What China Trip Meant For Bruins, NHL

Image result for china nhl 2018(Photo Credit: South China Morning Post)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

One team. Three countries. An entire sport.

That’s the focus all of Boston had on the Bruins recently completed (and successful) trip against Calgary to the Far East for the NHL China Games in Shenzen and Beijing! And for supposedly “meaningless” preseason games, these two timely tilts held plenty of meaning for everyone involved, especially the Chinese fans of the game who want nothing more than to see NHL players be a part of the 2022 Winter Olympics in the People’s Republic. Thankfully, the young, up-and-coming talent of the B’s was on full display and in full force, perhaps setting the stage for many a prospect’s skillful return to China in only four years.

But winning two highly publicized exhibition games, affectionately labeled by NBC Sports as “NHL’s Asian Championship,” isn’t the true accomplishment for the Bruins, for the NHL or [big picture] for the sport of hockey in general.

It’s winning the minds, hearts and attention of a region that desperately wants to be a part of the future of our favorite game. And at least IMHHO (a familiar acronym from my previous writings & musings) — with no disrespect to the Flames or Calgary, Alberta for that matter — the National Hockey League couldn’t have picked a better team than the Boston Bruins to help spotlight the sport.

Sure, there are many writers & reporters out there who documented the trials and tribulations of the team’s traveling travails…

…from equipment being lost to everyday essentials unavailable to stomach bugs and to this:

But that’s not what I’m running with for this article. And since many a fellow Black N’ Gold blogger & colleague has recapped these aforementioned games, their subsequent highlights and highlighted players & plays, I shall focus only on the B-spoked symbolism of the Bruins China trip, as evidenced in the playful picture below.

Image result for bruins fans china(Photo Credit: BTA by way of the Associated Press)

Far East fandom at its finest is what you see. You also see a sea of B’s sweaters, jerseys, posters & towels — kids connecting with a team whose likability factor  and history is as appreciated as The Great Wall, which Brad Marchand and company couldn’t help but stand atop in hopefully a sign of foreshadowing for the standings and this season’s end game.

And when the games had ended in China for the Bruins, the team had built something equally impressive, if not as visually stunning just yet: a genuine connection to a people and a culture craving to be a part of ice hockey history. As longtime Bruins correspondent Amalie Benjamin wrote in a brilliant profile piece for NHL.com, “this is hockey in China… [a teenager yelling for Brad Marchand] wore a Bruins jersey with a No. 15, Milt Schmidt’s retired number.” She goes on to describe the crowd as people who already know and love the game surrounded by those who want it to stay and become a part of their lives. It’s as revealing and eye-opening a picture of the importance and impact of these games as Pierre McGuire’s new take on what “DD” could soon mean to New Englanders (move over Dunkin’ Donuts)!

Fonts, puns and wordplay aside, it’s the play of the Bruins that has garnered the attention of a nation at time the NHL needs it most. Bringing the game back to the Olympics, especially in China, would be as a celebratory as an OT game winner for players and fans alike. And based on what we just saw from the B’s, perhaps some of those festive, fireworks-filled celebrations will soon be in order — for one team, three countries AND an entire sport!

Worst Bruins Logos

Image result for bruins team logos(Photo Credit: Fenway Outlet)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

OK, let’s be up front about this article: it’s IMHHO — In My Humble Hockey Opinion. So please don’t opine too much if you fancy any of the featured logos herein and think my take, as well as a few supported others, isn’t anything you want to “B”-lieve in. Then again, I think that’s what makes this whole exercise both fun & historic, if not a bit histrionic; if we can highlight the “Best Bruins Logos” then why not take a stab at lowballing the alleged losers along the way!? So, without further ado — and starting in the past and working our way to the present–may I present as my present to you (yes, that’s an excessive homonym homage) the WORST BRUINS LOGOS… IMHHO!

1944: The “Curse”-ive Look

Image result for 1944 bruins jersey(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins Alumni)

Feel free to be a lil’ scowley when looking at Bill Cowley in his mid-40’s team photo (or just curse at the cursive like I did). That’s because the B’s thought writing collegiate script on a mustard bottle would be a good team logo look. LOOK AWAY, I say! Even when current Bruins D-man Torey Krug tried to bring this look back a few years ago as our friends at Stanley Cup of Chowder pointed out, it still didn’t **hack it.

Image result for jeff hackett bruins

**(Not to be confused w/ the Hackett pictured here whose similarly colored third jersey & logo could’ve made this list…but alas did not for the soft space in my heart that a certain cuddly crest continues to keep! Photo Credit: Getty Images)

1951: We’ve Seen This “B”-fore!

Brown Bruins(Photo Credit: Third String Goalie)

GREAT SCOT! Not even Doc Brown would approve of Adam Brown’s logo look from the 1951-52 season. Fittingly, the second-highest scoring Scotsman in NHL history didn’t have to wear it that long as the picture above was from his final year in the NHL. What else should’ve had some finality to it? This overused big, bold (and now gold) “B” on the front of the team’s jersey for half of this decade. I gave credit to the brown & black “B” from Boston’s inaugural decade for historical import in my previous article as you may recall. But to recall it back and with such brightness against the black? Yikes. Then again, opposing players we’re probably blinded by the glare of it off the ice so maybe it was more successful & sought after. And for goal-happy players, **A-Ok!

Image result for 1955 bruins team

**(Not to be confused with Joe Klukay whose Lucky Premium Parkhurst Postcard from 1954-’55 was probably returned to sender faster than his puck-moving skills! Photo Credit: BMW Sportscards)

1976: Can You “Bear” It?

