In Boston at least, NHL back in full force
Being at TD Garden on Saturday night, it was tough to remember that there had been another NHL lockout that ended only two weeks ago. As expected, Bruins fans were back in full force, proving that they’ll always be stubbornly loyal almost to a fault. If anything, this just shows how much better a shorter (albeit less packed) regular season would be. Is there any reason the NBA and NHL have to start in October? Why not let the NFL do its thing and then once the Super Bowl ends, that’s the perfect time for the NBA and NHL to begin. It’ll never happen, greedy owners need an 82-game regular season schedule but it’s something to dream about.
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference (who played overseas during the lockout) admitted that made a difference right away.
“The guys that did play in Europe, it was more of a continuation of what we’ve already been doing. For sure, there were no question marks. You’re sharp.”
No doubt it’s a different feeling in other markets where hockey is an afterthought to begin with but at least in Boston, Canada and other Original Six cities, Saturday felt like a rebirth of something that was dearly missed. New England loves football, basketball and baseball but more than anything else, I’d argue that its main identity lies on the ice. That’s because so many kids around here grow up playing the game, thus making them fans for the rest of their lives. One of the biggest issues for the NHL is forcing the game on places where it will never catch on: namely Florida, Dallas, Nashville, (North) Carolina, Los Angeles, Phoenix, etc.
“You couldn’t pick a better spot than Boston and the fans we have here,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “Everyone was fired up, the Rangers are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and NHL.”
All it took was a pair of heavyweight fights a few seconds apart in the second period before the crowd went crazy. The NHL is the only sport where Shawn Thornton or Gregory Campbell can drop the gloves whenever they want, this wasn’t a pitcher throwing a pitch high and tight in baseball or a shoving match between NBA players. Hockey has a soul because the players, rather than the officials or league, police themselves and there is a code among even the fighters.
“I never complain about the Garden crowd,” said Thornton. “It’s been a while since I fought so after they scored, I wanted to try to get the momentum back our way and also shake some rust off at the same time.”