Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Long It's Been: The Boston Bruins Won the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup Finals are underway. The finalists are the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks.

I'll do one of these for Vancouver, too.

The Bruins are in their 6th Finals since their last victory – meaning they've lost their last 5.

The last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup was on May 11, 1972, beating the New York Rangers in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden – at the time, 4 years after its opening, usually still called "the New Garden." Bobby Orr was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (the NHL awards an MVP for the entire playoffs, not just the finals).

Keep in mind that there were fewer teams, and thus a shorter season, in 1972. It wasn't until 1965 that an NHL game that counted was played in May, and it wouldn't be until 1992 that one was played in June.

It was the 5th Cup won by the Bruins, but it's been 39 years and they haven't yet won a 6th Cup. Here's an idea of how long it’s been:

The arena in question has now lasted longer than the building it replaced, "the Old Garden." That building was constructed by funds and plans by boxing promoter George "Tex" Rickard, who planned to build 6 copies around the U.S. But he died after the first, which opened in Boston in 1928. That "Boston Garden" was the Bruins' home from 1928, and that of the NBA's Boston Celtics from 1946, until it closed in 1995. The teams then moved into a new, adjacent building that now bears the name "the TD Garden," but, like its New York counterpart, is usually called "the New Garden."

Of the 10 teams then in the NHL (it would soon expand to 12), none but the Rangers are still playing in the same building in which they concluded the 1971-72 season. As mentioned, the old Boston Garden is gone; so are the Chicago Stadium, Detroit's Olympia Stadium, the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, the St. Louis Arena and the Met Center in Minnesota (and the team that played there has since moved and been replaced); the Oakland Coliseum Arena has been rebuilt, and the team playing there has moved anyway; and while the Canucks' 1st home, the Pacific Coliseum, and the Forum outside Los Angeles both still stand, the Canucks and the Kings have moved to new arenas.

Boston's biggest sports stars were the Bruins' Orr and Phil Esposito, the Red Sox' Carl Yastrzemski (Carlton Fisk would go on to win American League Rookie of the Year), the Celtics' John Havlicek and Dave Cowens, and the Patriots' quarterback Jim Plunkett (who flopped there but became a Super Bowl winner in his native Oakland) and running back Jim Nance (not to be confused with sportscaster Jim Nantz).

Boston sports legends Eddie Shore (1930s Bruins), Smoky Joe Wood and Harry Hooper (1910s Red Sox), and Mike Holovak (1940s Boston College star and the Patriots' 1st coach) were all still alive. The defining hockey players of my childhood? Besides the aforementioned Orr and Esposito, Guy Lafleur had just completed his rookie season, Bobby Clarke had his 1st All-Star season, Denis Potvin was in the high minors, Mike Bossy was about to debut in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Mike Eruzione was in high school, and Wayne Gretzky was in junior high school.

Current Bruins head coach Claude Julien was 12 years old. Tom Coughlin of the Giants was the head coach at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Jacques Lemaire of the Devils was in the middle of his career as a Hall of Fame center for the Montreal Canadiens, Terry Collins of the Mets was playing in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor-league system, Mike D'Antoni of the Knicks was playing at Marshall University, John Tortorella of the Rangers was in junior high, Rex Ryan of the Jets was 9, Joe Girardi of the Yankees and Avery Johnson of the Nets were 7, and Jack Capuano of the Islanders was 5.

The Bruins dethroned Lemaire's Canadiens as Stanley Cup holders, avenging a notorious Playoff defeat from the season before, although the Habs would get it back the next season. The other defending World Champions were the Pittsburgh Pirates in baseball (also wearing black and gold), the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, and, crowned just 4 days earlier, the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, having defeated the Knicks. The Cowboys and the Lakers are so often identified with success now, but it was the 1st title for each.

Yes, Madison Square Garden had hosted both the NBA and the NHL Finals, but the home teams had lost both. In 1994, The Garden hosted both, winning the NHL but not the NBA. The Boston Garden hosted both 3 times, winning the NBA but not the NHL in 1957 and 1974, and losing both in 1958. The Spectrum in Philadelphia lost both in 1980, Chicago Stadium won the NBA but lost the NHL in 1992, and the Meadowlands won the NHL but lost the NBA in 2003.

The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Joe Frazier. The Winter Olympics had just been held in Sapporo, Japan, and the Summer edition was about to be held in Munich, West Germany. Germany has since been reunited, and the Olympics have since been held in America 4 times, Canada 3 times, and once each in Austria, Russia, Bosnia, Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan again, Australia, Greece, Italy and China. The World Cup has since been held in Germany twice, and once each in America, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Italy, France, Japan, Korea and South Africa.

