From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The Yankees' team bus was on the Henry Hudson Parkway last Saturday when Joe Girardi's phone rang. After deteriorating from Alzheimer's disease since the 1990s, his father had died in Illinois."I had tears in my eyes on the bus, so I put some sunglasses on," the manager said Thursday, struggling not to cry, "and (did) probably what a lot of men do when they go through difficult and sad times, we try to stay busy. That's what we do. And I tried to focus."For five days, Girardi did not disclose dad's death to his players, preferring not to talk about it and not wanting to distract his team. Jerry Girardi, who was 81, will be buried in Tampico, Ill., next Monday -- an off day in the AL championship series."I was going to tell them, you know, God willing we get into the next round, that I was going to the funeral on Monday and I wouldn't be at the workout," he said. "That's when I was going to tell them."New York played another late-night thriller with Baltimore, which won 2-1 in 13 innings to force a decisive Game 5 Friday. The Yankees have one more chance to advance to the ALCS.A man on a mission. That's what Joe Girardi is. That's what he learned from Jerry Girardi and his mom, Angela, who died in 1984.Not managing for a night never entered his mind, not last weekend, not now. He stood alone in front of the dugout and wiped tears from his eyes during a pregame moment of silence, then blew a kiss to someone in the stands."The one thing that both of them, besides many other things that they taught me, was always to finish the job at hand," Girardi said. "So my thought process was my dad would want me to do everything that we could do to go win a World Series. He had been a part of them with me as a player. 2009 -- I don't think he understood what we did at that time. He was at a stage in Alzheimer's that he wasn't talking, so I don't think he understood."And then the manager with the close-cropped hair and serious look, a man who almost always maintains a steely cool, got emotional and choked up."I had a tremendous relationship with my father. Wherever he went, I went. When he stopped, I ran into him," Girardi said. "And I've always said, if I could be half the husband and father my dad would be, that would be special."It was as difficult a pregame news conference as there can be. A night earlier, Girardi made the toughest decision of his six years as a major league manager. With the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning, he pinch hit for slumping Alex Rodriguez, baseball's most expensive player. Raul Ibanez batted for A-Rod and not only hit a tying home run, hit went on to hit a winning homer in the 12th to give New York a 3-2 victory."He would have been extremely proud and probably told all his buddies," Girardi said of his dad.Jerry Girardi served in the U.S. Air Force in the Korean War and worked in construction sales and as a bricklayer. Sounds like he was a tough guy who didn't back down."I was watching my dad change a bathtub spigot, and he had the wrench, and he was trying to tighten it, and the wrench slipped and hit his thumb and he broke his thumb and it was bleeding," Girardi said. "But he finished what he had to do. He finished that, and my mom was like, You've got to go to the hospital,' and he's like, Nope, I've got to finish it.' He just taped it up."So I thought, that's what my dad would want me to do, so that's what I tried to do."Across the field, opposing managers look at Girardi and assume his fight comes from his dad. Baltimore's Buck Showalter reflected on the 1991 death of his father, Bill, a retired high school baseball coach and principal."I talk about it all the time, we're at the mercy of the mothers and fathers of the world, and I know you've got a pretty good idea what Joe's dad must have been about," said Showalter, who started his major league managing career with the Yankees. "My dad passed away two weeks after I got the job here managing, and I think about him every day. I have a little special feeling for what I'm sure some form or fashion Joe is feeling."Alzheimer's runs in the Girardi family. His father's mother died from it and his father's brother Ronnie did, too."We see what it does to families, and I've always talked to other people, because I've been through all the different stages about (how) sometimes we get frustrated with our parents when they're going through that," he said. "And believe me, they don't want to forget. They don't want to forget where they put their keys. ... You have to show them a lot of patience and kindness and try to understand the disease."Girardi talked baseball with his dad, went to Wrigley Field together, played catch in the backyard, watched Cubs' games together on TV. He had given his father his 1996 World Series ring.He thinks about his dad often, but not when he's in the dugout and it's time to make decisions. He smiled when he reflected about one change this week."I'll be able to do my job, because I know that's what they would want me to do," Girardi said. "When I think about it, it's the first time in over 28 years that my mom and dad have seen a game together again. So they'll be watching, and they'll be mad if I'm not doing my job. I know that."
BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.
The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.
Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.
Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.
Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.
“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.
“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”
As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.
Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.
“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].
“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”
One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.
Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.
Jay Heaps joins Brad Feldman to discuss the team’s 2-1 loss to the Fire.