I cried when the Boston Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.
It wasn’t the first time in my life that my favorite hockey team had been there, but I was too young to appreciate the feat in 1990, and subsequent conference finals losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992 only wrenched my heart enough to make me a die hard fan for life, always hoping they’d get back to that level.
And then Nathan Horton from David Krejci happened (side note: don’t sleep on Andrew Ference’s outlet pass to spring the play), and I found myself celebrating in my backyard (so as not to wake Baby William) with my hands in the air and a few tears falling down my cheek.
I honestly didn’t expect them to go on and beat Vancouver in the Final, seeing as the Canucks were far and away the best team in the NHL all season long. The journey was anything but a straight line, prompting me to chew several pieces of herbal anti-anxiety gum between swigs of adult beverages all through the series. Seriously, that gum is a thing, and it was left over from the birth of our first child. In the end, the somewhat lopsided Game 7 allowed me to process the eventual win in a greater amount of time than the previous series victory, meaning no tears that time around – only several silent iterations of “(expletive) yes” (again, so as not to wake the baby).
One of the neat things about the Cup is its summer travels, being loaned to every member of the winning team for a day so that they might celebrate where they were born or currently live. As fate would have it, this Bruins team featured Rich Peverley, a Guelph native who still called the Royal City home. My wife Lauren and I had been living here since returning from Scotland in 2009, and by then it already felt like home, especially after Will had been born at the local hospital. When I heard that he would be bringing the Cup to the Sleeman Centre – home of the OHL’s Guelph Storm – I made sure to take the day off work so we could be there.
How did he get there? It’s quite a tale, really.
Peverley took the long road to the NHL. After this good Ontario boy was drafted by the Mississauga Ice Dogs of the OHL during the Don Cherry regime, Peverley decided against the junior hockey route, choosing instead to accept a scholarship at St Lawrence University. There, he led the team in scoring for 3 out of his 4 years.
Unfortunately, his collegiate success did not translate into having the Peverley name called on Draft day, forcing him to begin his pro career in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingers.
In 2005, Peverley made the jump to the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, where he posted 168 points (56 G, 112 A) in 176 games. This was enough to convince Milwaukee’s parent club – the Nashville Predators – to offer him an NHL contract, where he would appear in 73 games over the course of 3 seasons (scoring 7 G & 13 A in 73 GP as a Predator.) In January of 2009, Peverley was waived by the Predators, and subsequently claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers organization, a move that proved to be most beneficial. Peverley proceeded to put up 124 points (49 G, 75 A) in 180 games for Atlanta during 3 seasons, earning both his first big contract (2 years, $2.6 million), as well as an invite to represent Canada at the 2010 World Championships in Germany.
In February of 2011, Peverley – along with Boris Valabik – was acquired by the Bruins in exchange for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart, by no means an insignificant price tag. Wheeler has since become a great player and part of the “Boston trades away too many good young talents” lexicon, but I’ll always be a fan of the trade because of 2011.
Peverley, of course, scored two goals for the Bruins in the Final that year, both of which came in a 4-0, Game 4 win that tied the series after Boston had dropped the first two contests on the road. The first of those goals was a beauty.
And so on July 27, 2011, I joined a large group of local Bruins fans in the local rink, and we celebrated a Cup win together, thanking Rich for his role in the victory. I got him to sign a puck, and handed my phone over to have this unfortunately blurry photo taken of us.
I wasn’t able to be in Boston for the parade, but this was a little slice of the pie, and I was happy to be part of it.
The chances of the Cup coming to Guelph anytime soon are slim, barring an appearance with San Jose’s Logan Couture or Florida’s Michael Haley – the only guys from here currently in the NHL. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan chose to take it to his home in the States rather than his place of birth, and that decision coupled with Tom Wilson’s new contract has me worried about his sanity. But I digress …
For those who live in the densely hockey populated southern Ontario, the Cup is likely to come within driving distance in any given summer. It’s well worth the trip to see the greatest trophy in sports, and when it’s your town and your favorite team being represented, it’s truly a day to remember.
Thanks for the Facebook memories, Pevs.