By: James Swindells / Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
When it comes to allegiances on the New England sports scene, one would be hard-pressed to find a more passionate, knowledgeable, or dedicated fan base than the Bruins have. While everyone loves a winner, the fact is that since the days of Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito, the Bruins have delivered just one Stanley Cup title. In contrast, other franchises in the region have delivered multiple championships, but, in my estimation, they don’t have the rabid support shown to the Bruins.
Other franchises have seen their fan bases swell over the past few decades while winning multiple championships. Previous to these championships, the Patriots and Red Sox fan bases consisted of long-suffering, diehard fans who were of the mindset that they might very well go to the grave and never see a title brought to the city. Besides the Celtics delivering 16 championships in 30 years, the New England sports stage was a desert wasteland for the other franchises in search of that elusive title. Epic collapses, “curses,” and failed runs at titles dotted the landscape. But that landscape changed forever in 2002 and 2004 when the Patriots and Red Sox broke droughts and changed expectations in the region to previously unseen levels. And then there were the Bruins stumbling along, searching for, yet not quite finding, that winning formula.
Among the four major sports leagues’ championships, the NHL’s Stanley Cup is the most challenging title to come by. So why have Bruins fans raised the bar so high regarding another title? The reasons are diverse, but in the forefront lies the fact that since 2002 this region’s fanbases EXPECTS championships. After generations of fruitless seasons, simply put, we are now spoiled. Merely hoping to win is not nearly enough anymore. By the time Zdeno Chara raised the Cup in Vancouver on June 15, 2011, championship expectations in the region were already at a fever pitch. The Bruins, for better or worse, were now on the clock to do it again. And the fanbase was about to take their expectations to the next level.
We have seen what’s attainable by the region’s teams over the last 20 years. Though reasonably unrealistic, the franchises have also pushed each other to a competitive level never seen previously. The successes garnered by one team have driven the other franchises to obtain a new-found level of excellence. And in turn, when another team won a title, it pushed the other franchises to keep up and further elevate the level of competition. In a sense, a keeping up with the Joneses, but on a friendly level.
We are now at a stage where, again, we expect excellence from the Bruins. And while it is wholly upon the franchise to construct a championship roster, the fanbase has tools at its fingertips to keep 24/7/365 running tabs on the franchise.
- Coverage of each season’s entry draft, free agency frenzy, and trade deadline bring about a wealth of prognosticators who want every golden, shiny toy available to the Bruins. Even when, in reality, the player either does not fit what the team is looking for, cannot afford them due to salary cap restraints, or the player ultimately may not want to come to Boston (GASP!!!). We want it all, and we want it now!
- Local media outlets also push the frenzy of the fanbase, to the tune of clicks and ratings, to a fanbase that devours the narrative driven by them. For any level of Bruins fan, there is a dizzying amount of information, whether through printed media, sports talk radio, or an abundance of internet sites and podcasts. Truth be damned, the crazier the take tends to be, the delivery tends to be just as insane, and as with most things, the truth lies somewhere around the middle.
The reality is that winning championships is a tough business. The inclination of fans is that the triumphs of the last 20 years are the norm. Ask a fan outside the New England sports scene; in most cases, they view their situation as dire and will never get to see that elusive championship. Very similar to how things looked and felt here pre-2002. The New England sports fan has been extraordinarily fortunate over the last 20 years. The Bruins had their day in the sun in 2011, but to Bruins fans, the feeling is that there should have been more. At the very least, we hope for a playoff run that captures the region and sets the imagination running wild. All in the hopes of watching the duck boats wind through the streets of Boston on a glorious, early summer day in June. We are not asking a lot; all we want is ANOTHER parade!