Image result for boston bruins 1976 jersey mike milbury(Photo Credit: Game Used Only)

No, I can’t bear it. In fact, I find it unBEARable! Why don’t we just Mike Milbury it in the annals of bad Bruins logo history!? Yes, I know this could sound like sacrilege considering the new secondary bear logo added in 1976 stuck around with the team until the B’s moved into the FleetCenter in the mid-’90s. That’s when our aforementioned friend “Mr. Cuddly” came into exuberant existence on not only the shoulders of B’s players, but also the third jersey front for a few fun years.

 

But let’s get “real” like the tweet above comparing ridiculous sporting logos and go back to this supposedly beloved “Bruin”… I just find it a bit freaky looking, that’s all. It’s more carnival Canis and at best erstwhile Ursus (sorry I went all genus, species, Latin here… 4 years of it in high school). Not to mention the fact that Yahoo! Sports ranked in among the “Top Creepy Logos” in NHL history, LOL! I guess to take one positive away, current B’s management icons Cam Neely & Don Sweeney survived wearing it all their careers before it **petered out of existence.

Image result for pete peeters bruins

 

**(Not to be confused with Pete Peeters, the professional puckstopper who proudly portrayed this painstaking patch for pivotal playoff positioning in his prime playing performances! Photo Credit: Game Worn Auctions)

 

 

So, there you have it! A logo look back on the logistics of Bruins fashion — from jerseys to patches to crests to lettering to numbering and everything in “B”-tween! What are some of your least favorite B’s looks when it comes to the team logo? Let us know on social media using the hashtag #WorstBruinsLogos!

Best Bruins Logos

(Photo Credit: NHL Bruins)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

In honor of the recent unveiling of the Boston Bruins 2019 Winter Classic logo, as seen above and in the tweets below, I’ve taken it upon myself to reminisce on and rank what previous logos have been just as iconic, reverential and memorable over the years for the boys in Black N’ Gold (and these are the logos outside of the current & most familiar one the team has used for forever).

Sure, there were some real duds among the studs when it came to representing the Spoked-B, the Bruin bear and the team’s overall look on occasion. But I’m saving those for a follow-up article. In this space, right now, we’re all about the logos and looks that perfectly captured, and encapsulated, the B’s from their illustrious beginnings to today (again, these are some of other ones that inspired what we all recognize as the Bruins logo of then & now)!

1924: The Original

Bruins Logo 1924(Photo Credit: The Hockey News)

You can’t even begin a conversation about the best team logos unless you start at the beginning, so that’s where we start — the B’s inaugural season in the NHL, 1924-25. Back then, it was theBrown NGoldand the “Big, Bad, Bruin” didn’t really look all that big & bad. She was definitely more docile during the Coolidge administration, yet somehow still looked pretty darn cool sandwiched between the words “BOSTON” and “BRUINS.” But the real cool factor about this original team sweater was how it was literally and figuratively woven into the B’s fabric of history during the 2016 Winter Classic, as seen below. Never before have the colors of black, brown, gold & white ever gone together better, in my humble hockey opinion (if only that game could’ve gone a little better).

(1924-25 Bruins Jersey worn by George Redding / 2016 B’s Winter Classic Jersey worn by David Krejci, Zdeno Chara & Tuukka Rask – Photo Credits: Pinterest & SB Nation)

1932-1934: The “B”-ginnings

boston-bruins-primary-logo-1933-1934boston-bruins-primary-logo-1935-1949

(Photo Credits: Sports Logo History)

It took almost a decade “B”-fore the team changed it’s bear-centric logo to that of the familiar big “B” that would stay with Boston until the now iconic Spoked-B debuted in 1948. I’ve always loved the sheer simplicity and boldness of this logo, as well as the symbolism “B”-hind it (be it in Brown NGold as it first was or the familiar Black N’ Gold version a few years later). And it didn’t even look too boring or misplaced when the team only used it on the sleeves of the jerseys and featured centered numbers on the front and back, as you’ll notice below from the changing looks of Tiny Thompson during the late 30s and early 40s.

(Photo Credits: Puck Planet)

This simple yet effective logo would make a cameo in Boston again for the 1991-92 season, with the NHL 75 patch joining it (I’m quite proud of my Andy Moog vintage jersey from this year pictured below in all its glory). And as we know from recent social media posts, it will “B” back in a slightly updated yet historically nuanced form for New Year’s Day in Notre Dame.

(Photo Credits: Evan Michael)

As our esteemed colleague @BlackAndGold277 tweeted, this will indeed be an occasion and logo look well worth (Dit) Clappering over (if the B’s can Shore up who gets to debut it first)!

1949: The B-Spoken Word

Image result for 1948 bruins logo

(Photo Credit: Sports Logos)

The B-Spoked “B” speaks! Yes, during the 1948-49 Bruins season, the first ever version of the now famous spoked-B was unveiled in honor of the team’s 25th anniversary in the NHL. Hence, the numbers 24 and 49 to the left and right of the emblazoned Gold ‘B‘ in the center representing the team’s aforementioned first year in the league, and the current season at the time. And, oh what a time the infamous Kraut Line had wearing it that year, especially B’s Captain Milt Schmidt who ranked it as one of his favorites.

Image result for 1948-49 bruins kraut lineImage result for 2010 winter classic(1948-’49 Bruins Anniversary jersey worn by Milt Schmidt [top] / 2010 Bruins Winter Classic jersey worn by Marco Sturm [bottom] – Photo Credits: Hockey By Design & ESPN)

It was also a lucky favorite of former Bruins forward Marco Sturm, who wore a modernized version of it for the B’s first Winter Classic contest back in 2010. His overtime Fenway Park game-winner is quite the legendary goal in recent team history. In case you need reminding:

Meanwhile, how was that for a reminder, or better yet, stroll down memory logo lane for the B’s and some of their featured & favorite jerseys? There’s nothing like looking forward to a preseason look back on likable looks for your most-liked team to get you in the hockey spirit lickety split! And like I mentioned earlier, of course there are others that we all recognize, admire and love to see. But, these few I think set the stage–and standard–for all the others. And they certainly started a recurring theme for anytime Boston plays a Winter Classic game, be it on the road or at “home.”

