Bruins Would Do Well to Take Page Out of Legend Carl Yastrzemski’s Book


Bruins Would Do Well to Take Page Out of Legend Carl Yastrzemski's Book The coaching staff has skated the Bruins hard, it has lightened things up. It has made some practices mandatory and difficult, it has designated some day-of-game skates as "optional." And still, the offense sleeps. The staff has whispered, it has yelled. The men who do not skate have done everything they can.

Regardless of any fire alarm that may or may not go off against Montreal on Thursday night to wake up the scorers, the past three weeks have cast doubt upon the heat of the fire within the Bruins' shooters.

Don't quibble about the points in the two shootout losses — if you have been in the dressing room of any NHL team immediately following a shootout loss, it is a loss, and it feels like a loss. Eight straight in the wrong columns now (0-6-2 since a shootout win at San Jose, which — yes — counts as a win). It is a losing streak the likes of which hasn't been seen in my lifetime: Not since the 1956 season have they lost eight in a row.

The seminal moment in the lives of many New England sports fans of my generation was the summer of 1967. The glimmer of hope that was Bobby Orr's rookie season just had passed. The Red Sox, horribly inept, finishing ninth or 10th for every season the youngsters of the '60s could remember, put together the Impossible Dream season. They won the American League pennant (there were no playoffs then) and went directly to the World Series to face a St. Louis Cardinals team that was the class of the decade.

In Game 1 of the 1967 World Series, AL Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski took the collar against the immortal Bob Gibson: 0-for-4.

It's odd how certain images stick with you through the millions we observe (or have forced upon us in an ever more dense media age).

After Game 1, after Fenway had cleared out, after the Back Bay had calmed down following its first postseason game in 21 years, Yaz was still at the ballpark and still partly in uniform. He went back from the clubhouse through the tunnel to the dugout and grabbed his bat. He trudged up the steps and into the vacated green expanse. Back to home plate, where the grounds crew — at his request — had hauled out the batting cage. And, in the gloaming, after a confidence-challenging day during which he had failed not in the cover and chaos of 10 men skating 30 miles per hour but rather alone at the focal point of 32,000 worshiping fans, he went back to work. The potato farmer's son from the eastern tip of Long Island probably figured that either he could figure out how to get his stroke back or that blistered-to-bloody hands couldn't do any worse in Game 2 than they had done that afternoon.

But no matter what the future held, he was going to control what he could control — and that meant he wasn't going to get outworked.

It's a black-and-white photo that I think I first saw in Yaz's ghost-written autobiography that winter (the book flew off the shelves as quickly as "Yaz Bread" got scarfed off the grocery displays and Ken Coleman's baseball Iliad, "The Impossible Dream," vanished from record racks). The photo of Yaz, in the twilight, alone in the cage. And baseballs sprayed all over Fenway Park. No fans to see it. No teammates at the park. No one even left around to shag.

Yastrzemski hit two homers in Game 2 to give one-hit author Jim Lonborg more than enough to even the Series. The next time Yaz faced Gibson in the series, he had two hits.

Funny, but Yastrzemski never won a World Series. Yet the first thought that comes to mind when people mention his name is "Champion."

That's what Bruins fans are looking for. They don't have to see the Cup yet. They just need to know that their heroes' hands are blistered and bloody and that failure is unacceptable.

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