Has Toronto Overtaken Montreal As The Bruins’ Biggest Rival?

( Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP Photo )

By: Jack McCarthy  |  Follow Me On Twitter @73johnnymac

Bruins vs. Canadiens Rivalry

The Boston Bruins have enjoyed a long and storied rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, long considered their fiercest rival.  The rivalry dates back to December of 1924 and has seen the teams meet in 923 regular season games as well as 177 playoff games.  The animosity that has existed for almost a century including an NHL record 34 playoff meetings has lifted the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry into the upper echelon of the all-time great rivalries in sport.  Think Yankees-Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers, Manchester United-Liverpool.

Montreal has held the upper hand over the Bruins for much of their history.  Bruins fans growing up watching the Bruins in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were particularly frustrated as Montreal won 18 consecutive playoff series over the B’s between 1946 and 1987.  The streak was finally snapped when the Bruins defeated Montreal 4-1 at the Forum on April 26th, 1988.  The records have been much more even since the streak ended, the Bruins winning 7 of the last 12 series between the two clubs.

The rivalry has been fueled by frequency, both regular-season meetings as divisional opponents and through frequent playoff matchups  Classic games such as Game 7 of the 1979 Stanley Cup Semi-Finals, better known as the Don Cherry, too many men game, to Mats Naslund’s game 5 dagger with 51 seconds remaining to give Montreal a 1-0 victory and a 3-2 series win in their 1985 Adams Division semi-final.  More recently, Nathan Horton’s game 7, overtime, series clinching goal which propelled the Bruins on their path to winning the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship stands out as a game that produced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for the respective fan bases.

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Rivalry

As the Bruins prepare to do battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second consecutive opening round, and third time in 6 seasons, the question begs, has Toronto become a bigger rival than the Canadiens?

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The Bruins and Maple Leafs also have a long history.  The teams first met in the 1924-25 season and have faced off 750 times in the regular season as well as 76 times in the playoffs.  The Bruins and Leafs have not played as frequently as the Bruins and Canadiens, including over a hundred fewer playoff games, as Toronto resided in the Western Conference prior to the 1998-99 season.  In all, the current series marks the 16th all time playoff match-up between the Bruins and Maple Leafs with Toronto holding an 8-7 advantage.  The Bruins however, have won the last 5-playoff meetings. Toronto’s last playoff victory over the Bruins was in the 1958-59 season.

Toronto, as we know, is a hockey mad city, the self-proclaimed centre of the hockey universe.  It is also a city whose beloved Leafs have been deprived of playoff success for more than a generation.  It last paraded Lord Stanley’s silverware in 1967.  There are a few factors that have intensified the Bruins and Leafs rivalry over the past decade.

The first significant event that began to bring this rivalry to life was the Phil Kessel trade on the eve of the 2009-10 season.  Kessel was traded to Toronto for a package of draft picks and then the Maple Leafs proceeded to have a couple of poor seasons allowing the Bruins to draft Tyler Seguin in 2010 and Dougie Hamilton in 2011.  It became obvious fairly early on that the Bruins would benefit from that trade and when the Leafs visited the Bruins in Kessel’s return to Boston in December, 2009, the B’s faithful packed the Garden.  That game marked the beginning of a sell-out streak that is now approaching 10 years for the Bruins.

The next, and perhaps biggest contributing factor was the epic Bruins comeback against the Leafs in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.  Toronto led Boston 4-1 early in the third period of game 7, before Boston staged one of the most memorable comebacks in the history the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The Bruins became the first NHL team to win a game 7 after trailing by three goals in the third period, winning 5-4 in overtime.  Combined with last seasons’ seven game opening round series, also going the Bruins way in a third period comeback, the rivalry is alive and well.

The question is, has the rivalry with Toronto overtaken that with Montreal for the Bruins and their fans?  The answer depends entirely on whom you talk to.  Arguably, Boston and Toronto has become the ultimate rivalry for a new generation of hockey fans, those not old enough to recall Joe Thornton in the black and gold or Mats Sundin in the blue and white.  Those of us who are a little longer in the tooth however, likely still hold just a little bit more disdain for the Canadiens than we do the Leafs.  That said, the Canadiens had better hurry up and make their way back into the playoffs, after all, with every new chapter the Bruins and Leafs write, the gap is closing.

