The Bruins should never be forgiven for the stunt they pulled Tuesday morning: They fired coach Claude Julien on the morning of the Patriots Super Bowl victory parade through the streets of Boston.
This goes beyond weak, beyond cowardly. It’s disrespectful to the winningest coach in franchise history — a guy who has been on the job for 10 years — and it’s an insult to the great sports/hockey fans of Boston.
The timing stinks. We all knew it was time for Claude to go. The Bruins should have fired him at the end of the 2015 season. Or at the end of the 2016 season. Or last week at the All-Star break.
But they chose to do it at the exact hour the parade was unfolding. It was disgraceful and embarrassing.
Do the Bruins think we are stupid? Did owners Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs, and hockey bosses Cam Neely and Don Sweeney, think nobody was going to notice if they axed the coach during the parade?
“Sort of like the weather in New England, I did not pick this day,’’ explained general manager Sweeney, who took full credit for the decision. “I apologize that it fell on a day when New England is incredibly excited.’’
Wow. Sweeney is either taking the bullets for his out-of-town Montgomery Burns boss, or he is totally out of touch with all things New England. It’s hard to believe the latter. Sweeney played hockey at Harvard and was a beloved Bruin. He’s been here a long time.
Sweeney has to know that it was not OK to fire his coach on the morning of the Patriots parade, not when the entire region is still hungover and immersed in the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time — an event on a par with just about any other in the long, sweet history of Boston sports.
It’s hard to remember a local professional sports stunt worse than this one. Old-timers might recall that night at Fenway Park in 1983 when Red Sox ownership partner Buddy LeRoux pulled a palace coup, attempting to seize control of the team on the same night the Sox were holding a benefit for stroke-ridden Tony Conigliaro.
The Patriots certainly had their share of hideous moments, such as when owner Billy Sullivan yanked coach Chuck Fairbanks from the sideline before a game in Miami after learning that Fairbanks planned to take another job at the end of the season.
And we’re certainly all familiar with the time-tested trick of teams raising ticket prices on Christmas Eve, under the cover of darkness.
But this one takes the cake. The Bruins held their coach-firing news conference Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., minutes after the Duck Boats started rolling up Boylston Street. NESN, the Bruins’ team-owned flagship station, televised the Patriots parade while the team was firing its Stanley Cup-winning coach.
Why Tuesday morning, Sweeney was asked.
“Well, we had a couple of days off,’’ Sweeney said, “and we have two days of practice here before we go into a few games. Then we have a real opportunity to sort of step back from the emotional piece of this and allow the players to get away and vacate mentally and physically.
“I felt there was an opportunity today and tomorrow to get their feet on the ground for a practice environment that we haven’t had.
“I apologize that it fell on a day where obviously New England is incredibly excited. But I didn’t make the schedule in terms of where these days would exist from a practice standpoint.
“I’m always thinking about optics, but I’m not going to make a decision based on that. I’m very respectful and I acknowledge the achievement [the Patriots] had and I’m not trying in any way, shape, or form to try to take that away or try to mute the decision that I’ve made this morning in moving forward.
“As I said, the schedule represented an opportunity to have a couple of days of practice and I thought that was vitally important.”
Swell. This is the Bruins telling you that they do not care about anyone, or anything, other than the Bruins. They’re all about the business of the Bruins.
What about some respect for Claude then?
“The PR department explained that once you make your decision, you need to stand up in front of people and acknowledge the reasons behind it and move on from there,” said Sweeney. “I don’t believe I’m downplaying the impact of the decision and how difficult it was at all.’’
There’s simply no excuse. February 7, 2017, goes down as a dark day in the history of the Black and Gold. It will not be forgotten.