Murph’s Musings: Memories While Covering Hockey’s Greatest Rivalry
St. Patrick’s Day and the days leading into it are always a roller coaster of feelings for me. Being James Patrick Murphy and proud of my Irish heritage, it’s obviously a joyous time of year with Irish music and cheer all around. There is already a buzz of anticipation here in Montreal for the upcoming parade weekend and personally I’m getting revved up for the second annual St. Paddy’s weekend edition of Murphy’s Hockey Law live from McLean’s Pub in downtown Montreal 4-6 PM Friday.
But “the Ides of March” have also been cruel to my family as I have lost my grandmother (March 30, 1995) on my father’s side and my grandfather on my mother’s side. My grandfather actually died on March 14, 2001 and we buried him on St. Patrick’s Day. But while he’s always remembered even more in those upcoming dates, Grandpa was on my mind as I sat in the Bell Centre press box taking in another chapter of the NHL’s greatest rivalry between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens that the Bruins won 4-1. After all this was the man who introduced me to this rivalry, hockey and the Bruins with his season tickets he had at the old Boston Garden for 30 years and many of the memories I shared with him were formed at Bruins-Habs games as a fan growing up in nearby Arlington, MA.
There’s just something about rivalries and how a long and storied history between two teams can take you down memory lane. Even though the Bell Centre by no means will ever replace the old Montreal Forum or TD Garden will never be at least in my eyes “The Gahden”, watching a Bruins-Canadiens game at either place is still an experience that hockey fans should partake in once in their lives. With the Habs riding a five-game win streak into the game Wednesday it had me thinking about two of the greatest wins for the Bruins not only in this rivalry but in the history of the Bruins organization. For much of my grandfather’s life and the first 13-plus of mine, the Canadiens dominated the Bruins in the playoffs. In fact, in 1988 the Bruins won their first playoff series against the Canadiens in 45 years, clinching the 1988 Adams Division finals in five games at the Forum. The Bruins went onto the Stanley Cup finals where they were swept by Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers but that win over the hated Habs on Forum ice was essentially the Bruins’ and their fans’ Stanley Cup. The curse was broken and that was all that mattered.
Another memory that stood out while sitting high above the Bell Centre ice a few hours before the game was when Grandpa and I were at ‘The Gahden’ for an event that had never occurred in the history of the Bruins-Habs rivalry. In 1992, the Bruins went on another Cinderella run to the Wales Conference finals where they were swept by Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. But they got to that series by sweeping the Canadiens for the first time ever in the 1992 Adams Division finals. I’ll never forget when Peter Douris put in an empty netter and the old Garden went into utter bedlam. I looked over at Grandpa and he was in tears of joy. Then I looked to my right and the fan next to me was lighting a Habs jersey on fire and he proceeded to throw it onto the ice. Then Habs goalie Patrick Roy raced over to a referee to show him the fire on the ice and they had to find a fire extinguisher. Hall of Fame hockey scribe Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe actually mentioned it in his Sunday column the next day. Ironically I would grow to know ‘Dupes’ a personal and professional level covering the Bruins for 11 seasons.
Speaking of ironic, as I was heading back to the press box from the Bruins dressing room after getting post-game quotes Wednesday night whom should I bump into but former Bruin Dave Reid who was on both the 1988 and 1992 Bruins squads. Reid is now a color commentator for TSN’s regional broadcasts of Canadiens games and he took a few minutes to reminisce with me.
“Those two moments are right below winning the Stanley Cup for me,” said Reid who won the Cup twice with the Stars in 1999 and Avalanche in 2001. “To be part of that rivalry was such an honor and now to be able to watch and be part of a broadcast team doing these games is so great and unique perspective from what I had before. You can just feel the energy here and at the TD Garden when these two teams play even if it’s not the old Forum or Garden. There’s been a buzz all day and it really is one of those special events.”
I’ve now of course had the experience as well as experiencing this rivalry as part of the media. I hope I am a lot more objective than I was as a kid and one of the reasons is I’ve had the pleasure to really learn about and understand the passion from the other side, especially now living in Montreal. But really none of this would’ve never happened if not for all those games I attended with my late grandfather. Thank you and thinking of you grandpa.