Boston-Bruins-1000(Photo Credit: Heritage Sports)

What are some of your favorites? Let us know by commenting or sharing across Facebook, Twitter and your best B’s blogs & websites! #BestBruinsLogos

Bruins Inaugural Labor Day Event Benefits First Responders

(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

Happy Labor Day, Bruins fans! While many of us are taking time off for Summer’s final holiday weekend, thousands of runners from across Greater Boston & beyond will take part in the inaugural “Run For Gratitude” to benefit the Martin Richard Foundation. “Founded in 2014, the foundation was formed by the parents of eight-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed when two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013,” according to a press release.

Sponsored by TD Garden, the Boston Bruins Foundation (mentioned most recently on this blog for their historic partnership with the Special Olympics) and DMSE Sports, the first ever MR8K race will help raise awareness for, and highlight, the lifesaving and heroic work first responders and medical personnel play during times of tragedy. “That’s why the proceeds from this year’s MR8K will benefit all those who stand up for others when it would be easier to do nothing at all,” said Martin’s father Bill Richard during a press conference announcing the event back in May. “It is our way of saying thank you to them for what they did for us and do for others every day.”

(Photo Credit: Martin Richard Foundation)

While there are no exact confirmations on who from the B’s will be attending or participating in the Labor Day race (in the past players such as Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Tuukka Rask have all volunteered their time for first responder events), there will be one recognizable name and athlete there to share in the positive spirit: 2014 Boston Marathon Winner Meb Keflezighi, seen above greeting members from the Richard Family! He will be racing with more than 100 members of “Team MR8,” according to a news update from the Martin Richard Foundation — “The team hopes to raise $800,000 this year for the Foundation, which provides opportunities for young people to learn, grow, and lead through volunteerism and community engagement.”

Image result for boston bruins first responders(Photo Credit: Boston Herald)

And even though the “Run For Gratitude” is only in its first year, this certainly isn’t the fist time the Bruins have rallied around the city’s first responders. Since 2016, the team annually holds a First Responder Night at the TD Garden and for every one of the games, the round of applause and support showed to all the honorees in attendance raises a few Black N’ Gold banners even higher!

Speaking of that courageous Causeway clamor, one of the most memorable — and unforgettable — team moments came when Bruins players gave the jerseys off their backs to the Boston Marathon First Responders in 2013:

And since there’s no such thing as a “day off” for these valiant men and women, let’s give a big Bruins puck salute on Labor Day to all those whose labor keeps us safe, sound & secure. That’s the kind of gratitude worth running for every day!

IMG_8221(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins)

Bruins To Partner With Special Olympics

Bruins SO(Photo Credit: NHLBruins)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

As part of the team’s “B-Inclusive” initiative both on and off the ice, the Boston Bruins Foundation announced a $1 million partnership with the MA Special Olympics for the upcoming season and beyond. According to the press release, the donation will be spread out over the next 3 years and will help “educate fans on the impressive work that Special Olympics Massachusetts is doing in the community, and most importantly, the incredible talent and determination demonstrated by the athletes.”

“This marks the largest donation by the Boston Bruins Foundation to date.” — NHL.com

The announcement was timed to coincide with the team’s annual charity golf fundraiser, which I featured in a recent Black N’ Gold Blog post about how the Bruins franchise has made a lasting impact on the city, community, and region as a whole, especially the foundation. At that early September tournament, Special Olympics athletes with be honored through a ceremonial tee shot with a member of the B’s (my guess is Patrice Bergeron). Speaking of golf, you can show your drive for the team by hitting the on-the-links link in the tweet below from our blog Editor-In-Chief @BlackAndGold277:

“The [Boston Bruins] Foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for children in numerous capacities.” — NHL.com

The team and foundation’s press release also mentions that many MA Special Olympics athletes will be on hand for the B’s home opener at TD Garden against the Senators. “The athletes in attendance will partake in an array of experiences such as bench assistants, **high-five lines, and ice resurfacer rides. The Bruins will continue to highlight Special Olympics athletes in game throughout the season,” it mentions. So as I like to say in my “Mark Your Bruins Calendar” articles (Parts I, II & III are “highlighted” here), highlight Monday, October 8th, 2018 on the schedule!

**The Bruins “high-five line” became a national and international story of heart, humor & humanity in 2014 when little Liam Fitzgerald representing the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) brought a smile to everyone in attendance, especially the players & bench staff, when he fist bumped the boys in Black N’ Gold as they came off the ice to head down the B’s locker room tunnel.

After that unforgettable experience (which was shared thousands upon thousands of time across social media, major TV networks and news affiliates, and countless sporting/trade publications) Liam became known as the @fistbumpkid. The rest is Bruins history!

Speaking of which, he went out of his way to show support on Twitter for the Boston Bruins and their foundation after hearing the historic news about the Special Olympics partnership.

There’s no better way to “B-Inclusive” than that!

BInclusive(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins Foundation)

Bruins Alum Featured In “Finding Murph” Documentary

Joe Murphy Bruins(Photo Credit: Hockey Card Database)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

From being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 NHL Draft out of the illustrious Michigan State University hockey program (he led the Spartans to an NCAA National Championship that year) to a Stanley Cup Champion four years later with the unbeatable Edmonton Oilers (versus the beleaguered Boston Bruins, mind you, and clinched at the “Old Garden” as you can see in his goal-scoring clip below against a pad-stacked Andy Moog), Joe Murphy‘s hockey career — and destiny — seemed set for stardom.

