We’re taught from Kindergarten to “share with others,” “lend a helping hand,” and to never, EVER hate.
Here’s the beauty of sports: hate is just fine. In fact it’s encouraged. Of course, it’s not real life hate. It’s temporary hate. And if done the right way (which 99.9 percent of the time it is in sports), hate can be a gorgeous thing.
It’s a sure bet that the majority of dyed-in-the-wool Bruins fans have hated the Pittsburgh Penguins organization for some time now.
The first major incident occurred some time ago.
In the 1991 Wales Conference finals between the Bruins and Penguins, Pittsburgh’s Ulf Samuelsson blasted B’s superstar Cam Neely with a knee-to-knee hit at mid-ice. Neely was never the same after the hit. He scored 91 points in the 1990-91 season and averaged 38 points per season after the incident.
Neely, now the Bruins’ team president, told the Boston Globe in 1996, “I’ve said it before, but I don’t have any respect for the way (Samuelsson) plays, but like I say, that’s behind me now … I have too many good things to think about.”
The more recent incident involving a Penguins player more or less eviscerating the career of a Bruins player came in March 2010 when Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke knocked out B’s center Marc Savard, leaving him squirming on the ice, with a shoulder-to-head shot. Savard has not played since January of 2011 when he suffered a second concussion.
The hatred for Cooke by Bruins fans may be greater than for any other Penguins player and that’s saying something considering the circumstances. Jarome Iginla thumbed his nose at Boston at this year’s trade deadline, opting to go to Pittsburgh. And the team’s elite offensive talent, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and James Neal, had B’s forward Milan Lucic comparing them to the Miami Heat.
Earlier this season, in a statement that he later apologized for, Bruins TV play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards compared Cooke to Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Robert Kennedy.
The Bruins and Penguins begin play in the Eastern Conference Finals Saturday night at 8 p.m.. The hate emanating from both Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Massachusetts will surely be embraced.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS