Editor’s note: NESN.com is asking Bruins fans to share their favorite Bruins memory. Al Daniel of Providence, R.I., shared the following moment.
In my young life, only one of my favorite sports teams has treated me to a championship thrill ride without casting a single moment of doubt or worry along the way.
That team was the 1998-99 Providence Bruins, who all but thoroughly Zambonied the American Hockey League record books en route to their first Calder Cup title. (Kind of ironic, is it not, that in Wayne Gretzky’s final NHL season, a team would rewrite another hockey league’s record book in Gretzky-like fashion?)
What’s more, with former team captain Peter Laviolette behind the bench, the P-Bruins pulled off the ultimate District-Five-to-Ducks turnaround. A year after finishing last in the league at 19-49-12, they ran away with the 1999 regular season crown at 56-16-8.
From there, the Bruins won each playoff round in assertive fashion, never trailing in a series nor allowing their adversary to force a rubber game. They vanquished Worcester in a best-of-five series, 3-1, swept Hartford in the division finals, teased Fredericton before polishing them off in six games, and then abolished Rochester in five games to take the Cup.
Only one thing taints this memory for me: my family had moved away from New England two years prior, rendering me unable to witness any of the historic run in person. But a title is a title. And as I followed this saga through the online edition of the Providence Journal, I satisfactorily managed to envision myself in what was then known as the Civic Center, which I had visited 13 times in four years before we moved.
The clinching game took place on June 13, 1999, 25 months to the date of my last live P-Bruins’ experience, and was played before the first Civic Center sellout since the team’s initial years earlier in the decade. Knowing that left me with the warm notion that the seat I used to bid a teary, bittersweet farewell to my home state team was now being used by an equally passionate Bruins buff to celebrate this milestone.
Nearly a decade later, I returned to the Ocean State upon enrolling at Providence College. Naturally, the Civic Center is a whole new facility with its new moniker (the Dunkin Donuts Center) and its new-and-improved scoreboard and concourses.
But of all the building’s new additives since my previous tenure as a Rhode Islander, the one I can’t take enough glances at is the black banner with a Spoked-P and “1998-99 Calder Cup Champions” in radiant gold lettering.
Just my luck, I have come back at a time when the P-Bruins miss the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in team history. But at least we now have a chance to witness another milestone. Seven members of the Boston Bruins are now vying to become the first Providence graduates to hoist the Stanley Cup while wearing Black and Gold sweaters.
If that happens, I once again could not care less if I experience it in person or not. Fans cheer from whatever distance they must.
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