But by the time he returned to Boston (now as a home team player) for a fight-filled cameo during the 1999-2000 season, he was literally fighting his own demons and was in a difficult personal and professional state of mind, according to his former teammates and coaches. While still a talented goal scorer, playmaker, and skater on the ice, it was his personality and pugilism off the ice — sparring with fellow players and criticizing team personnel openly and derogatorily — that often had him benched, and not just in the figurative sense. Years later, we would learn that the many concussions he suffered while playing the game proved detrimental to not only his career, but also his life and health. This may explain why he didn’t endear himself to the Bruins organization (or fans) that season and was subsequently traded after only 26 games. In an excerpt from an article in the Globe And Mail from February of 2000, here’s what Bruins brass had to say at the time about the behavior and attitude of a disgruntled and ostracized Murphy:

“The players have had enough and I have had enough. I don’t have time for [Murphy’s antics and lack of respect].”

— Coach Pat Burns

“Seeing [his insubordination] is not good for the younger players. We’ve suspended him and we’re looking to move him.”

— GM Mike O’Connell

(Photo Credit: Game Worn Auctions)

Murphy, as we know, did move on from Boston, but it is this moving story from TSN Originals that has put him back on the map, and not just in New England and Michigan, but all over Canada. In particular, Northern Ontario where he’s tragically been living homeless for quite some time. I strongly suggest you click on the link above to learn more about his historic and heartbreaking story — one all-too-familiar for hockey players and athletes who have dealt with head injuries or are currently dealing with them.

Aug_ 22-finding murph

“Finding Murph” originally aired on TSN on August 21st, 2018. For more information on the NHL’s continued legal battles with concussion lawsuits (and victims like Murphy), see the Real Sports w/ Bryant Gumbel special below:

While in Boston, Murphy posted 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points to go along with 41 PIM — the majority of which, as expected, were for fighting. His career totals were 233G-295A-528P with 801 PIM in 779 career games. He officially retired in 2001 after playing parts of 18 seasons in the NHL with seven different teams, including the aforementioned Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers in 1989-90.

IMG_8078(Photo Credit: HHOF)

 

 

Mark Your Bruins Calendar: Part III

640x360_downloadbruinsschedule(Photo Credit: NESN)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

The 2018-2019 Boston Bruins schedule should be entertaining, eye-catching, exciting, and definitely exhausting (this brings whole new meaning to the phrase “E” for effort). But if the B’s are buzzing, especially during the Fall/Winter stints that I recently wrote about, as well as the early/late Spring games-to-watch, then you can safely bet on “S” for success next season.

Speaking of the upcoming season, and with the recent release of all the nationally televised games, here are some additional NBC/NBC Sports games you should highlight for the B’s as you “Mark Your Bruins Calendar: Part III!”

Wednesday Night Hockey Debut

Image result for bruins capitals verizon(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

What used to be called “Wednesday Night Rivalry” on NBC Sports is now re-branded as Wednesday Night Hockey. And there’s no better way to draw fans and viewers in than to debut this new format/style of a national hockey broadcast with the defending Stanley Cup Champs hosting your Boston Bruins. It will be a tough test right out of the gate for the B’s and with plenty of eyes/critics/doubters/prognosticators watching. Can Rask outduel Holtby, which historically hardly happens (especially when the B’s are in DC)? Can the young guns generate plenty of offense and energy in Game 1 like they did a year ago against another Cup-tested Nashville team? This will undoubtedly be a “must see” game for not just Boston and Washington fans, but all hockey fans in general. So mark your Bruins calendar for Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018!

The Winter Classic

Image result for nhl winter classic 2019(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

An Original 6 duel on outdoor ice in one of the most historic stadiums in the country… that’s an unmissable match-up if there ever was one in the sport! Not to mention it’s a 2013 Stanley Cup rematch and a geographic “home game” for the Blackhawks. Add to it that the Bruins didn’t have any lady luck or puck luck on their side in their most recent Winter Classic contest against the Habs and what you “hab” is a game well-worth watching and cheering on. If this year’s Celtic-esque logo is any type of foreshadowing for the B’s, then New Year’s Day should be a fun one (and win) indeed! So mark your Bruins calendar for Tuesday, January 1st, 2019!

Canadiens Come Calling

Image result for boston bruins montreal(Photo Credit: SportBet)

Sure, the rivalry hasn’t been as heated in the past few seasons as Montreal works to “rebuild” itself. But there’s nothing like a national TV game, and at home (the Bruins first of the season), to get the Black N’ Gold juices flowing against the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. Hopefully, it’ll be as entertaining as this barn-burner from yesteryear featuring Milan Lucic and Co.

No matter the outcome, it’s always a surefire guarantee that the Garden will be packed, rocking, and full of “hated Habs” spirit. Oh yeah, all of Canada will be watching this one, too! So mark your Bruins calendar for Monday, January 14th, 2019!

Taking On Tampa

Image result for bruins versus tampa(Photo Credit: TSM Plug)

Yes, I skipped over six intriguing nationally-televised Bruins’ broadcasts to get to this game. But here’s why: the B’s will be 3/4 of the way done with their season by now — a season in which they’ll be constantly battling with the Tampa Bay Lightning for playoff positioning, maybe even the Atlantic Division crown. So by the time late February rolls around, the stakes for this game could be as big as the D-pairings, with lots to gain or lose after the drop of the puck. Thankfully, that puck drop will be in Boston and the hometown crowd will be on their feet most of the game to motivate the B’s. And believe me when I say the Bruins will need it, as this TB in New England is certainly not as well-received as the other. So mark your Bruins calendar for Thursday, February 28th, 2019!

Rangers & Red Wings Round It Out

 

(Photo Credits: CBS Sports & Boston Herald)

The final two NBCSN games for the Bruins are also Original 6 rivalries versus the Rangers (home) and Red Wings (away), respectively. And these games WILL matter, especially since they come in the final week plus of the regular season and always seem to go late into the 3rd period or OT before a “W” is on the board. As you can see from the above pics, Brad Marchand certainly enjoys playing New York & Detroit and has a consistent tendency to make their goalies face plant, as opposed to Jacques Plante (who’d never dream of getting caught like this back in his heyday). But rest assured, if the B’s seize the day against their historic rivals and pick up four big broadcast points, perhaps the playoff schedule will also need a few highlights to it! So mark your Bruins calendar for Wednesday, March 27th & Sunday, March 31st!

 

 

Bruins Players Set Example On The Ice & In The Community

Patrice's Pals3(“Patrice’s Pals” – Photo Credit: BostonBruins.com)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

If you’re a professional athlete, there’s a level of expectation from fans, media, and management to “give back.” After all, you’re playing sports for a living and making large sums of money for it. Life can be a whole heckuva lot harder. Yet, for players on the Boston Bruins — both past and present — giving back has never been an issue. In fact, it’s been as consistent as a Zdeno Chara slapshot, Patrice Bergeron assist, Brad Marchand breakaway, or Tuukka two-pad stacker. You can count on all of the above just like you can count on anyone wearing a B’s sweater to do their part in the community.

It’s setting this example both on and off the ice where the best Bruins players have excelled most recently. And it’s the reason why some of our favorites from yesteryear continue to be talked about and admired today. Here are just some of the ways generous gents wearing the Black N’ Gold have shown the best kind of charity to local New England charities over the years, and why we think the world of them for it (I’m sure I’ll miss mentioning some of the charitable ways the B’s have bettered their community, but that’s a nice problem to have I think)!

Bruins Wives’ Charity Carnival

Bruins Charity Carnival Shirt(“Charity Carnival” – Photo Credit: Etsy)

This was my first introduction to generosity with a capital ‘G’ for players wearing the spoked capital ‘B.’ As you can see from the vintage shirt pictured above, the slogan B’cause we care, were ‘Bruin’ up a better Boston, fit the team, city, and organization to a ‘T’ (another Boston wink & nod). While no longer in existence, the Bruins Wives’ Charity Carnival raised money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and featured the most popular B’s roster players of the era — along with their spouses — playing hockey games, holding competitions, fielding Q&A’s, signing autographs, and plenty more, all in the heart of “The Garden,” old and new. If I still lived in Western Massachusetts, I’d have driven to my parents’ home and raided the basement to find all my old Charity Carnival programs, pictures, pins and the like. It was an eye-opening experience for any young B’s fan not only because you got to meet your favorite players, but also because you met many kids your age benefiting from the CFF. To see first-hand what “giving back” looks like had a profound effect and I’ll forever be grateful to the B’s for instilling that commitment to community within me.

The Cam Neely Foundation

Nashville Predators v Boston Bruins(“The Neely House” – Photo Credit: CamNeelyFoundation.org)

No. 8 was my favorite player growing up, and as soon as I was a grown-up working in local media and often partnering with area children’s hospitals and clinics, Cam Neely became even more of a favorite of mine. That’s because in 1995 he started the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care in honor of his parents, both of whom passed away due to cancer. Since then, the former B’s All-Star and current team president has worked alongside a dedicated foundation team to “donate over $30 million to Tufts Medical Center to design, fund and complete projects with immediate tangible results that have had a positive impact on thousands of families” dealing with cancer treatment, care and hospitalization, according to its website. We always knew Neely to be quite the prolific goal scorer, but these goals are achievements with life-changing results that have positively impacted countless Boston-area children and their families. Maybe we need a new hockey nickname for the B’s boss: “the Gr8 one!”

The Boston Bruins Foundation

Bruins Foundation.jpg(“The Boston Bruins Foundation” – Photo Credit: NHL.com)

This summer, Bruins owner Charlie Jacobs made a big announcement: the Boston Bruins Foundation, which started in 2003 as a way for the team to give back to the organizations that matter most to the fans in Boston, successfully raised more than $3 million to 150 area non-profit charities. Among them, “the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, Operation Hat Trick, local Boys & Girls Clubs, Franciscan Children’s Adaptive Skating Program, and Massachusetts Hockey,” to quote but a few from the celebratory press release. One of the most notable beneficiaries of the Foundation and one that B’s legend Bobby Orr was integral in helping was the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey league team. The Bruins largest 50/50 raffle of the 2017-18 season donated a total of $200,000 to the team’s community relief efforts in the wake of the tragic bus crash that claimed the lives of 16 players and team personnel in April.

Bruins Broncos(Photo Credit: BostonBruins.com)

Other noteworthy sponsorships, partnerships, and collaborations from the Boston Bruins Foundation (with photo credits courtesy of all the respective events) feature both current B’s players and respected alumni all working together to improve, enhance, enlighten, and entertain the hard-working people and families who cheer on the Bruins:

  • The 15th Annual Boston Bruins Golf Tournament
  • The 3rd Annual Bowl with a Bruin Fundraiser (and yes, that’s candlepin bowling pictured for all you non-New Englanders out there)

Bourque Foundation

  • The 2018 Pan-Mass Challenge

Bruins Pan Mass Challenge

Patrice’s Pals

Pictured at the top of this article is Patrice Bergeron with kids from the Children’s Hospital, Boston as well as area youth hockey players. They are all Patrice’s Pals, which brings patients from local hospitals and other children’s organizations to the TD Garden to experience a Bruins home game where these deserving children are able to feel the excitement of a professional hockey game as VIP guests,” as the Bruins official website states.

