|John Bishop is the beat writer for BostonBruins.com. He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. |
The movie buffs out there will remember this scene.
A sleepless Rocky Balboa walks into the fabulous Forum in Philadelphia in the wee hours of the morning before his fight with Apollo Creed. He looks up at the caricature of himself, wearing red boxing trunks with a white stripe, opposite the champs.
Balboa sees the fight promoter, a man named Jergens, and says that the picture is wrong. He, somewhat self righteously, points out, "I'm wearin' white pants with a red stripe."
The promoter just smiles and says, "It doesn't really matter, does it?
"I'm sure you're gonna give us a great show."
Crestfallen, an already doubtful Balboa realizes that nobody thinks he can win. He is, in other peoples' eyes, a bum, an also ran; someone to be pushed around for the amusement of others.
The fighter also recognizes that he is not sure he can actually win. And in an instant his mission is changed. Rocky decides that in his one shot at the champion he will prove to everyone, including himself, how much punishment he can take, and give, and still be standing at the final bell.
Later, at home with his girlfriend Adrian, he tells her he is not sure he can beat the champ, but that it doesn't really matter.
"It really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed. And if I can go that distance and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."
It is this one act that sets the original Rocky apart from most other sports movies because in that one scene you see the human side of competition. In this short collection of scenes, you see the doubt, the worry and the fear that an athlete, or a team, must overcome to succeed.
In Rocky's case, all of those obstacles were personified in Creed. As such, the southpaw from Philly knew that the only way for him to "win" was to stand toe-to-toe with the Ali wannabe, still be on his feet at the end of the bout and earn respect from his city and reaffirm his belief in himself.
The Rocky theme was prevalent throughout this Boston Bruins season and was picked up by more than just the author of this space. This blue-collar-picked-dead-last mixture of veterans, journeymen and rookies were the epitome of the word underdog, particularly after they watched their brethren go down to injury again and again and again.
And there's no doubt that some people's faith in the Black & Gold was understandably shaken as names like Fernandez, Bergeron, Alberts, Kobasew and Savard left the lineup for long stretches of time, only to have the slack be picked up by rookies named Lucic, Krejci, Sobotka and Nokelainen.
Beyond those young men, and the veteran NHLers who mentored them, the list of contributors to the Bruins turnaround starts with the man playing the role of Mickey, Claude Julien.
There must have been times when it seemed like he was the only person on the planet who believed in his squad. But he, and his coaching staff, never wavered and clearly wrung as much effort out of the team as possible.
|A familiar pose... |
Time and time again in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, Julien basically told his team, a la the Mick, "When you walk into the ring with the number one heavyweight of the world, you'll be ready, won't ya? Why? Because I've waited for years to make ya ready. You'll be able to spit nails, kid...You're gonna become a very dangerous person."
As a result, this year's Bruins earned back their Big Bad moniker and were also re-dubbed Lunchpail AC. During that process of reclamation and rejuvenation, the Black & Gold earned the respect of the city, the league and the franchise earned back its belief in itself.
In the end, and like the fictional Rocky, the Boston Bruins did not win "anything" during the 2007-08 season. Basically, they finished eighth in the conference and fell in the first round to the Montreal Canadiens, who, playing the part of Creed, rope-a-doped through a stirring seven round fight.
Clearly, however, Creed was hurt in the sixth round and it took all the skill, guile and gamesmanship the Canadiens possessed to earn the decision over our team of Rocky's.
And, hey, we all know what happened in Rocky II, III, IV…
This is one sequel I can't wait to see. Thanks for a great season, guys.