"I took a drive today
|Pearl Jam prior to their September 2004 show at the Garden. |
Photo courtesy of Brian Babineau.
Time to emancipate
I guess it was the beatings...
made me wise
But I'm not about to give thanks,
Pearl Jam, Rearviewmirror.
-- Even as the TD Banknorth Garden's Bull Gang cleaned up the stray popcorn and hotdog wrappers left in the building at the end of the 2005-06 Boston Bruins season, everyone in New England knew that changes were on the way for the venerable, and beloved, NHL club.
It wasn't supposed to have happened that way at all.
A fall of anticipation and celebration had followed the NHL work stoppage, and after what might be characterized as a teasing first few months of the campaign, the Bruins spiraled out of control after the Olympic break.
Despite breakout performances by some of the lesser-known players on the club (e.g. Tim Thomas
, Hannu Toivonen, Brad Boyes) and the addition of some excellent players (Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm) to a solid core of talent (P.J. Axelsson, Patrice Bergeron
, Glen Murray) the season was a bummer.
After finishing 5th from the bottom, missing the playoffs in the first season following the NHL lockout, and the trade of two face-of-the-franchise type players, the Bruins ownership knew that change for change sake would not be enough to assuage the hockey fans in Boston.
The Boston Bruins, an Original Six Franchise going back to 1924, the winners of five Stanley Cups and numerous lesser trophies and championship banners, were on the verge of becoming irrelevant in the successful world of the Red Sox and Patriots; a virtual non-entity on the sports talk stations along the AM dial and a punching bag for local columnists.
Ownership decided a new approach to the game was necessary.
However, those changes that the Bruins faithful fans had witnessed in the recent history of the club, had, admittedly, not yielded the caliber of teams that the Boston faithful had grown up watching on the old Boston Garden ice.
The fans, used to seeing the likes of Eddie Shore, John Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, and of course, Bobby Orr, had not seen the Stanley Cup raised in Boston ice for nearly two generations and both they, and the ownership, desired a fresh start.
The search began in earnest as the curtain fell on the hockey season and the Bruins soon found a little known, but highly regarded, member of the Ottawa Senators successful hockey operations team to lead their team out of their tough times.
The Jacob's family might just as well have looked across the river, to Harvard University in Cambridge, to find in that bastion symbol of futuristic innovation and traditional education, someone who could lead the franchise out of its doldrums.
And if they looked a little closer, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon, they would have found the genesis of their future architects tooling around Bright Arena with his grandchildren.
The Bruins new leadership would bear the stamp of approval given by the Harvard Crimson's legendary player, coach and Athletic Director, Bill Cleary.
Cleary, who himself had played at Harvard for the legendary Bruin Ralph “Cooney” Weiland (a three time winner of the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, who had brought his expertise to the Crimson decades earlier), created teams at Harvard University using smart, highly skilled players who used speed, finesse, as well as brawn, to win hockey games -- just like the successful teams in the post-lockout NHL powerhouses (Ottawa, Buffalo, Edmonton, and the eventual champ, Carolina).
Former Harvard Crimson hockey players, and more importantly, Harvard University graduates, Peter Chiarelli, the new General Manager, and former Bruin great Don Sweeney, now the Director of Player Development, joined Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton and worked to immediately put their stamp on the Boston Bruins."I seem to look away
Wounds in the mirror waved
It wasn't my surface...
– The changes brought on by ownership, and, by extension, Chiarelli were resounding.
The Boston NHL franchise that would take the ice in October would hardly resemble the group that had exited the ice in April.
But beyond the under achievement on the ice, it was surmised that the Bruins suffered most from what Jimmy Carter might have called "A Crisis of Confidence."
And, as much as the personnel changes, it was perhaps the psyche of the entire Boston Bruins franchise that needed to change the most -- and fast.
As such, Chiarelli brought in former NHL defenseman and Detroit Red Wings mentor Dave Lewis (3 Stanley Cup rings as an assistant), who had played for the very successful Al Arbour (architect of the Islander's four Cup dynasty in the 1980's), and who had coached beside the legendary Scotty Bowman (9 Stanley Cup victories with the Canadiens, Penguins, and Red Wings), to lead the Bruins.
Several players and coaches did not return and several of them were quite popular and successful. And in their place, if you are a pessimist, resides one of the youngest, most unproven, teams in the NHL.