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The CHERRY On Top: Former Bruins Coach Honored

Image result for don cherry boston bruins suit

(Photo Credit: Boston Bruins)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

The Sports Museum honored former Boston Bruins coach (and one-time player as you may recall from an earlier article I wrote for the Black N’ Gold Blog) Don Cherry at the TD Garden on Wednesday, November 28th amid a crowd of other sports legends connected to the city and the region. Still fashionably flamboyant & crazily charismatic as ever, Cherry arrived truly “well-suited” for the celebration as you can see from the B’s Twitter account below:

The Tradition event is an annual ticketed gala that raises money (and awareness) for The Sports Museum, one of the “hidden gems” inside the home of the B’s that many fans forget is a must-see stop in my humble hockey opinion (IMHHO, as you may recall). As described by its website:

The Sports Museum is a non-profit educational institution that has served Boston and New England for the past 40 years.

Founded in 1977 and housed on Levels 5 & 6 of the TD Garden, The Sports Museum features a half-mile of exhibits celebrating the history and character of Boston sports.

Through its educational programs Boston vs. Bullies (www.bostonvsbullies.org) and Stand Strong, The Sports Museum leads the way in using the power of sports to help kids build character and prevent and stop bullying. All told, more than 25,000 upper elementary and middle school students each year experience a character building Sports Museum educational program.

Delaware North Companies, Inc. – Boston (the company that owns the TD Garden and the Boston Bruins) provides The Sports Museum with office space, exhibit space, and management support. The presenting sponsor of The Sports Museum is New Balance Athletics, Inc.

That’s right… it features a HALF-MILE of exhibits celebrating the historycharacter of Boston sports, especially the Bruins. And when it comes to the team’s history, there may be no bigger character than Don Cherry. To wit:

And this was from earlier this year, mind you. Do yourself an entertaining favor and just google his “Coach’s Corner” broadcasts for Hockey Night in Canada with Ron McLean, in particular the older ones. You’ll BEAR witness to one of the most colorful, kooky, critical and at times uncensored personalities the game has ever known (which is old news for many spoked-B followers who are in their 40’s and above but required viewing for anyone within and around the millennial age bracket).

Speaking of brackets, when the B’s unceremoniously bowed out of their 1979 playoff one against their arch rivals–the Montreal Canadiens–in game 7 due to a historic too-many-men-on-the-ice blunder with the lead and only minutes to go, a less than cherubic Coach Cherry fielded what may be the best post-game presser in the annals of hockey history… or at least Bruins history:

I’ve never been able to look at any of my Aunts in the same way ever again. If this sentence and sentiment doesn’t make sense… please take the time to watch the above clip from :25 seconds to :30 seconds (or skip it if you don’t want to be offended, which in this day & age seems to happen no matter what someone says so just watch it and laugh already will ya).

Image result for don cherry winter classic(Photo Credit: SportsNet)

What’s no laughing matter (perhaps, outside of his suits)? The legacy that Cherry has left behind for the entire Bruins organization and fan base, like him or hate him. He led the B’s to four straight Adams Division titles (as it was called back in the 70’s, named for the founder of the Boston Bruins, in fact, Charles Francis Adams), two Stanley Cup Finals (it should’ve been three, I know), and a Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s “Coach of the Year” in 1976.

(Photo Credits: Coach’s Corner & HHOF)

Which is why, among many other coaching & commentating accomplishments, Cherry was the hockey man of the hour at The Tradition gala in Boston this holiday season — and no doubt the center of attention after being introduced by one of his “Big Bad Bruins” Terry O’Reilly. You didn’t need to be a professional or aficionado of the game to appreciate what a special night this must have been for all involved.

And as Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe recently wrote of Cherry, he was indeed “an original behind the Bruins’ bench” and will continue to be on broadcast airways across Canada (and occasionally the United States) for years to come.

(Photo Credit: The Sports Museum)

Congratulations, Coach! Talk about an evening & event of stars… with a CHERRY on top!!!

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Welcome Back To Boston: Best Bruins Reunions!

(Photo Credits: Evan Michael)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

Forget Mr. Gabe Kotter, it’s time to “Welcome Back” a few fan favorites (or forgetfuls) of the Bruins who took two turns thru town during their illustrious careers wearing the spoked-B. From players to coaches to player-coaches, even a couple of broadcasters and general managers, these Bruins enjoyed lengthy hockey careers with stints in Boston separated by a few seasons for some and decades for others. I’m sure there are additional names that could and/or should be on this list, but because I’ve got ’em on the spot, here are the ones I choose to tease a lot for “Best Bruins Reunions!”

The Captain Cooney Years (1928-’32, 1935-’39, 1940-’41)

Unlike Ralphie from A Christmas Story who nearly shoots his eye out, Ralph Weiland could shoot the puck past any goalie back in his heyday. Pictured in my post from the Fourth (Line) of July, “Cooney” as he was called, was a Cup Champ for the B’s three times — first as a rookie in 1929 then again in his farewell season of 1939 and then behind the bench as a coach in 1941. In “B”tween his Beantown years, he briefly played for the (original) Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. But it was his triumphant return to the franchise in 1935 after having left just a few years previous that the city of Boston will forever be grateful for. And not just because of the Stanley successes he led the Bruins to Captain Cooney also had a lasting impact at Harvard University where he coached the Crimson for two-plus decades post his memorable career wearing the Black N’ Gold (if you brush up on your French, you’ll understand why thanks to Hockey Canada below). Welcome Back, Cooney!

