Friday, June 3, 2011

Still Bruin Some Serious Love For Boston

As someone who grew up a Bruins fan (now very much a lapsed one--thank you, Jeremy Jacobs) I've had numerous Canucks fans over the past few days baffled that they have come across B's fans whether at work or play.
A tribute to Maxim Lapierre

First we must take a time machine back to the fall of 1970 to understand this phenomenon. That was, as many of you might have noticed from the "40" logo above, the start of the NHL Canucks. Prior to that the Canucks did exist but played in the Western Hockey League. Not today's major junior WHL of which our Vancouver Giants are a part of but a professional league with most teams up and down the West Coast of North America (apologies to the inland member clubs the Denver Spurs, Salt Lake Golden Eagles and Phoenix Roadrunners).
Andy Bathtub in Canuck colors

The WHL Vancouver Canucks won the league championship in both '68/69 and '69/70 so Vancouver hockey fans knew what winning was all about. When the franchise entered the NHL it was able to keep but a few of its WHL championship roster. So you had a Canucks team that was arguably the best team outside the NHL with some real stars (Hall of Famer Andy Bathgate being one) in the spring of 1970 morph into an NHL expansion team in the fall of that year that had zero chance of competing for any sort of championship. (That '70/71 team did give it a good ole college try and were in the playoff hunt until captain Orland Kurtenbach got injured late in that inaugural NHL campaign.)

The novelty of the NHL was one thing but many local hockey fans gravitated towards either stars or winning teams in that first season. Since the '70/71 Boston Bruins obliterated NHL scoring records at that time, so many kids got hooked on the B's. You had the greatest player in the world in Bobby Orr running the whole show. A defenceman who was the Hart Trophy winner that season.
Just have a look at these raw numbers for Orr in '70/71:
37 goals, 102 assists, +124

Yet statistics do not fully explain how Orr controlled games. Watch this remarkable penalty killing job here.

Centerman Phil Esposito spent the whole season stationed in the slot and set about annihilating both the single season goal scoring record and the points record. Espo had 76G and 76A for 152 points. The previous records were 58 goals by Bobby Hull (Chicago) and Phil's own 126 points both done two seasons prior.

Espo's season record stood until a kid called Wayne Gretzky came along about a decade later.
Phil Espotato's sideburns ruled the slot

The top four point producers in the league were all Bruins that season! Johnny Bucyk and Ken Hodge joining Espo and Orr. The Bruins, as a team, scored 399 goals. The next best team scoring-wise was the Habs with 291 goals.

To get a somewhat fair comparison prorate the Bruins '70/71 totals to our current 82-game (they played a 78-game schedule in '70/71) context as well as converting all the Canucks '10/11 OT/SO wins and losses into one-point ties so we're using the pre-OT/SO point system and here's what we get:
'70/71 Boston Bruins 127 points, 419 goals for
'10/11 Vancouver Canucks 110 points, 262 goals for

This Bruins team was so dominant and dynamic offensively in an era that was most definitely not the air hockey '80s led by the best all-around player maybe in hockey history in Bobby Orr and kids just gravitated to the Bruins...until a fateful quarter-final vs. what was to become the B's arch nemesis--the Montreal Canadiens.

Just as "everyone" also loves an underdog, the Habs (or any team that would have faced Boston in the 1971 playoffs) were that team. Throw in the mix a rookie goalie by the name of Ken Dryden (thanks also to a stellar all-star defense crew that included J.C. Tremblay, Guy Lapointe, Terry Harper and Jacques Laperriere...and no, I didn't forget Serge Savard but he was injured and did not play in that year's playoffs) and the rest is history.

Suddenly, you had the school playground divided into Bruins and Habs fans pretty much throughout the '70s and well into the '80s.

It really wasn't until Pavel Bure arrived that Canuck fever took off like a rocket (apologies to the '82 run to the Final team but that fire fizzled out quickly right from the '82/83 season after).

So, there you have it, recent Canuck fans. Don't take offence with any older folk around who may still be Boston Bruins fans. It's not that they don't love the Canucks. It's just like all older people, they never forgot their first love no matter how boring a style the current group wearing the "B" on their chests play.

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