One man’s opinion:
The Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in Vancouver is the third-greatest Boston sports moment of this trophy-heavy century.
Here are my top three:
Gold medal: 2004 Red Sox beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and win the World Series.
Silver medal: 2001-02 Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Bronze medal: 2010-11 Bruins win Stanley Cup.
The rest of the country is no doubt jealous of our pro sports High Renaissance. In the short span of seven seasons, we have witnessed the grand slam of North American trophy presentations.
Bob Kraft was handed his third Vince Lombardi bauble in Jacksonville in February of 2005. John Henry picked up his second World Series trophy (the one with all the little flags) in Denver in 2007, and Wyc Grousbeck snatched the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the Garden parquet in June of 2008.
Now the Stanley Cup is back in Boston for the first time since 1972.
The Cup is definitely the coolest piece of championship hardware. The other three are a little contrived, though we do like the wastebasket-and-ball look of the NBA trophy.
But that’s not the issue. This is a Boston sports barroom argument.
Let’s take the four sports individually. Baseball is always No. 1 in Boston, and the greatest season in Red Sox history is 2004. There can be no argument about this one. Nothing can top it. The Sox threw off 86 years of hard luck and heartache and pulled off the greatest comeback in baseball history — recovering from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees.
This will never be superseded. It is biblical.
The second-greatest Red Sox season since Babe Ruth is 1967, the Impossible Dream year. We can never overstate the importance of ’67. It brought Boston baseball out of a two-decade coma. The Sox have never looked back.
The 2007 Red Sox were probably the best Boston baseball team of this century, but they can’t compete with the ’04 gang. Not even close.
For sure, there are other great Red Sox seasons, such as 1912, 1918, and 1946. It’s hard to put them in place after all these years, but none compare with ’04 or ’67.
Bill Russell and the Celtics spoiled us with 11 championships in 13 seasons between 1957-69. The Celtics returned to glory for a pair of championships in the ’70s, then became Boston’s most popular team when Larry Bird and friends won three banners in the 1980s. Their 22-year drought ended when Danny Ainge brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett on board for 2007-08.
The Patriots’ championships have all been won in this century, all owed to the trio of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Bob Kraft. The Patriots had some good times back in the late 1900s, but no Super Bowl wins. The first one in New Orleans in February of 2002 will always be the best one.
The Bruins had great years in post-Depression days, but they are forever defined by Bobby Orr and friends in the early 1970s. We have a statue to prove it. Orr’s Cup-winning goal in 1970 is accepted as the greatest moment in Stanley Cup history. It forever will be the No. 1 moment in Bruins history.
But Wednesday night in Vancouver comes close. OK, Tim Thomas is never going to be Orr, Brady, or Russell, but he was a man for his time this year.
These Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years. Hardly dominant during the regular season, they had to win three Game 7s to get the Cup. They had to win Game 7 of the Final on the road against a team that was heavily favored before the series started. And they demolished the Canucks, outscoring them, 23-8 over seven games and 4-0 in the finale.
As great as this was, I can’t put it up there with the Orr years. Those Bruins were the top draw in our town every day for five seasons. They were bigger than the Red Sox or Celtics. Hockey was king.
The 2011 Bruins brought the Cup back and they brought hockey back. It’s not fair to compare them with the swashbuckling Orr teams that built rinks and spawned two generations of local hockey stars.
So this unscientific ranking includes only championships won in the new millennium. And I say the 2011 Bruins crack the top three. You might find some hockey krishnas who think this is bigger than Adam Vinatieri’s kick in the Superdome, but I’m not buying.
That was the Super Bowl, and the Patriots were prohibitive underdogs, and we knew nothing of the greatness of Brady and Belichick until they did the impossible in New Orleans. As big as the Bruins seem right now, that was bigger.
But I’m putting the Bruins ahead of the Celtics in ’08, ahead of the Sox in ’07, and ahead of the Patriots Super Bowls in Houston and Jacksonville.
This championship came out of the blue. It was magical. It brought hockey back to its rightful place. A humble coach and a roster of players who put team above self captivated our region. We watched guys skate and win in the middle of June and we loved it.
Party on, hockey people.