Full disclosure: This series has little, if anything, to do with stats, facts, or analysis of the Boston Bruins. It will not include an in-depth monologue on whether or not so-and-so will re-sign with the Bruins.
Rather, this series aims to put a face on the fanbase by highlighting the fan stories that started and continue to grow the fanbase, to tell the stories in which hockey became larger than life and instilled something intangible in the hearts of fans all over the world.
Last time around, we were interviewing @jensrud95 on Twitter. This time, we are interviewing Brett (@HockeyBender11 on Twitter).
Brett is a 28-year-old Bruins fan who grew up in Massachusetts. To anyone remotely in tune with the big 4 sports world (MLB, NFL, NHL, and MLB), it’s a well-known fact that Boston is a sports city. Therefore, it should take few people, if any, by surprise that, like so many others living in Massachusetts (just under 50 miles south of Boston, in fact), Brett fell in love with hockey.
A humble beginning
When asked about how he became involved with the sport of hockey, Brett explained that while it was always important to him (having grown up in Massachusetts), there was a larger element at play: “I have two older brothers, and we had a pond in our backyard that we used to skate on every winter. …we probably were out there, with all the neighborhood kids, from, you know, you get out of school, and then you come in for dinner then you go out until . . . the lights had to cut off. So, it was really just something that we just flocked to. Just me, and a bunch of my neighborhood kids, my brothers.”
For Brett, it wasn’t just about the neighborhood kids, who were undoubtedly a huge influence. Rather, “My brothers were probably my biggest influence in getting into it. …I would get all of their equipment, all the hand-me-downs, unfortunately, because I’m the youngest.”
Like every diehard fan, there was a moment where the sport and the team became something more than just some guys on ice. Whether that “moment” is a collection of small things all combined together, or the first time hearing a skate scrape the ice, something gives. For Brett, it was more a collection of small things. When asked what the moment was, Brett explains, “I’d say when I was about 7 years old, that’s when I really was doing more of a learn to skate program and skating with my brothers. And I just fell in love with it. I love the feeling of being out there, you know, the wind going through your ears, and face, and it was just something really cool, really addicting, and just brought a lot of joy.
Later in the conversation he continued, “…like many sports, I think it’s the ultimate team game. . . only successful teams are the ones that genuinely care about each other. I experienced that through playing in middle school, playing in high school . . . So it’s things like that. It’s just, you know, it’s many things. It’s memories that last a lifetime.”
No Stranger to Success
Of course, growing up in the Boston area anywhere in the last 20 years has been a road paved with championships galore, but that doesn’t mean that a title can’t be a favorite moment. In fact, for a team like the Bruins, the championship was, maybe, just the beginning. On this, Brett shared, “The best memory is, you know, seeing them win the (Stanley) Cup in 2011 . . . , it was just such a great memory because . . . they’re the ones who I really wanted to see win a championship in my lifetime. . . You know, the Patriots had won three Super Bowls by then, the Celtics won a championship two years prior, the Red Sox had won two championships, and they were the ones that were kind of like the black sheep of the family, so to speak. They would get close, but they would never get it done, and to finally see them win it in 2011 . . .I basically said to my parents, ‘I can die happy now, I’ve seen all of my favorite sports teams win a championship.’ So that was the best one.”
It isn’t just the success that draws fans in, Brett would suggest. Instead, he makes it more tangible, more personal. For him, it’s about connecting with a team who works hard, about a city identifying with their team: “. . . The city kind of identifies with [the Bruins] I think more than the other teams. You know, Boston’s kind of . . . blue collar . . . you work really hard, you do the right thing . . . you punch in, you work hard, you do what you can. And a lot of the players . . . the 3rd and 4th liners, the ones who would . . . get the scraps, or hit a lot of people . . . really worked really hard. They’re the ones that, to this this day, still, I think are the most popular Bruins in history. Guys like Shawn Thornton or Milan Lucic . . . they don’t take a night off, they work their butt off, and those are the ones that really get taken in. Especially to a city like Boston.”
And still for Brett, and for many fans, there’s one player who stands out. For him, it’s Bergeron: “…he was kind of unexpected success because he was drafted, I believe, in the second round in 2003, and that was probably arguably the deepest draft in terms of skill. And he was a 17 year old kid, couldn’t speak a lick of English, but he had a great rookie year, and then he just picked it up in Providence during the lockdown in 2004. And . . . he showed . . . grit, he showed toughness, and he showed pure skill, and it’s a reason he’s probably one of the more popular players in the league today. And he goes up for the award for the (Frank J.) Selke Trophy every year.”
From One Fan to Another
Despite their success, Brett knows all too well the anguish that comes with being a hockey fan, most notably meeting that disappointment head on in June, when the Bruins lost in game 7 to the Saint Louis Blues.
So I asked him what it’s like to be a Bruins fan. He got candid: “Oh, boy. It’s stressful. . . .it might just be the whole Boston mystique over the last 20 years. You know, we’ve had a lot of success, but Bruins fans for a very long time were very upset with ownership in the late 90s, early 2000s, I would say. . . Mainly a lot of stress growing up, but, for some reason, we just always continue to go back, and just, hopefully there was one time where they could make a deep playoff run and change things up.”
While the hockey world will always be anything but predictable, there is a crew of crazed fans who keep coming back, and new fans joining the crew. For them, Brett had a bit of advice to give. For a new fan, he says, “Never stop gaining new knowledge about the game, be like a vacuum.” As someone who played, his encouragement to new players was, “Be patient, work hard, and enjoy the time you have on the ice.”
Hockey will never just be about some guys on ice. Thanks, Brett, for helping to remind us why.
A final, more personal note:
As I’m sure you’ve heard, our founder Josh has made the tough decision to close down Puck77, so this will be my last post. I just want to say that I fully support his decision, and want nothing but the best for he, his fiancée, and Izzy. I had the pleasure of meeting them in Boston earlier this year, and they are some of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.
The people I have worked alongside with, the editors, and especially Josh, have made my introduction to the world of sports journalism an adventure I won’t forget.
I cannot say enough positive things about Josh. He was there at the drop of a hat, and was so flexible with me despite my busy schedule.
He went above and beyond for this site, and I hope that it’s something nobody ever takes for granted. The thing about an undertaking like this is that the front product just shows a small portion of the work. Josh put in loads of work behind the scenes that most of us will never know the fullness of. That level of commitment is admirable.
Thank you, Josh, for giving us a voice in the sports world.
I’ll miss Puck77, but what an adventure it was so be a part of it. Forever thankful.
All the best to all of you,
player profiles from hockey-reference.com