However, an optimist looks a little closer and sees:
Emerging superstars in Bergeron and Marc Savard
. Two All-Star caliber defensemen in Brad Stuart and Paul Mara. Veteran leadership in Jason York and Nathan Dempsey. Proven firepower in Boyes, Sturm and Murray. Possible Crosbyesque talent in rookie Phil Kessel. Grinders like Axelsson and Shean Donovan. Young, up-and-coming 'D' in the likes of Andrew Alberts, Mark Stuart and Milan Jurcina. Talented role players like Jeff Hoggan, Wade Brookbank, Mark Mowers, Yan Stastny and Wayne Primeau. And two outstanding goaltenders in Thomas and Toivonen.
And, oh, yeah, prior to Peter Chiarelli's arrival, Jeff Gorton brought in a 6'9", 260 mountain of a man who just simply hates to lose, regularly works out six hours a day, and then they made him the 18th captain of the Boston Bruins.
His name is Zdeno Chara
. His teammates call him Big "Z."
And as much as anyone, Chara was directly responsible for the team's change of attitude in this past training camp."Saw things
were in my...
******Training Camp, 2006
– Change was what was asked for in Boston.
And change is what has happened to the Bruins.
Just like in the old Pearl Jam song about a relationship gone horribly wrong, these new Bruins have put last season in the proverbial rear view mirror.
They are annoyed, even downright surly, when the last campaign is brought up.
“Obviously we want to show everyone that we have a team to be reckoned with this year,” said Glen Murray during training camp. “We have new changes and a lot of new faces…we’re a team that’s going to go out there and work really hard.”
“We’re going to surprise people with our speed and from our goaltenders out, we’ve improved 100 percent.”Patrice Bergeron
agrees, and notes that Boston must learn from the past, as well.
“[I hope] to be better as a team and as a player,” said Bergeron. “And build from our season last year.
“I think the overall attitude of everyone involved is more positive towards the game. We don’t discouraged when we are down…we stick with it and I think that is what we are going to do during the season.
“I think it was a matter of confidence,” explained Bergeron. “When we’d lose a couple of games the confidence wasn’t there. It’s tough to win hockey games [when that happens]. This year that’s the main focus, to remain confident, and stay positive.
“If you lose one game, you don’t have to put pressure on yourself. You have to learn from it. You have to become a better team because of it.”
Others in the room are just as excited to move on.
“It’s been great so far,” said Boyes, after a training camp practice. “I think that everyone has come together. On and off the ice, everyone is getting along. Everything is going well.
“I think on the ice it’s shows, with guys…joking around. Things are a little more upbeat. There’s a little more emotion during practice. And I think a lot [of that] comes from the new guys.
“And it’s been exciting,” said Boyes. “I thing we are all excited to start [the new season] with all the new faces.”
“Last year is done…it’s over. This is another chance to win the Cup!”“Once and for all
I'm far away
I hardly believe,
finally the shades
– As the Bruins prepared to embark on their first road trip, the vestiges of any remaining concerns pertaining to last season fell away. Bags were packed, meetings were scheduled, team dinners were planned and the 2006-07 season was underway.
The questions are now more about what is happening on Friday, October 6th, the first game of the new season, rather than reminders about anything else.
“Yah, let’s get it going,” remarked Boyes. “It’s another year…It’s a new season. New Bruins, new guys, new team. New attitude. New everything.
“I love [being a Boston Bruin]. It’s a great franchise, with a lot of history and we’re trying to make some new history here. And I love being here.”
“Training camp was fun,” said Bergeron. “We got to know the new guys a little more. So I think we are very excited about [the first] game.
“I think the guys are very positive so far. We get along very well. You can tell on the ice…that the guys are excited about this season. It’s a fresh start for us and we’re very happy.
“I’m sure the guys are proud to represent the logo on front of our jersey,” explained Bergeron. “I mean, that is why we’re playing each and every night – to win games for the Bruins, not for yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about the team. I think that is the mindset we have going into the season.”
“It’s been a long summer for us,” said Sturm. “A lot of changes. I think everyone is pretty excited…I don’t think about last year. It’s a brand new start and everyone starts at zero.”
When asked if wearing the spoked B on his chest was important to him, Chara explained it best.
“Of course [it is important],” he said. “It’s an Original Six franchise. And when you have the opportunity to put the jersey on it is a pretty sweet feeling. It’s a dream come true.”
For Chara, and the rest of the Bruins, this year’s mission is clear.
“We just have to go out there and do it,” he said. “Go out there and play the best game that we possibly can.”“Saw things
so much clearer
(Once you, once you)
-- The Bruins are back. Last year is gone. Good things are on the road ahead.