The heartbreak team: The anguish and joys of being a Boston Bruins fan
What it's like supporting the Hub of Hockey's favorite team.
There are a lot of tortured fan bases in hockey. Fans who would literally do anything to call their team champs. There are the teams in the dumps: the fans that dream of even making the playoffs (I'm looking at you Buffalo). Then there are the teams that somehow year after year find a way to get themselves eliminated (Hi Toronto!). Then there is the third category of tortured fans: the team that looks so promising, makes a deep run in the playoffs, and once again convinces their loyal supporters that this is the year before being eliminated in excruciating fashion. This team is the Boston Bruins.
Say what you want about the pain of never getting to experience a deep playoff run, but as a fan that has experienced many, I will tell you one thing: The farther you go into the season, the more painful the losses feel. There really aren't two ways about it. They are different types of pain: Sabres fans feel a dull, constant pain throughout the season as they watch their team fall farther and farther behind the competition. Bruins fans on the other hand are happy most of the year. They wholeheartedly believe that their team will win the Cup. But when they lose, the pain felt by Bruins fans simply is on a whole another level than that of Sabres supporters.
With that, I make my case for the most tortured fanbase in sports: your Boston Bruins supporters.
Now I know exactly what I'm going to hear: "The city of Boston has won so many titles, how can you really complain?" Well, to answer, first of all, the Bruins have won it all once since 1972. So while Boston sports fans have certainly experienced their fair share of glory, it has not been equal across our teams. And for those of us who simply have an affinity with the Bruins unlike any other sports team in the world, the other titles just don't mean as much.
Now I'm going to hear: "The Bruins have won six Cups, the fourth most all time, stop complaining!" Well for starters, they've actually only won three since 1942, and uh, I don't think many of us were around to experience that joy. And here's the thing: the two Cups Boston won in 1970 and '72 were followed by what could legitimately be one of the worst tragedies in hockey history, which is the cutting short of Bobby Orr's career. So while Boston's two cup victories those years were incredible, that dynasty was virtually eliminated by the rest of the league collectively deciding to target Bobby Orr's knees and end his career.
The next 39 years are really the meat of this article though, as they are the perfect representation of playoff heartbreak and the story of Bruins fans lives. During that span, Boston made the playoffs 32 times. They won their division 13 times. They went 0-5 in the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost an additional five conference finals. Overall, the Bruins are 6-14 in the Cup final, and those fourteen losses count for the most of any team in the finals, and yes, that includes Montreal who has made the Cup finals 34 times. Year after year, promising team after promising team, they break their fanbase's hearts.
The past three years have been arguably the most evident of Bruins luck in their entire history. In 2019 they went to game seven of the Cup Finals, and if a few calls go their way in that series they could have easily won it all. In 2020, they won the President's Trophy and looked even better than the year before. They frankly looked unstoppable, but then the pandemic hit, and they simply never found their form in the bubble. This past season, after trading for Taylor Hall, they finished the year on an absolute tear, and were one of the Cup favorites. Due to some key injuries on defense though, tough puck luck, and a very stingy Islanders team, they once again find themselves ring-less in the offseason.
There's just something about a Boston hockey team though that still makes them so endearing to their fans. Look back at the team's history, and you'll have a hard time (No, impossible time), finding a team that wasn't going to outwork their opponents virtually every night. You won't find a team that didn't care. You won't find a team that doesn't play physical, you won't find a team that played cheap either, and you certainly won't find a team that flopped. The Bruins do, and always have represented the very best that hockey should be: Clean, physical, and playing for the utter love of the game.
Because of all of those reasons, the team is simply almost always competitive. And also, because they are the rare team that won't bend the rules they also end a lot of year's without that coveted ring. But when they do win, when they do overcome all odds, it is like nothing else, because the good guys won. The guys who put absolutely everything into their season (like every other year, mid you), and played the game the right way actually came out on top.
Somehow, the Bruins never seem to get that guy who doesn't put everything he's got into every game. When they do though, it doesn't take long for him to be shipped out of Boston. Look at Boston's history of stars: Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, these are some of the toughest, and hardest working players the NHL has ever seen. Watch any current Bruins game, and five seconds in, you'll see guys like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and pretty much everyone else literally trying to will their team to win. That is why we love our Bruins.
We know that night in and night out, no matter what is happening, our team is going to do everything they possibly can (within the rules of the game) to win. How could you not love a bunch of guys who do that? And boy, when they do win, it sure makes it that much more memorable.
That is why the years they win it is so special. In 2011, when the Bruins overcame the giant, and defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the Cup Final, for once, everything went their way. They lost the first two games of a series twice that year in the playoffs. They also won three game sevens. All of the collected heartbreak and bad luck from the last 39 years culminated into one glorious playoff run.
As Bruins fans, we simply pray for another run like 2011. We've had our chances: 2013, 2019, and more. But this is what being a Bruins fan truly is. This hardship, this knowing that the Bruins probably should have won, that if a bounce or a call had gone the other way, it might be our guys raising the Cup at the end of the year. This is what being a Bruins fan means. And that is why I wouldn't change a single thing.