(Photo Credits: BostonBruins.com)

Ever since No. 37 first took the ice for the B’s back in 2003 (FIFTEEN YEARS AGO…THAT’S INSANE), he’s been an integral, essential part of the team’s success. Bergy is a leader who sets an example through his dedication, hard work, and perseverance, Bergeron does the same when it comes to his community work. You could argue he puts the puck in the net just as frequently as he puts smiles on the faces of countless kids and families across New England. I’d say he does that even more! It’s hard to imagine where the Boston Bruins would be right now, both as a hockey franchise and as a charitable pillar in the region, without Patrice Bergeron. We could all be so fortunate to call him “Pal!”

Chara’s PJ Drive

Chara Cradles to Crayons(Photo Credit: Cradles to Crayons)

For the past 3 years, B’s Captain Zdeno Chara, whom everyone loves to call “Big Z,” has truly made a big difference around Greater Boston by leading the charge for the team’s annual “PJ Drive.” Like Bergeron, Big Z is as integral to the team’s success off the ice as he is on it, working as a mentor, leader, volunteer, and spokesman for numerous charitable causes & organizations, none-so more endearing than the PJ Drive, which benefits area youth in need. “Over 100,000 Massachusetts children have received PJ’s through the Bruins PJ Drive over the past ten years,” according to a team press release. The only other “PJ” with this much success in Boston is Mr. Axelsson (who I featured in a blog post about the B’s best scouts earlier this summer — you always “feel the need for Swede” when Per-Johan is around)!

Cuts For A Cause

This upcoming season will be the Bruins’ 11th season participating in the “Cuts For A Cause” program that benefits children’s cancer research at the Tufts Medical Center. As you can see in the video above, and as #BehindTheB has chronicled over the past few seasons, this event is a fan and player favorite. It’s also an incredible bonding experience for the boys in Black N’ Gold and is often referenced throughout the year as the time many players became even closer to one another and the Boston community at large.

Our friends at Bruins Daily on Twitter shared a few years ago just how positive and difference-making this event can be for the city. “Well done,” indeed!

Putts & Punches for Parkinson’s

Thornton Golf(Photo Credit: Twitter)

You’d be hard pressed to find any person around the city of Boston who didn’t/doesn’t love what Shawn Thornton brings/brought to the table for the team and the community. Just take a look at the homepage for “The Shawn Thornton 22 Foundation,” and you’ll see exactly what I mean. It’s one thing to be a Stanley Cup champion in town, and it’s something even more impressive to be a champion of the people. And that’s exactly who Thornton was, is and will continue to be in retirement. From his aforementioned Putts & Punches for Parkinson’s golf outing to his road & marathon races to his everyday volunteerism, he and his foundation are all about raising awareness, funding innovative research, and helping to relieve the burden and improve the quality of life for patients and their families, as his website illustrates. But here’s the paragraph that brings a smile to people’s faces:

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“While in Boston, Shawn took on a very active role in the community, becoming a fan favorite of many local residents. He is no stranger to public or media appearances and is extremely involved in the charitable world. He regularly visited local hospitals, sat on the board for a variety of charity events, and was a spokesperson for Athletes for Heroes, a program that supports the children of fallen or severely injured soldiers. In 2009 Shawn received the John P. Bucyk Award which honors the Bruins player who has contributed the most to charitable and community endeavors.”

“The Chief” himself would be proud of all the recent and current Bruins players who go above and beyond the “B” to set an example on the ice and in the community. And good news for Boston fans all over New England — I don’t think this admirable trend is going away anytime soon!

Rene Rancourt: Bruins Legend

Rene Rancourt Bruins Bear(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

Oh, say can you sing like Rene Rancourt?

Well, for those who thought his mellifluous mic could soon be theirs, the search was recently on (and now narrowing according to our friends at 98.5 The Sports Hub) for the B’s next anthem singer. But oh what Star-Spangled shoes you’d have to fill! After an impressive 42 years belting both the U.S. and Canadian National Anthems on original Boston Garden ice, FleetCenter ice, TD Banknorth Garden ice and lastly TD Garden ice, the inimitable Rancourt has hung up his trademark tuxedo for retirement.

Let’s take a look back at some of the lyrical love, memorable moments, and fired-up fist pumps Rancourt left us that will not be soon forgotten in Boston — or anywhere throughout the world of hockey for that matter!

Show Me The (Fen)Way to “Oh, Say”

Just minutes before Louis Tiant took the mound at Fenway Park in the above 1975 World Series Game 6 clip, bringing every fan to their feet, another then-Bostonian did the same with a rousing rendition of the American National Anthem. That man was Rene Rancourt.

“One of the greatest thrills of my life was to sing in the World Series because they generally hire very famous singers at the World Series,” he told Vice Sports during an interview in 2016. And that famous singer he was referring to? None other than the Songbird of the South Kate Smith herself (click the link to hear her timeless take on “God Bless America” at a Bruins/Flyers game from 1974), who had fallen ill only hours before the first pitch. Thankfully, Rancourt’s pitch was first up for backup after he had impressed venerable Red Sox organist John Kiley with his vocal prowess on the radio. After all, Rousing Rene was a product of the Boston Conservatory opera program and had come from a choir background, so he obviously had the pipes to produce a patriotic performance. And just like Carlton Fisk’s unforgettable home run during that game, Rancourt’s anthem was equally unforgettable; Kiley, also the Bruins organist at the Old Garden, soon recommended he go from Yawkey Way to Causeway Street to continue his respectful rendition of American tradition honoring our Red, White & Blue for the Black N’ Gold. The rest, as they say in opera, is la historia.

Rene Rancourt 1976Rene Rancourt in 1976 – his first year singing the National Anthem at the Boston Garden (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(Fist)Pump It Up!

You can thank Randy “Stump Pump” Burridge, the feisty B’s forward from the mid to late 1980’s, for giving Rene Rancourt his signature move after performing the anthem. Rancourt, as he described to the Boston Globe (and in other recent interviews), got the idea after seeing Burridge pump his fists in the air whenever he scored a goal.

And in 1988-89, Burridge scored a lot of goals — 31 to be exact — so Rancourt had plenty of time to practice and perfect the pump, as well as his unmistakable “salute” upon conclusion of the anthem:

What a tradition both of those gestures became for Boston fans on home ice. You knew exactly what to expect when the red carpet rolled out for Rene–perfect diction and enunciation, resonating-to-the-rafters vocals and a salute-to-fist-pump finish that truly got you pumped up to watch the game. He became as iconic as the spoked-B emblazoned on the team’s jersey; when you thought of playing Boston in Boston, you also thought of Rene Rancourt. And how could you not when every home game — and I mean EVERY home game (he once said he only missed one performance in his 40+ years of singing because he was sick) — started like this:

A True RENEaissance Man

So we all know Rene Rancourt can sing the anthem and with plenty of puck panache and acoustic aplomb. But did you also know he’s an accomplished wedding singer? Eat your heart out, Adam Sandler, because Mr. Rancourt’s been doing it since the 60’s when his then-girlfriend, now-wife Maria helped him start a wedding band. “A society orchestra,” he called it during his Globe interview.

In fact, Rancourt joked that singing in a wedding band with Maria and performing at weddings “paid the bills” in between his anthem stints for the B’s. But what he truly enjoyed, especially later in his career, was paying it back to the Boston fans. And there was no better time for a generous gift from Rene than to hear him sing your favorite Christmas carols and holiday hits at intermission of the Bruins home game closest to the 25th of December:

I remember him belting out all of the above tunes year after year to non-stop festive fanfare and sporting spirit. This was the only home game I could ever make it to for years because my professional work life in broadcasting rarely afforded me time off. But around Christmas, the schedule was always a little lighter, so it made coming back to Boston for a few days all the more doable and all the more memorable. And you better believe I’d time it to not miss the “Rene Caroling Game.” No such game for me was more memorable than in 2010 when the first few thousand fans in attendance went home with a coveted Rene Rancourt ornament and also had the chance to meet him during the second-period intermission. Needless to say, or better yet like he did sing, “there’s no place like home for the holidays.” Thanks, Rene!

During the 2nd intermission of the Bruins’ Pre-Christmas home game on Dec. 23rd, 2010, Rancourt rolled out the red carpet for “pump pics” with fans. (Photo Credit: Evan Michael)

Holding (Ran)Court When It Counts

There are moments in sports that are more groundbreaking, more unifying, more emblematic of the goodness of people than anywhere else, including politics. And Rene Rancourt was at the center, or should I say center ice, of one of those indelible moments. It was only 48 hours after the tragic Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013 that the Bruins were scheduled to play the Sabres at home. The city, still in a state of shock, disbelief, and recovery, was in need of a sign of hope, togetherness, strength. And it goes without saying how BOSTON STRONG everyone in attendance at this game became once Rancourt started singing. Only two lines into the anthem, right after he uttered proudly the word “proudly,” he let his voice trail off so the crowd could be heard. In unison, 17,565 hearts and voices seamlessly took over and sent a message to the rest of the nation and the world that Boston was stronger than ever, with a resolve more fervent and passionate for its citizens and its country than anywhere else at that time.

Watching this clip, even all these years later, still gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes. And it couldn’t have happened without Rancourt truly feeling the significance of the moment and truly being IN the moment. This wasn’t just another regular rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was a cathartic experience of joy and togetherness, of indomitable strength and unflinching spirit, of the courage and will of a people to not be defeated, even in the aftermath of tragedy and terror.

In his own words, when interviewed by our friends at NESN just before his retirement, here’s how Rancourt described that day, that anthem and that moment: “Nothing comes close to that…The marathon bombing game, where the Bruins just happened to be the only professional sports team playing right after it. I think it was two days after. I was petrified to get out there. I planned, of course, to stop singing in the middle of it, but I was very, very afraid of doing that. The reaction was something I will never, ever forget. That’s my proudest memory.”

Naturally, fans, media personalities, and Bruins bloggers across social media agree:

As Animated As They Come

To say Rene Rancourt was an animated character, what with his salutes, fist pumps and overall energetic performances, would be an accurate statement. Turns out, it’s also quite the understatement since he literally became animated for the short-lived — but beloved — Bruins YouTube series “The Bear and The Gang.”

(Photo Credits: BearShorts.com)

It was at times “out of this world” but certainly didn’t make you feel “deserted” when it came to entertainment value. There was also a sitcom-style pilot that featured Rancourt’s rather spot-on acting chops parodying his own anthem ending in what looked to be Brad Marchand’s basement. I tell you what…if he sang before every hockey video game I played, I’d play a lot more hockey video games (my favorite will always be NHL ’94 which rather fittingly featured Bruins goalie Andy Moog on the cover).

Banner Yet Waving Goodbye

As we say goodbye and give a grateful fond farewell to the institution that was Rene Rancourt, we should all remember that sometimes the most inspirational people in our lives can be the ones who we aren’t necessarily close to, but who make us feel close to each other — who bring us closer together just by being who they are and doing what they do. Rene was just that kind of person. And we only need to look back on his long career and legacy to be reminded of it.