The Flaman Forties & Fifties (1944-’51, 1955-’61)

Move over John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt… there’s a new best long name in town: Ferdinand Charles Carl Flaman! And believe me, Bruins fans, whenever he did go out on the ice, the people always did shout his name. But they used “Fernie” since it was easier to say and more alliterative. When did they say it? For a nice chunk of time first in the forties then again in the late fifties. Sandwiched in the middle of those two Bruins stints was some Toronto time for Fernie, but any former Hub teammate or current North Shore grandparent will tell you that it was in Boston where the tough-as-nails D-man played his best hockey, racking up accolades & respect just as quickly as penalty minutes (he led the league in PIMs in ’54-’55).

Fernie Flaman

(Photo Credit: Hockey Ink)

Also a team captain like the aforementioned “Cooney,” Fernie (man, those are some great B’s nicknames, don’t you think!?) made the most of his return to the city and region, not only serving as a player-coach-GM for the AHL’s Providence Reds** but later as the head hockey coach of Northeastern. Welcome Back, Fernie!

**Read more about the history of hockey in Providence thanks to fellow blogger @hockeygirl2976 by clicking the link!

The Cherry On Top (1954-’55, 1974-’79)

So his NHL playing career only lasted one Bruins playoff game in 1955, but I’ll be damned if Don Cherry didn’t make my list! Flamboyant, eccentric, maddening, colorful (and I haven’t even got to his suits yet), Cherry was — and still is — one of the most singular and original personalities in and of the game.

(Photo Credits: Coach’s Corner & Hockey Night in Canada)

And all of those qualities were on full daily display when he returned as head coach of the B’s in the seventies. After that lone ’55 cameo call-up to Boston, Cherry spent the remainder of his playing career in the minors, even quitting the game during the dawn of Disco to work as a car salesman (perhaps the suit trend started here — “the only thing louder than this Caddie’s engine is my purple blazer!”). When that career didn’t sell, he was lured back to the ice, and ultimately back to the B’s, in 1974. During his time as bench boss of the Bruins, Cherry won everything but The Stanley Cup–from division titles to conference crowns to the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year. But it was the moment seen in the clip below which made Cherry truly unforgettable in Bruins lore (and not in the best way, once could argue):

There’s losing. Then there’s Don Cherry losing. But because we’re still talking about it (and did I mention those impeccable suits?) all these years later, I guess he’s somewhat winning. Ah, who am I kidding, any guy who when asked a question about the Bruins responds with “I love them so much I still wear their shorts” (thank you Windsor Star for this quotable gem) is as perfect as a summertime hot fudge sundae with whipped cream. And a Cherry on top. Welcome Back, Coach!

The OveraCheever (1967-’72, 1975-’80)

Let’s just clear the air, and the ice, right out of the gate and say that perhaps if this soon-to-be-mentioned gallant goalie was in net during the above “Too Many Men” incident, Bruins history would be a lot different (sorry Gilles Gilbert, I’ve always had an affinity for the other G-man between the pipes). And that’s Gerry Cheevers, whom I histrionically mentioned in my first ever post here at Black N’ Gold Hockey.

Gerry_Cheevers_game_3

(Photo Credit: Vintage Sports)

Cheevers, who practically pioneered the art form of “the flop” and always acted as the “third defenseman” of the game, became the B’s number one goalie in 1967 and kept that post-to-post post up until 1972, where after winning his second Stanley Cup in three years, he bolted from the B’s to the fledgling World Hockey Association (WHA). He tended net for the Cleveland Crusaders for four seasons before bouncing back to Boston to finish out his impressive playing career (the only thing more impressive than his Bruins stats during both of these stretches was his inimitable mask as seen below–it’ll literally and figuratively leave you in stitches).

Cheevers then went on to coach for the B’s throughout the early years of the Reagan administration before joining the Bruins broadcast booth on NESN and WSBK-TV in the late 90’s early 2000’s. However, when it comes to broadcasting, how’s this for the perfect Coach’s Corner combo–cherubic Cherry cheering Cheevers cheerfully:

The Bill For My Beers Years (1985-’89 & 1995-2000)

There’s just something about guys on the Bruins whose names start with “B” that I like. It feels like they were meant to play in Boston. And twice for this blog’s point! Let’s keep the good goalie vibes going by first featuring Billy Ranford, who impressed the B’s brass so much as a rookie in 1985 that he became what looked like Boston’s “goalie of the future” for 1986 and beyond.

