Normally some fans might expect a pundit such as myself to make bold predictions about other teams and key players and coaches. I on the other hand don't care much for or making of predictions by careful study of team rosters. I'm not interested in how many wins or loses or goal production or prevention. I assess teams and determine if they have improved themselves or created more problems for themselves. Some teams spend unusual amounts of money, others exchange players and some shake-up management and coaching staffs. I find many of these activities indicate how well a team will perform, will be supported and how well they'll play.
Jumping into it a bit, let's look at our favorite team the Boston Bruins. Why have they been successful in recent years? If we look at the roster we don't find a preponderance of super stars. Sure we have an aging Zdeno Chara whose best years are behind him and he may someday be considered a Hall of Famer, we have Patrice Bergeron perhaps the most capable two way forward in the league, I don't think he'll be a Hall of Famer. We have Tuukka Rask who has emerged over the last two years to be arguably the best Goaltender in the league, the future is way out there for consideration for the Hall of Fame. Yet I feel pretty good about this team being able in any given year to compete for the Stanley Cup, have solid regular seasons and give our loyal fans a lot to cheer about. Just about every team in the Eastern Conference worries more about competing against us than any other team. Roster moves on other teams are designed to compete against us over the off season. Why?
Well I hate to sound trite, but it starts at the top with Ownership. Jeremy Jacobs and Delaware North haven't always over the decades wanted a championship team. They wanted a profitable team. Since they bought the team from the Adams family, they had a competitive team that made the playoffs every year, had a fan base that filled the Garden and back 25 years ago, paid to watch the team on TV on NESN when it became one of the first regional sports networks that Delaware North had a stake in. In 1996 for the first time in 28 years, the Bruins didn't make the playoffs. In fact things got so bad we had the first overall draft pick in 1997. People started tuning out on the Bruins, stopped buying game tickets for the new Fleet Center, sports articles on the team went unread, sports talk shows stopped talking about the Bruins. Being unfair, speculation popped up quite frequently that the owner Jeremy Jacobs, was a money grubber, wasn't interested in his team, took it for granted that the fans were stupid and would pay to watch any team fielded on the ice. Mr. Jacobs was on the Board of Governors in the NHL and brought the league to a standstill in 1994 and again in 2005 and was the backbone behind Gary Bettman in 2011 with work stoppages. Back in 2001 when Ray Bourque lifted the Stanley Cup out in Colorado, Jeremy Jacobs was evil incarnate in the greater Boston metro area. He was worse than Dan Duquette, Lou Gorman, Victor Kiam, Harry Sinden and a slew of other local sports managers and owners that gave forth to a real funk around bean town and a hopelessness about competitive sports teams, never mind champions. What Changed?
A new owner emerged in 1998 for a local professional team. He was a fan of his sport and thought that with the right business plan and delegated management team you could buy a franchise and build a champion. A second new owner emerged and bought another professional local sport team and felt with a good business plan and a refurbished sports venue you could build a championship. They asked for time, faith and loyalty. In February 2002 the New England Patriots won the Superbowl, they won it again in 2004 and 2005. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007. Things were about as bleak as they could be for the Boston Bruins in 2005. One thing nobody ever accused Jeremy Jacobs of being was stupid. Locally there was a huge groundswell of support for the Patriots and Red Sox. I think Mr. Jacobs wanted in on the party. It starts with an idea and a plan. What once made the Boston Bruins the darling of the Boston sports scene? For the Bruins it started with a face. The face of a competitor. A face that gave body and soul to his sport and his team until his body betrayed him and he had to quit because he could no longer compete. That face wasn't Bobby Orr, but it was Cam Neely. You see Cam Neely had an idea. Neely's idea is that if you compete for every inch of ice, you can win every battle. He worked with Charlie Jacobs as the TD Bank North Garden manager to bring in a staff and equip the Garden with the things that satisfy the fans game watching experience. New Englanders are traditionalists in many ways. That's why organ like music was brought back to the garden, the jumbotron replays the highlights and features the players in the best light and why Rene Rancourt still sings the National Anthem for the biggest games. He brought Bruins Alumni back into the fold with appearances and he went about finding a management team that would hire players that would reflect the character of players from those by gone days when the fans were rabid about it's hockey team. The Bruins started bringing in players that also would not mind reaching out to the fan base and get involved in local charities, not because they had to, but because they wanted to and understood they weren't just performers but high profile members of the communities. Players that would gut it out on the ice and gut it out for a good cause in the community. Many of the Bruins players over the last ten years haven't been the most talented, but they sure have been some of the hardest workers on and off the ice. The new Managers also decided to bring in coaches that would mesh with the players and enhance the image of a team that would compete with a purpose. They didn't stop there either and decided that the farm team in Providence had to start feeding the NHL club with players that could be plugged into the team concept. One concept, one team! Well it's been a long road and we achieved a championship in 2011. We've been hanging around the cusp of being the best team in the league since then.
I look at some of the franchises in this league and I see their star players, their management teams, their owners. What I don't see is very many of them creating what we have here in Boston. A hard working winning culture. I don't believe corporation teams like Toronto or Montreal or the NY Rangers can win a Stanley Cup. I don't believe teams with high profile owners that get involved with the team at a grass roots level like Edmonton, Calgary, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders or Carolina can create a championship culture. Teams that can't generate revenue like Arizona, Florida, Nashville and Columbus will never win a championship. Teams with high profile superstars like Washington, Tampa or San Jose can't win without depth. Teams like Ottawa, Buffalo, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Winnipeg can't win with bad amangement teams. Teams like Chicago, Los Angeles Boston, Detroit and St. Louis can, it's a total culture proposition. I'm grateful for the opportunity to write about a franchise that gets it! Rookie Camp starts on Thursday September 11th, Pre-season starts on September 18th. WE have tremendous Ownership, Management and Coaching on the Boston Bruins. I can't wait for it to get started and dread the day the season ends. This is the MADNESS, follow the journey down onto the ice. Smell the freshness on the ice of a new season, join with us here to get the very latest in news about our hockey team and it's players.
Until Next Time!