There has never been a winter like this winter for our Boston Garden teams.
They play just about every other night. They win just about every other night. We are more than halfway through the Bruins and Celtics 2022-23 regular seasons, and they have the best records in their respective sports.
So we must ask … can both play here in the Finals in June?
Imagine. The NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final unfolding simultaneously in the Hockey/Hoop Hub of the Universe. A Bull Gang Bacchanal. The Larry O’Brien Trophy and Lord Stanley’s chalice sitting side by side in the bowels of TD Garden. Past champions Johnny Bucyk and Robert Parish — Chief and Chief — walking hand in hand on Causeway Street. Bobby Orr as Banner Captain one night, Larry Bird handing out the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP trophy the next.
No city has ever won both winter sports titles in the same spring, but a duck boat doubleheader is possible for Boston in June.
The Bruins have 80 points through 47 games and are on pace to finish with the best record in the history of the NHL. They are 22-1-3 at home. They still have three players who won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and were in the seventh game of the Finals just four years ago. Anything can happen in playoff hockey, but the Spoked-B’s will go into the tournament favored to make it to the Final.
The Celtics were in the NBA Finals last year and had a 2-1 series lead against the Warriors. Now they are 35-14, winners of nine of their last 11. Jayson Tatum is an MVP candidate and president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has beefed up the bench for rookie coach Joe Mazzulla. They managed to beat the Warriors in overtime last week. They are Vegas favorites to win the franchise’s 18th championship.
If the Celtics and Bruins make it to the Finals, it would mark the 10th time a city has had a crack at both banners in the same spring. It would be the fourth shot for Boston, the first since May of 1974 when the Celtics beat the Bucks in seven one week before the Flyers copped the Cup against Orr’s Bruins.
Boston was the first city with a shot at this rare double and it came right after Russell arrived in the winter of 1956-57. The Celtics had never won a title, but rookies Russell and Tommy Heinsohn put them over the top in seven games against the St. Louis Hawks. The Celtics won it on April 13 in double overtime, just three days before the Canadiens finished off the Bruins in a fifth and deciding Stanley Cup Final game at the Forum.
Boston was back in the championship rounds one year later, but the Celtics lost to the Hawks in six after Russell went out with a sprained ankle. The Bruins lost to the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge in Game 6 on Causeway Street eight days later.
Those were heady days for New England fans: back-to-back Finals featuring the same two cities in two sports.
New York stepped up for the double feature in the new Madison Square Garden in 1972, but the Knicks lost to the Lakers, and the Rangers lost to the Bruins (remember that one?) in six games.
Philadelphia (1980), Chicago (1992), New Jersey (2003), and the Bay Area (2016) all had one shot at the double, but none succeeded. Two of them were double Finals losers, and the ‘92 Blackhawks were swept by the Penguins a couple of weeks before the Michael Jordan Bulls beat Portland for the NBA title.
New York in 1994 and Boston in 1974 gave it good shots. The ‘94 Rangers won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 54 years, beating the Canucks in a seventh game at the Garden on June 14. Eight days later, the Knicks lost Game 7 to the Rockets.
Boston came almost as close in ‘74.
The Stanley Cup finalists Bruins and Flyers were tied, 1-1, after two games when Dave Cowens jumped center against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for a Finals Game 7 in Milwaukee at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, May 12, 1974.
An hour and a half later, while the Celtics and Bucks were gouging one another in their winner-take-all joust, the Bruins faced off for Game 3 against the Flyers in the Spectrum.
Imagine what it was like in Greater Boston homes that afternoon. You had Celtics and Bucks in Game 7 on Channel 7. And you had Bruins-Flyers Game 3 on Channel 4, starting just about the time the Celtics and Bucks tapped off for the second half.
John Havlicek … Bobby Orr … Kareem Abdul-Jabbar … Phil Esposito … Oscar Robertson … Bobby Clarke … Dave Cowens … Dave Schultz … Jo Jo White … Wayne Cashman.
The Celtics won the championship that afternoon and were celebrating in their tiny locker room at the Mecca while the Bruins skated to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Broad Street Bullies. The B’s were eliminated one week later.
It must have been a blur.
And this year we could get three glorious weeks of Jayson Tatum … Patrice Bergeron … Stephen Curry … Cale Makar … Jaylen Brown … Brad Marchand … Draymond Green … Nathan MacKinnon … Klay Thompson … David Krejci.
Clear your calendar. See you in June.