No Better Way to Kick Off Bruins Preseason Than to Journey Across Enemy Lines

No Better Way to Kick Off Bruins Preseason Than to Journey Across Enemy Lines The double-takes were hilarious.

Just about the whole family was in Montreal over Labor Day weekend.  My son John, a sophomore in the Corps of Cadets at Norwich University, had gone back to school two weeks before. We stopped off in Northfield, VT to see him for an hour before driving the rest of the way.

My wife Lisa is a runner (friends occasionally wonder why she keeps coming back to me instead of keeping on going once she clears the horizon). Nina (11), Dagny (8), and Elijah (5), Lisa and I all jammed into one hotel room the night of Sept. 3. 

At dawn on the 4th, Lisa was out the door to run in the Montreal marathon. She was using Montreal as a slow-paced training run in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon in DC on Halloween (she’s going to run the Maine Marathon in Portland on Oct. 2 in similar fashion). 

The course in Montreal is a very interesting tour of the city, working up across two of the St. Lawrence River islands and then weaving a serpentine route through downtown and a bunch of neighborhoods before finishing at the Olympic Stadium. The Metro, combined with our estimates of Lisa’s pace, gave us about a dozen opportunities to see her.

After finding a lucky parking spot near the Big O (or the Big Owe as the cynics call it — will they ever pay off the Olympic debt?), we collected our gear and started our subway trek. 

“Show me the keys, Dad!” said one of ‘em. Or maybe all three (Who, me? Absent-minded?). Backpack full of grapes, cheese, and granola bars? Check. Water bottles? Check. One-day Metro tickets? Check.  Everyone but me wearing their Bruins sweaters? Haha! Check! Body check!

No Better Way to Kick Off Bruins Preseason Than to Journey Across Enemy Lines We strode up the sidewalk in the heart of French Canada, where the Stanley Cup has spent the summer two dozen times: miniature Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas and an old guy with a backpack. A couple in their 60s grinned and shook their heads. A teenage boy on a BMX bike hissed as he popped his front wheel over the curb. A young man in his 20s, arm in arm with his girlfriend, offered, “Woooo!” in surprise at this invasion.

As we approached the Olympic Stadium Metro station to begin our subway travels, I warned the kids of the possibility that not all greetings would be friendly. But a guy came up and asked, “Are you Bruins fans? I live in Montreal but I love the Bruins because I used to cheer for the Nordiques (‘da nor-DEEK,’ he said) and we hated the Canadiens. So when they moved, I changed over to Boston.”

Down the escalators, onto the train, up to street level and we thought we had it timed perfectly.  Stationed at a corner where we could see the runners coming for about a quarter mile, we strained to pick Lisa out of the pack. 

As all New Englanders know from watching the Boston Marathon, runners tend to stay pretty close to the tangent, taking the shortest possible line to avoid having to run more than their 26.2 miles. But as we were looking for Lisa, this man went about twenty yards off course to run right at us, grinning as he barked, “You’re pretty brave to wear that in this city!”

We saw Lisa seven or eight times. We encountered hockey fans a couple hundred times. And as much as the rivalry boils, it was a reminder of how rich the rivalry is for the fans. I mean, the Florida Panthers and Atlanta Thrashers don’t get that kind of reaction. The love/hate relationship in sports doesn’t work if there’s just one hand clapping. And how we all should appreciate the din when Bruins fans and Canadiens followers have their verbal jousts!

Lisa followed in Frank Shorter’s famous footsteps, running down the same ramp into the 1976 Olympic Stadium and finishing strongly. We hooted and hollered for her, found our car, and then before turning south again we made one more stop.

We took the peeps to the plaza in front of Bell Centre. We ran into an Anaheim Ducks fan on vacation. He said he was at the arena just to be there. He said that, in vain, he had attempted to stretch his time off until the preseason game against the B’s on Sept. 22. We saw handfuls of people walking around the reading plaques of Howie Morenz, Jean Beliveau, Maurice Richard, and Guy Lafleur and just staring at the building that houses their team. And we took a few photos of our commando unit.

Nina takes results personally (what Bruins fan doesn’t?). Thus, after the seven-game series loss in 2008 and the resounding rebound in 2009, she literally got poetic and put her words to music. She sang her song loudly in the plaza on the 4th of September. Here’s just a sampling of the lyrics:

Twenty-four, never more. But still they rub it in your face!
Twenty-four! Never more! They make their team a big disgrace.

They step onto the ice amid ta-da’s
Wearing their grandfather’s old pajamas,
Gosh — a ref was checked! — Oh, no! Oh Dear!
No, it was just a Hab so never fear.

Disrespectful fans say, “Boo!”
At our Anthem, What to do?
Pay them back holding a broom
Through that series, go va-room!

Twenty-four, never more. But still they rub it in your face!
Twenty-four! Never more! They make their team a big disgrace.

‘Cause that’s all they are
A stinkin’ team!

I’d like to hear a Dropkick Murphys cover of that, eh?

Bodies start bouncing off bodies Wednesday night. We’re back at it, Bruins fans. It’s the thrill of a lifetime to be in your midst and feel the passion that everyone — on both sides — brings to the rink. 

Yardbarker

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