(Photo Credits: Twitter)

Thankfully, the Boston Bruins organization and the city of Boston as a whole will always help us do that with tributes like this:

Interviews like this:

And celebrations like this:

Not one, not two, not even three…but FOUR 👊👊👊👊  fist pumps to you, Mr. Rancourt, for an incredible career in Boston — one that forever shaped B’s fandom and will continue to do so even after a new voice takes over. Because some voices will always ring, and sing, loudly and proudly in our minds no matter how much time passes.

Oh, say it isn’t so? Thankfully, this time it is!

Mark Your Bruins Calendar: Part II

Bruins Season Tix

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

With a new hockey year comes a renewal of hope (and season tickets courtesy of Tuukka Rask & Patrice Bergeron) for Bruins fans, players, and management. And after recently writing about key games to start the upcoming NHL season for the B’s (2018), it’s now time to highlight the actual new year (2019) and what it has to offer, schedule-wise, for Boston. So let’s get ready to mark your Bruins calendar, part deux edition!

JANUARY GAMES:

It goes without saying that the always enjoyable “Winter Classic” contest should be on this list, especially with the B’s “fighting on” the Blackhawks at historic Notre Dame Stadium. But do these outdoor games really change the way a team is shaped, or how its identity is formed? Or are they mostly entertaining affairs where the only elements that matter are the ones Mother Nature controls not Coach Cassidy?

Notre Dame Winter Classic

(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

As a result, let’s focus on the games played in an environment truly under B’s control: the TD Garden. And in January, the B’s practically live there all month. With 7 home games out of the 9 they play before their mandatory “off week” / All-Star weekend, including 4 in a row after the big Winter Classic tilt, it’ll be like an Air BNB for the BNG in Boston (and the team then returns from the break with an additional two home games making it their busiest month on Garden ice). It doesn’t take a hockey expert or Corsi analytics nerd to understand that if you take care of business in Beantown during this stretch, you either maintain momentum / build momentum or close the gap / stretch the gap in the Atlantic Division race.

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(Photo Credit: BostonBruins.com)

The two most highlight-worthy at-home match-ups, in my humble opinion, over these three weeks happen to be versus the Capitals on the 10th and then the Rangers on the 19th (with a shoutout, and perhaps a shootout, to the Canadiens on the 14th just because it’s Montreal and those games are always an entertaining hoot with hootenanny potential). So there you have it: mark January 3rd – 19th on your Bruins calendar!

FEBRUARY GAMES:

Conversely, in fabulous February the B’s embark on a lengthy two-week road trip thru California, the Vegas desert and “Bluesy” Missouri — similar to the way they started the season with their west coast Canadian kick. As Brick & Jack always like to point out (as did other great Bruins broadcasters mentioned right here on the Black N’ Gold Hockey Blog), “if the B’s can take at least 6 out of these 10 points, it’ll be a successful trip.” And that’s easier said than done, especially since this trip is front-loaded with back-to-backs against the always competitive and pesky Ducks and Kings followed by the always Cup-contending Sharks only one break day later.

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(Photo Credit: BostonBruins.com)

This stretch away from the comforts of home (and through multiple time zones mind you) will undoubtedly stretch the Bruins talent thin and offer a challenge that if met, could bolster the team’s confidence, core and camaraderie — something always welcomed with only a third of the schedule left in play!

(Photo Credits: Evan Michael)

Additionally, with Los Angeles being my current home base, I always try to make a few of these road trip games (rocking classics from my B’s goalie jersey collection to boot — Lord Byron and the Mooger pictured above). I look forward to offering my in-the-arena insight when this part of the schedule skates around next year. So there you have it: mark February 15th – 23rd on your Bruins calendar!

MARCH & APRIL GAMES:

The 2018-2019 Bruins season could come to a climactic Columbus close with Boston battling the Blue Jackets three times in the final three weeks, along with two tilts each against the Florida teams (as I like to deride). That’s 7 of the final 13 games–more than half for those math whizzes out there–versus teams that are not only playoff caliber (Tampa) but also playoff hungry (the Jackets and Panthers). You could even argue the games against Tampa may be Atlantic Division-altering games — Florida too for that matter since they’re a much-improved hockey club — and depending on how the B’s play, their season could be on the line.

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(Photo Credit: ESPNBoston.com)

Hopefully, it’s only “playoff positioning” the Bruins are playing for during this torridly tough stretch, but there are no guarantees in this league. Especially, not with all of the aforementioned clubs eager to prove they’re legit squads that can hold their own in the East. So hold that highlighter close and mark March 12th – April 6th on your Bruins calendar!

MAY & JUNE GAMES (BOLD PREDICTION):

If the Bruins are to be playing hockey during my birth month and beyond, then here’s how I think it’ll shake out. And I’m basing this prediction/assumption/foreshadowing only on gut instinct and lessons learned from last season. I think the B’s will qualify for the postseason as the 3rd seed out of the Atlantic (a few points higher than Florida and a few points lower than Toronto and Tampa but all clumped between 100-110 points). I think they’ll win their first round match-up against the Flyers — how they end up facing the Flyers what with all the funky end-of-season math involved I don’t know — but my seer self says it’ll be a take-down of Philly that propels them to the second round versus Tampa for a rematch. They will successfully win this rematch when solid trade deadline acquisitions [that bolstered both the blue-line and scoring wing categories a few weeks earlier] help bolt them past the Bolts in seven games. As late May approaches, not to be confused with Bruins-killer Brad May, the B’s will then face off against the defending Cup champs and will “Capitalize” on their newfound success, propelling them to an early June date with Jumbo Joe and the Sharks for the ultimate B’s past-versus-present contest.

Ah, who am I kidding, it’s early August on the calendar, and I’m just dreaming of a hockey storyline well worth renewing!