Remember the last weekend in May of 2019? One year ago? It felt like the only thing that mattered was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, featuring the St. Louis Blues and your Boston Bruins in a packed TD Garden on Causeway Street.
Here on the Globe sports pages, we had you covered from crease to crease and everywhere in between. We talked to Bobby Orr about his memories of playing the Blues in the Finals way back in 1970. Orr spoke of the old days, then went out of his way to defend 42-year-old defenseman Zdeno Chara, who was getting some criticism on local sports radio.
"I've been hearing a lot of crap recently about Z,'' said Orr, who rarely says anything controversial. "Are you kidding me?''
In that same Sunday sports section, we had a lengthy profile of Chara written by Christopher L. Gasper (whatever happened to that guy?). We had a nifty account of a Red Sox loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The story was accompanied by a photo of Red Sox manager Alex Cora making a mound visit to talk things over with Sox lefty David Price (whatever happened to those two guys?). The Red Sox were 27-25, still claiming that it wasn’t a mistake to shut down all of their starters throughout spring training.
There was not a word about Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on the front page of those weekend newspapers. The Globe’s big news stories on May 25 were "MFA bans 2 patrons and vows changes,'' and "Amid drama, Encore ready to deal.''
The only men in Boston wearing facemasks in May of 2019 were Tuukka Rask and Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.
The Bruins won Game 1, 4-2, overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the second period.
Outside the Garden, a Globe stringer reported, "Thousands crowded Boston City Hall Plaza Monday for the Bruins Stanley Cup Final party hosted by the National Hockey League — an event that featured performances by country music artist Chase Rice and rapper Lil Nas X. Sunny weather drew huge numbers — the plaza reached its 12,000 capacity by the end of the first performance, and an estimated 8,000 more stood outside the gated area to watch from afar.''
Hmmmm. That's 20,000 crowded into the City Hall area and 17,565 at the Garden.
Game 1′s big story line focused on Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who had his helmet dislodged in a third-period scrum with David Perron, then got up and rushed Robert Thomas — Dave Cowens-style — blasting the Blues center out of his skates. It was a moment.
The sad sidebar of the night was the announcement that former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner had died at the age of 69. Tributes flowed. Nobody checked the obit to see if Buckner had succumbed to COVID-19.
The coronavirus did not exist in our minds in those fun-filled, carefree days. A Corona was nothing more than an overpriced beer sold in the crowded saloons around the Garden. Hydroxychloroquine, contract tracing, distance learning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, herd immunity, and Zoom were not part of our everyday language. Bruce Cassidy's line rotations were more important than any form of mitigation.
Social distancing? I would have guessed that meant proper spacing on the power play.
It was the world before COVID-19. We didn't know how good we had it. And who among us wouldn't give anything to go back to it?
Here we are, a year later, living day after day with no team sports programming. We rewatch fuzzy footage of playoffs past. But there is no NHL, no NBA, and no Major League Baseball. We’d give almost anything to hear Garden barkeep Todd Angilly belting out the national anthem in front of a packed house; to see Orr emerge as banner captain while shoulder-to-shoulder fans pass the spoked-B flag around the lower bowl; to see Patrice Bergeron win the opening faceoff.
Without a seat inside the Garden, we’d gladly settle for a stool at The Fours on Canal Street, listening to the the perfect hockey calls of Doc Emrick blasting from the overhead TV.
That would be something. Almost anything would be better than this.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m firing up NESN for Bruins vs. Hurricanes on Feb. 3, 2007. If I recall correctly, Chara is going to assist on a pair of Glen Murray goals, then score the game-winner in overtime. I’ll pretend it’s happening in real time.