TAMPA — The Big, Bad Bruins are coming back to Boston.
Plans are in the works for a reunion of the 1969-70 team, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the wild bunch that captured the region’s attention and the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup championship, and gave rise to generations of hockey fans.
It will be centered around the March 24 game against fellow Original Six franchise Detroit.
Phil Esposito, a longtime radio color commentator for the Lightning, told the Globe he plans to fly north with Bobby Orr and their wives the day before. Esposito was trying to get all of the other surviving members of the squad — Wayne Cashman, Gerry Cheevers, Ken Hodge, Derek Sanderson, and many more — to join them. Esposito wasn’t yet sure of the details of the event. A team spokesman later said they are still in the works.
The impetus, said the 78-year-old Esposito, was to “do something nice, because we may never see some of these guys again,” remembering the late Gary Doak and Johnny “Pie” McKenzie, both of whom died within the last three years. “Honest to God, I just hope they treat us first class. If Cam Neely does it, it’ll be fine.”
Esposito still harbors bitter feelings about the 1975 trade to the Rangers, which sent the future Hall of Famer and Carol Vadnais to New York in exchange for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, and minor leaguer Joe Zanussi.
Esposito, who signed a four-year contract months before, said he and owner Jeremy Jacobs had a handshake deal that the Bruins would never trade him. The mention of Jacobs still causes Esposito to toss off a few four-letter words.
“I’ll never forgive him for it,” Esposito said.
Perhaps all will be forgiven later this month. An Espo-Jacobs reconciliation would be the cherry on top of a sundae that’s sure to be full of sweet memories.
“The Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox . . . they were great back then. But we owned the town,” Esposito said. “We had that crazy son of a [expletive] Derek, we had Bobby . . . we had personalities up the wazoo.
“I just think about how much Bobby would have dominated if he hadn’t been [expletive] up by a stupid doctor. I feel sorry for the fans who didn’t get to see this guy play.”
Tuesday marked 10 years to the day that Boston mutual fund manager Jeff Vinik bought the Lightning for a reported $110 million. Vinik, 60, also reportedly spent $80 million to improve Amalie Arena, and spent a billion-plus dollars buying up the waterfront area around the arena, hoping to make it a year-round entertainment district. For NHL people, this has become one of the favorite stops on tour.
Since taking over the franchise and moving south, Vinik has known little but success. Still waiting for a Stanley Cup, the Bolts have made the Eastern Conference finals four times in 10 years, and the Cup Final once (2015).
Tuesday, the club anticipated its 233rd consecutive sellout, a streak dating nearly five years — and an impressive one, given the transient nature of the South Florida sports fan. If a team wants to fill seats, the product had better be good.
Vinik, who also owns a minority stake in the Red Sox, has done good for the community.
On Saturday, the team passed $20 million in grants for its “Community Hero” initiative, which gives $50,000 to local changemakers and their organizations each home game.
Coach Bruce Cassidy on defenseman Kevan Miller (twice-broken kneecap): “I have nothing new. He’s skating on his own. No real progress. No non-progress, either. He’s just kind of holding his own, I guess.” . . . The Bruins’ own sellout streak at TD Garden dates to Dec. 2, 2009, when a Wednesday game against the Lightning drew a less-than-capacity 16,553. They’ve sold out 473 games since then. The Penguins (606 entering Tuesday) are believed to have the longest active streak in the league. Theirs dates to 2007. The Canadiens’ run of 583 straight full houses ended in October . . . The Lightning had won 14 in a row in Atlantic Division play before losing to Toronto on Feb. 25. The Bolts started a run of five in a row in-division . . . Including Tuesday, the Bruins will play five of their next six in the Atlantic . . . Charlie McAvoy logged a heavy-duty 25:03 in Tuesday’s 2-1 win and landed three of his game-high eight shot attempts on net. He also dished out two hits and blocked a pair of shots. The Bruins’ back liners got in lanes, with Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk each stuffing four shots . . . Nick Ritchie landed five hits in 15:20, with two shots on net. He blocked a pair of shots on successive shifts, the first of which left him flat on the ice in pain.
Matt Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.