Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the seminar. I’m handing out the information packet we’ll be using, so if you could just take one and pass the rest to person behind you, we can get started.
But before we do, I just want to make sure everyone’s in the right room. This is “Orientation to the 2010-11 Bruins for First-Timers and Pink Hatters.” Is that what everyone signed up for? Great. Then everyone open up your packet and we’ll begin.
In a moment we’ll discuss who you are. But first, let me tell you who I am. My name is Jerry Thornton. I write for WEEI.com and Barstool Sports, and I can tell you in all sincerity that I am a Bruins Pink Hatter.
Now you may be asking, “What exactly is a Pink Hatter?” And that’s a good question. It’s a term that once referred to the women who literally wear pink Red Sox hats to games at Fenway. It then became more widely used as a pejorative to describe any casual fan or a bandwagon-jumper who barely follows a team until they get deep into a playoff run. And that description, with respect to the Bruins, fits me to a T.
I am by no means and intense hockey fan. I think it’s great game for the most part but the NHL is a mismanaged joke run by bumbling, shortsighted imbeciles who took what was once one of the “four major sports” and turned it into something that is followed by fewer people than “Cupcake Wars.”
So, I follow the NHL and the Bruins in a way that could best be described as just “sorta/kinda.” I’m not watching 60 minutes of games against the Minnesota Wild in November or tracking who’s being dropped from the third line to the fourth. But I have written a Pink Hattish column or two. I’ve interviewed obnoxious drunken Montreal Canadiens jackwagons in the streets outside the Garden. And I’ve spent enough time around hardcore Bruins-obsessed puckheads to have learned a couple of things. And that’s why I’m here.
This class is geared toward you, the ones who are just jumping on board the B’s bandwagon now that they’ve reached hockey’s final four. I’m not an expert and I’m not a first-timer, which is why I’ve been chosen to help give you a crash course into what you need to know, how you should behave, and what will be expected of you going forward into what we all hope will be a Stanley Cup championship run.
So now that we’ve completed the introduction, you can either follow along with the PowerPoint slides or I’ll ask you to open to page 2, the one titled:
“The Bruins: A Brief History.”
Remember that it’s been almost 20 years since this team has gone even this far, and almost 40 since it won a Stanley Cup. Looking around the room, I see enough gray hair to know that at least some of you remember those good times when the B’s owned this town. But at some point or another, all of us tapped out and the team stopped being relevant. When you came to the realization that ownership was taking the vast reservoir of fan loyalty and pumping it for money like an oil well. And so we bailed on the Bruins and turned to the other teams in town who won championships and rewarded your support.
Next heading: “Understanding the Bruins Fan.”
Well, while you and I were taking the trains into Patriots’ duckboat parades, buying up commemorative, officially licensed Red Sox World Series DVDs and debating whether to get the long sleeve or short sleeve Celtics championship T-shirt, Bruins fans stuck by their team. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now: When it comes to the people in the stands, the B’s have the best fan base in Boston. B's fans are loud, they’re loyal, they know their sport and they know their team. With none of the “I’m happy just to be here”/”I hope I get shown on the Jumbotron” trendiness that infects the other teams’ fan bases like a mutant strain of some virus.
Next slide: “Be respectful.”
Did you ever have, say, a band you liked or a comic or a TV show where you were in on the ground floor? Something that you were the only person it seemed who liked it? And how did you feel when that thing became really popular with tons of mainstream appeal? Resentful as hell, correct? It’s happened to us all at some point in our lives. For instance, I was the first one I knew who liked “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And by the time it became a hit and was on the cover of TV Guide as “The Best Show Your Not Watching,” I had nothing but contempt for anyone who was late to the party I felt like I’d started. It’s a human nature thing.
Well, these Bruins fans have been getting along just fine without you and me, coughing up larcenous ticket prices to watch an often lousy team in a half-empty barn. And they don’t need us barging in and acting like we’ve been standing alongside them all along, because we haven’t. So defer to the diehards next to you while you’re sitting there with the price tags hanging off your brand new $380 David Krejci authentic third jersey.