The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany. The Pope was Paul VI. The current Pope, Benedict XVI, then Father Joseph Ratzinger, was teaching at the University of Regensburg in his native Germany. Canada's Prime Minister was Pierre Trudeau. Britain's Prime Minister was Edward Heath. Elizabeth II was Queen of England -- that still hasn't changed -- but she was just 46 years old. There have since been 8 Presidents of the United States, 8 Prime Ministers of Britain and 4 Popes.

Her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, died 17 days after the Bruins won the Cup. Had he been allowed to remain on the throne in 1936, she never would have become the monarch, but, since Edward and his wife Wallis Simpson never had children, Elizabeth's son would now be in his 40th year as King Charles III. Whether he would have been allowed to marry the woman he already loved, then known as Camilla Shand, is unlikely, but one thing is for sure: He would not have married Diana Spencer, then still a child, and the man currently known as William, Duke of Cambridge, and his brother Prince Harry of Wales would never have been born.

The English Football League had just been be won by Derby County, managed by Brian Clough, in a stunning victory by a small provincial club over traditional powers such as defending champion Arsenal of London, Liverpool, their Merseyside rivals Everton, Manchester City, their rivals Manchester United, and Leeds United. Leeds did win the FA Cup 2 days before that, defeating holders Arsenal 1-0. Ajax Amsterdam, led by Johan Cruijff, won their 2nd straight European Cup.

The Mayor of Boston was Kevin White, newly sworn in for a 2nd term. The Governor of Massachusetts was Frank Sargent. Richard Nixon was about to be re-elected President of the United States. The Governor of New York was Nelson Rockefeller, the Mayor of New York was John Lindsay, and the Governor of New Jersey was William T. Cahill.

Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson were in the last few months of their lives. Gerald Ford was the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jimmy Carter was Governor of Georgia, and Ronald Reagan Governor of California. George Herbert Walker Bush was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and his son George was in the Texas Air National Guard, although there is no record of him showing up for duty in the year-long period beginning with May 1, 1972. Apparently, it was okay for him and his father to support the Vietnam War even if he didn't have to actually fight in it. Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham, students at Yale Law School, had recently moved in together. Barack Obama was 10, and Michelle Robinson was 8.

Al Gore was working for Nashville's main newspaper, The Tennessean. Dan Quayle was an administrative assistant to Governor Edgar Whitcomb of Indiana. Joe Biden was making his 1st campaign for the U.S. Senate. Dick Cheney was working as a minor official in the Nixon Administration. (See, even then he was shady.) No Justice then on the Supreme Court is still on it today.

Tom Menino, who has now broken the record shared by White and James Michael Curley for longest-serving Mayor of Boston, was a neighborhood activist. The current Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, was in high school at Milton Academy. Mike Bloomberg, a Boston-area native, was still in the area, attending Harvard Business School. Andrew Cuomo was a freshman at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens. Chris Christie was in elementary school – probably waiting for a helicopter to take him to recess.

Title IX became law the following month. Abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court 7 months later. The last Justice then on the Supreme Court to still be on it was William Rehnquist, who died in 2005. There were still living veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Boer War.

Major novels of 1972 included To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield, The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth, All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James, The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, The Osterman Weekend by Robert Ludlum, My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, The Word by Irving Wallace, the football-themed novel Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins (which also mocked "new religions" such as Werner Erhard's Erhard Seminars Training or EST), the surreal Watership Down by Richard Adams, the even more surreal Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, and perhaps the most surreal novel ever written by an American, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson -- the "Gonzo Journalist" who practically gave the 1970s a motto when he said, "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

No one had yet heard of Spenser: For Hire, George Smiley, The Punisher, Rocky Balboa, T.S. Garp, Arthur Dent, Jason Bourne, Hannibal Lecter, Celie Harris, Kinsey Millhone, Jack Ryan, John McClane, Alex Cross, Bridget Jones, Harry Potter, Robert Langdon, Bella Swan, Lisbeth Salander or Katniss Everdeen.

Notable non-fiction books of 1972 included The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski, Great Cities of the Ancient World by L. Sprague de Camp, A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck, and The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. Major films of 1972 included The Godfather, Cabaret, Deliverance, and the original versions of The Poseidon Adventure and The Getaway. The James Bond series was in transition between Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Danny Dark was about to be cast as the voice of Superman, and Olan Soule as Batman, in the cartoon Super Friends.

The television shows Sanford and Son and Emergency! had debuted in early 1972. Later in the year would come the debuts of M*A*S*H, the All In the Family spinoff/political role reversal Maude, The Waltons, The Bob Newhart Show, Kung Fu, and The Streets of San Francisco, starring Karl Malden and Michael Douglas – and, no, they were not the same age. Dan Blocker died, not of complications relating to his weight, but of a pulmonary embolism after gallbladder surgery, which could have happened to anyone. His death hastened the cancellation of Bonanza.

