For most NHL executives, it's hard enough just trying to outmaneuver the other 29 general managers in the league. But Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli also has to worry about living up to the standard set by the three other franchises in his own town.
The Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics have combined for six championships in the last decade, all while the Bruins became the poor stepchild of the Boston sports scene, struggling to even win a playoff series.
That's all changed now, though. The Celtics have been eliminated from the NBA playoffs, no one knows when the NFL will end its lockout and the Patriots will even get back on the field, and while the Red Sox have rebounded from their brutal start to take over first place in the AL East, they're still more than four months away from any potential playoff clashes.
Meanwhile, here are the Bruins, still playing with the calendar about to turn to June. Playing for the Stanley Cup after three impressive playoff series wins. Playing for the right to join their Boston brethren as champions once again.
"It hasn't been in the back of my mind, it's been in the forefront of my mind," Chiarelli said Saturday at the Garden of the pressure to match the accomplishments of the city's other franchises. "You can't avoid it. I've become a cheerleader of these other teams. Coming into Boston, the Sox have always been my favorite baseball team, but the other two teams, they weren't, but now they are. You follow them. You cheer for them. At the same time, the standard they set gets higher and higher and you recognize your job is harder. It's a bit of a catch-22, but certainly to have the championships that the city has, it's quite an accomplishment."
The players feel that pressure too. They want to experience what the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics have enjoyed in recent years. They want a parade, a banner and a ring. And they know how hard it is to play in this city without those things when every other team possesses them.
"As a team and as an organization, we really wanted to win this for the fans," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said after Friday's 1-0 win over Tampa in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. "They deserve this, going through what they've gone through the last couple years, not making the Stanley Cup Final since 1990 and especially with all the other teams winning. Heartbreak last year and the year before. The Patriots doing it. The Red Sox doing it. The Celtics doing it. We wanted to get up in the same caliber as them. We're still not there. There's obviously work that needs to be done, but we want to do it for the fans."
Those fans showed their appreciation on Friday, with the TD Garden the loudest it has ever been, even evoking comparisons to its dingy, but loveable predecessor on Causeway Street.
"It's a sports hub," Lucic said of Boston. "It's the No. 1 sports city in the world for a reason. We knew they were going to be jacked up and cheering all game long. I said [Friday] morning we wanted them to cheer leaving the building just as loud as they were coming in, and we did that as a team."
With a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins have finally given Boston hockey fans a reason to cheer. They've also served notice to the rest of Boston's teams that they might just have to make room at the championship table.
But the Bruins know they haven't earned their seat there yet. Those championship squads from the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics finished the job. The Bruins still have one more very big step to make. But while the other teams in town have put pressure on the Bruins to match their accomplishments, they've also helped show them what it takes to get there.
"It seems to creep into any interview I have," Chiarelli said of the pressure to win a title like the other Boston teams. "And justifiably so. The teams here have been terrific for a good period of time. It helps the team put things in perspective too, like Claude [Julien] talking to the group after the game [and saying], 'Enjoy this, but we have four more wins we have to get. So enjoy this, but let's get back to work.'"