(Photo Credits: Trading Card Database)

That is until a coaching change led to a change of scenery for Ranford in 1988–him being shipped to the Edmonton Oilers along with the plucky (and pucky) Geoff Courtnall for none other than the great Andy Moog. This trade is one I still to this day hem-and-haw about because I love Andy Moog (and tweet at him often because of my vintage NHL75 jersey) and know how amazing he was with Reggie Lemelin as a ‘tender tandem!

But I also know that Moog’s Bruins lost to Ranford’s Oilers twice in the Cup finals in ’88 and ’90, respectively. So who knows if a Ranford-in-Boston dynasty could have started if that trade never happened? Fittingly, another trade did happen, and good ole Billy boy found himself back in Boston for the mid-90’s but only for a few seasons. He then became a part of the infamous package to the Capitals that sent out Adam Oates & Rick Tocchet and brought in Jason Allison, Anson Carter and “The Net Detective” himself Jim Carey. While I do miss old-fashioned hockey trades like the ones described, one of BNG’s newest writers, @pastagrl88, has some more historical happenings to look at here if you’re into reminiscing and ruminating about what might have been for the B’s!

Speaking of “B’s,” let’s get to that second name–one that I’ll raise a glass to Bob Beers! While his playing career was split between the NHL and AHL both times he was with the Bruins organization (first from ’89-’93, then ’96-’00), the return investment on his return to Boston was when he joined WBZ as the B’s color commentator for radio broadcasts. While the aforementioned Cherry & Cheevers made a name for themselves on TV after their careers, Beers became for many fans thee Bruins voice across the AM & FM airwaves for commentary. Just like he was considered a “Star Rookie” as seen in the card above, here’s Beers talking with soon-to-be star rookie for Boston, Ryan Donato:

I’ve always enjoyed Beers’ insight into the game, knowledge of the game and passion for the game — all intangibles he brings to the booth as a former player who doubly appreciated his time in both Boston & Providence. Cheers to Beers and, of course, Welcome Back, Bob & Billy!

The Magic of Murray (1991-’95, 2001-’08)

While my all-time favorite Murray might be Bill (The Actor), when it comes to Bruins alumni, this guy definitely takes the cake. That’s right, I’m referring to Mr. Glen Murray himself, who like his acting namesake, found himself in a Groundhog’s Day of sorts in Boston first in the 90’s then again in the “oughts.”

(Photo Credits: Trading Card Database)

A first-round pick by the B’s in 1991 (18th overall), Murray’s promise as a skillful scorer didn’t come to fruition until his perfectly timed return to Boston a decade (and century) later in a trade that sent former B’s captain Jason Allison to the Los Angeles Kings. Along with Murray, the Bruins received Jozef Stumpel for the second time as well, as the two played together during their first stints in Beantown. Murray’s all-star level contributions to the point sheet during his sequel years in Boston remain an impressive feat, as he’s the last B’s player to score more than 40-goals in a season–he put up 44 in 2002-’03 (I call dibs on Marchy, Bergy or Pasta breaking the drought this year). His career with the B’s ended in lackluster fashion with an ankle injury, surgery, rehab and waiver buyout. But for me, he’ll always be remembered for this:

I truly think Murray could have led the Bruins to a Cup during the early 2000’s if not for then-GM Mike O’Connell and team owner Jeremy Jacobs making some bonehead moves with free agency, the lockout, and trades. Nevertheless, it was still a fun time to watch and root for the B’s thanks to gleeful Glen. Welcome Back, Mr. Murray!

Other Notable Names (the Nineties to Now)

  • Who remembers the highest scoring Polish player in NHL history? Well, our friends at Stanley Cup of Chowder do — Mariusz Czerkawski!  He played for the B’s from 1993-’96 then again for a hot second during the 2006 season.
  • How about Mass. native Shawn McEachern who toured the Boston ice in ’95-’96 and returned for a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo in ’05-’06.
  • And who can forget Dobby! That’s right, Anton Khudobin first crammed the crease between 2011-’13 before holding the frozen fort as a back-up these past 3 seasons.

Well, if you’ve been a Bruins fan all your life like myself, then the names have all changed since you hung around. But those Cup-clinching dreams have remained, and they’ve turned around. And just in time for the season to soon start. So let’s all be on the lookout for other potential Bruins reunions that could happen in the near future. I mean, who’d have thought it would lead ya, back here where we need ya Milan LucicTyler Seguin, or Jumbo Joe? That probably isn’t true and won’t happen. But it may workout if the right player wants a warm “Welcome Back” to Boston.

Or, they could always just play for this team…

(Photo Credit: C&E Museum)