The day after the Bruins won the Cup, the Rolling Stones released their album Exile On Main Street. A few days after that, the Opryland theme park opened outside Nashville, but a bad location plagued it from the beginning, and it closed in 1997.

A few days later, in June, Elvis Presley would sell out Madison Square Garden 4 times, his only shows ever in New York City, except for his early TV-show appearances. He would later play the Nassau Coliseum, but never gave a concert in New Jersey, which didn't have a big enough arena at the time, except the Atlantic City Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall), although if he'd lived a little longer he could have headlined the A.C. casinos as he'd done in Las Vegas and other Nevada cities. Within days of Elvis' Garden concerts, Clyde McPhatter, the original lead singer of the Drifters, died.

Frank Sinatra was in retirement, but that wouldn't last; within a year, he began recording Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. Bob Dylan was recording songs for the soundtrack of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, including "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." John Lennon released Some Time in New York City, Paul McCartney and Wings were recording Red Rose Speedway, George Harrison was recording Living In the Material World, and Ringo Starr was recording Ringo. Michael Jackson had just released his 1st solo album, Got to Be There. The Number 1 song in America was "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack.

Inflation has been such that what $1.00 bought then, $5.43 would buy now. The price of a U.S. postage stamp was 8 cents. Subway fares in New York were 35 cents, and in Boston, the city in question, 25 cents. The average cost of a gallon of gas was 55 cents, a cup of coffee 48 cents, a McDonald's meal $1.53, a movie ticket $1.75, a new car $3,853, and a new house $27,550. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 934.83, and it would top 1,000 for the 1st time on November 14.

In 1972, for the 1st time, a majority of American households had color television sets. HBO, the digital watch and Pong, the 1st video game in arcades, all made their debuts. There were cars with telephones in them, but the hand-held mobile phone would not debut until the following Spring. The 1st home video game system, the Magnavox Odyssey, was released in the Spring. Within weeks, Atari was founded. There were no personal computers, no VCRs, and no Internet as we now understand that term. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee were all juniors in high school.

The original World Trade Center complex, nearing completion, was about to officially surpass the Empire State Building as the tallest building in the world. But it would, itself, soon be surpassed by the Sears Tower in Chicago.

In the Spring of 1972, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were among 70 nations signing the Biological Weapons Convention, banning germ warfare. Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev soon signed the SALT I treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died in office after 48 years. Apollo 16 reached the Moon. Women legally competed in the Boston Marathon for the 1st time. Eastern Airlines debuted the Lockheed L-1011 – and as someone who once (well, twice, from Newark to Orlando and back) flew on an Eastern L-1011, I can tell you that it's a lousy plane. Hurricane Agnes pounded the U.S. East Coast.

Four days after the Bruins' Cup win, Governor George Wallace of Alabama, running for the Democratic nomination for President, was shot and paralyzed in an appearance at the Laurel Shopping Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. His assailant, Arthur Bremer, served 35 years in prison. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota got the nomination.

A month after the Wallace shooting, the offices of the Democratic National Committee were broken into, bugged and burglarized. The name of the office/hotel/residence complex where the Democrats had their offices became synonymous with political corruption: Watergate. It didn't matter yet, as McGovern was swamped by Nixon in November; in the 39 years since, McGovern has had too much class to publicly use the words, "I told you so." (UPDATE: McGovern died just before the 2012 election.)

In the spring of 1972, M.C. Escher, and Adam Clayton Powell, and Gil Hodges died. Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Jennifer "Mrs. Ben Affleck" Garner were born. So were Martin Brodeur, soccer legend Rivaldo, boxer Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, and baseball stars Andy Pettitte, Larry Wayne Jones Jr., a.k.a. Chipper; and 2004 World Champion * Boston Red Sox Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek and Dave Roberts, who pulled off perhaps the most talked-about stolen base in baseball history, and without the aid of steroids (we think).

May 11, 1972. The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. They have not done so since. Is it about to happen again? And, if it does, will the sports fans of New England be more gracious in victory than they were when the Red Sox won their 2 (fairly) recent World Series, the Patriots their 3 Super Bowls, the Celtics the 2007 NBA title, and UConn its college basketball National Championships -- in at least some of these cases, by cheating? And if the Bruins win, will it be by cheating?

Or can the Bruins win it without cheating? Don't bet on it.

UPDATE: The ice at TD Garden was a bit less than frozen for Game 6, and the Vancouver Canucks were slowed down considerably. The Bruins won in Game 7 in Vancouver. Same New England, always cheating.

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