Next topic: “Knowing the NHL.”
Those of you who dropped out of following hockey in the 1990s will be surprised at the number of teams you don’t recognize. The reason being that the league operated for a while as a sort of Ponzi scheme, bringing teams into cities they had no right to be in. And to you, at least eight to ten of NHL franchises will sound like the team Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken played for in “Slap Shot.” For example, I just found out someone called the Nashville Predators got eliminated from the playoffs. Really? Nashville has a team? The “Predators?” What’s their logo? The image of some guy caught by Chris Hanson on “Dateline NBC”?
Next: “The Season in 30 Seconds.”
Once upon a time, “Saturday Night Live” had an annoyingly recurring character known as Father Guido Sarducci, who was inexplicably considered funny at the time. The only bit I can remember him doing was called “Five Minute University,” where he’d sell you a degree by teaching you the only stuff you’ll remember once you graduate from real college. (Spanish: “Como esta usted?” “Muy bien.” Economics: “Supply & Demand”, etc.) Well, like college, the NHL regular season is a colossal waste of time. So here is everything anyone will ever need to remember about the B’s season thus far:
“Tyler Seguin was drafted No.2 overall but is still too young and green to help. Tim Thomas had a great season and established himself as the No. 1 goalie, which surprised everyone. Marc Savard never really recovered from his cheap-shot concussion last year. Milan Lucic played better than expected — until the playoffs, when he disappeared. The Bruins never went on a dominant run. Zdeno Chara ran a Canadien player into a stanchion and the fans of Montreal hate him. The Bruins beat them in the first round of the playoffs in seven games with three overtimes. Then they swept Philly. Thomas has dominated the playoffs.”
Congratulations. I just caught you up on seven months of pro hockey.
And next: “Phrases to know.”
Sometimes being an expert isn’t as important as tricking people into thinking you’re one. For instance, I took an art class in college because I really wanted to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the humanities. Just kidding. I took it for the same reason Jeff Winger took Anthropology: Because I was searching for the ultimate blowoff class with no homework. That, and because I saw a one percent chance of there being nude models. (Note: There were. It was like going to a strip club for credit. Good call by me.) And what I learned from the class is you can make people think you know what you’re talking about in just a few words. So every time I was supposed to give my opinion on a piece of art I’d say “It has a sort of ... subtle luminosity.” It was just two words I’d slapped together at random, but it sounded authentic enough and fooled everyone. Years later I learned to fake it at wine tastings with “It has a certain Oakey smoothness.” You get the picture.
Well, you didn’t need to waste your precious time this past season watching the Bruins and Hurricanes battle it out for home-ice advantage to sound like you did. Just remember to call the Bruins power play “anemic” and suggest from now on they decline the other teams’ penalties. Complain that something isn’t right with Lucic (or preferably “Looch”). Mention how Tomas Kaberle has to be more aggressive and what a great contribution they’re getting out of Brad Marchand and you should be fine. But call some part of the ice “the half wall” (I swear I have no idea which part) and you’ll have the whole world Buffaloed into thinking you’re the next Andy Brickley. Or just memorize the phrase “Jack Edwards is nuts” and you’ll be fine.
So that’s it in a nutshell. There’s more to learn, obviously. But I think I’ve given you the basics to go out there and root the Bruins through the next, hopefully, two rounds of the playoffs in a way that’s fun, rewarding for you, and just as importantly, is respectful to the Puckheads who have actually been following the Bruins, night in and night out for 40 futile years. If you have questions, I’m not the one to ask. I’ve given you everything I've got. So, you’ll have to find a real Bruins fan if you need more information.
In the meantime, relax, have fun, and go Bruins. And I hope to see you all again at our class reunion in June. At the Rolling Rally.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @jerrythornton1.