple words: Do your job. Those words have come to characterize the 2014 Patriots. Those words epitomize what it means to focus, to do the little things right in order to achieve the ultimate payoff.
They are words that the 2014-15 Bruins have united around as well, particularly as the new year rolled around and they began to climb the standings.
“Do your job” doesn’t take away from the concept of playing as a team; in fact, it enhances it. When every part of the system is functioning with equal effectiveness, the system runs smoothly all the way until the end.
And if every player does his job, it’s likely they’ll all be still standing together as one in the end.
“I kind of take that as worry about yourself and be accountable to your teammates,” Hamilton said. “Your teammates know that you’re going to do your job, and you know that they are going to do theirs, and if that happens, I think you’re going to be successful.
“So I like that,” Hamilton added with a grin, “and hopefully they do their jobs [on Sunday].”