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Hardman: A Love Affair From the 1970s Renewed

Boston Bruins re-birth brings memories of a past sports love affair

 

Now it's become one of those May-December relationships, but it wasn't always that way.

Before, I was the young one and they were the old ones.

We're back and we're in love again. I guess that's how winning a Stanley Cup changes a relationship. It will never be the same.

Granted, we've never really left each other. There were moments now of what it was like back then.  But then again, first loves are very special.

Besides, too many things have changed in the relationship over the years.

It was a different time and, in a way, a much different game.

Players didn't wear helmets, and there were only 10 TV stations and only little more hockey teams.

We've become way too busy with other things these days, and there are teams in Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas and Columbus, Ohio.

I like these guys who are wearing the Black and Gold, but it will never be the love affair we had with their Boston Bruins ancestors.

If we were a fan back in the day of Bobby, Espo, Pie, Chief, Cash, Hodgie, Teddie, Cheesy, Shaky, the Turk, Ace, Donnie, Westy, the Smith brothers, Scoop and the rest of the men in black, you know that deep in your heart that it is that way.

There are love affairs, and then there are love affairs.

The one with the old Bruins was a love affair for the ages.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were the Bruins and everyone else.

Sure, the Celts had been good back then, but Boston is a hockey town first and foremost. The Pats and Sox were afterthoughts.

These days, the Patriots are close, but the Boys of Belichick are missing the swashbuckling characters of those Bruin teams. You never knew what Espo or Derek would say, but you can almost script Tom Brady's comments before he opens his mouth.

We knew everything about the old Bruins, but what do we really know about the players at Kraft AC?

Besides, the Bruins played way more game than the Patriots do, and we had to make sacrifices to watch the games.

In my basement in those days, we had a black and white TV with tinfoil for an antenna. Most of the times, there were two or three Bobby Orrs coming up the ice because of the ghosts we saw on the screen.

One person had to stand and hold the tinfoil in an upright position so the screen would be clear, while the other person watched it. We'd switch in between periods.

You always knew you'd be in front of the TV during the week, and on Saturdays and Sundays too, especially if it was one of the Saturday afternoon national games on CBS, which were a little better to watch than on the old WSBK-Channel 38, whose signal barely left Boston.

Back then it was pretty much a routine. Do homework, eat dinner, and then get in front of the TV for Fred and Johnny.

Everyone in the neighborhood was doing the same thing.

In mine, we'd play street hockey waiting for the school bus in the morning, and then the rest of the day debating the Bruins and their opponents. It was our version of sports talk radio.

In the Original Six, you knew everyone on all of the six NHL teams. That changed with expansion in 1967, but it still wasn't hard to know the league. Besides, you developed pure hatred for the opponents because you saw them all the time. I still cringe when I see the Montreal uniform.

These days, you can't discount the popularity of Brady, but Bobby Orr was tenfold of what No. 12 is. Orr is still revered in these parts. New Yorkers have Mickey Mantle, and we have No. 4.

Bobby Orr built hockey rinks with the popularity he inspired and was ours, granted for just a short time because of bad knees.

When I was a wee lad, Orr and his teammate Mike "Shaky" Walton came to the old Mammouth Mart on the East Side of Brockton to sign autographs. There was no getting near the place as the store quickly filled up, almost sparking riot-like conditions. No. 4 was in the neighborhood.

It's OK to love the Bruins, this edition, but my real love will have to be saved for those names from the 1970s.

(Michael Hardman is a regional editor for Patch.)

Maggie January 17, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I enjoyed this so much! I remember seeing Sanderson's hair flying in the wind as he skated across the ice. Watching their faces as they played and the lines Cheevers had painted on his face mask every place he took a puck to the face. I know they are safer with the new equipment & rules...but it's just not as exciting or as personal. I will never forget that excitement. In '69/70 my boyfriend was in the AF in Idaho. He planned his leave during the bruins games.I would mail him the game clippings from the paper. It wasn't reported out there. Our dates were at his brother's watching them play & win the cup. You really got into the game!

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