By Rich Levine
I don't know much about hockey.
I didn't grow up playing it. The Bruins were awful for most of my childhood, so I was never inspired to follow it. My high school didn't even have a team, so there was never a reason to care.
That apathys extended into adulthood, and will probably stick around until I die.
Ahh, thats uplifting stuff.
I dont have anything against the sport itself. And not counting people from Montreal, I have nothing against those who love it. Its just that personally, hockey doesnt affect me like basketball, football and baseball do. And it never will.
But Im from Boston, so every year around this time, I hop on the bandwagon, watch most of the games and root like hell for the Bruins. Maybe that makes me a fair-weather fan. Okay, fine. It definitely makes me a fair-weather fan. But whatever, Ill never claim to be anything else.
Watching hockey is a humbling experience, though.
Do you remember the Seinfeld episode The Parking Space"? Its the one where George pulls into a spot at the same time as that character Mike (in another episode, hes the guy who wont pay Jerry for winning the Reggie Miller bet), and they spend the show arguing over who should get it. Anyway, theres a scene at the beginning where Elaine accuses George of being a bad driver, and he goes off:
Nobody drives like me! he says. Nobody! I'm doing things in this car, you have no idea they're going on!
Thats what I feel like watching hockey. I know that there are things going on that I have no idea about. That there are strategies, techniques and side stories unfolding that are completely over my head. When I watch the Bruins, I feel like Im my mom at a Patriots game. I cheer when they score but have no idea how they did. The only difference is that afterward I dont yell at myself for not wearing a jacket. Honey, its freezing! Did you ever even get that flu shot?!
Okay, sorry. But its a strange feeling. Its just not an easy follow. When theres a big hit or a flashy goal (or any goal), Im right there screaming along with Jack Edwards, but otherwise Im lost. My mind wanders, and I spend most of the game wondering about things like how badly it would hurt to take a slap shot to the face, or how many saves Id be able to make in a shootout or how funny it would be if the Bruins traded for that guy with the last name Semin. It's definitely different.
So, just to tie a bow around the message Ive beaten into the ground these last few hundred words: When it comes to the Bruins, Im clueless.
But heading into Thursday nights game in Montreal, there was one thing that even a hockey-atric fan like myself could understand:
Michael Ryder was a bum.
He was useless. He had no business being on the ice, and if the Bruins lost, his presence would be a major factor. I got this from the experts. From everyone on the web, TV and radio. Basically, since the start of this series, anyone who had anything to say about the Bruins, believed that Ryder was either a problem or THE problem.
Everyone was calling for his head.
Obviously, everyone was wrong.
Thats not a personal attack on the anti-Ryder camp, because it was a belief that was held across the board. Still, everyone was wrong. His performance last night was proof that he did serve a purpose. It was validation for Claude Julien stubbornly leaving Ryder in the line-up.
It was also, in a way, a metaphor for the entire Bruins franchise.
It was indicative of everything Boston goes through every year with this team.
Succeeding when everyones counted you out? Failing when they believe the most?
Its called Bruins.
If its the playoffs, you never know what youre going to get. Actually, you do. Its going to be the exact opposite of what you think you know. They do it every year, finding different ways to surprise and disappoint you along the way.
Is anyone entirely sure what theyll do next? Can you ever be completely confident in what you believe? No way. All you can do is sit back, think about slap shots, shootouts and guys named Semin, and expect the unexpected. Because thats always whats on the way.
Ryder showed it on Thursday night, coming back from the dead and helping the Bruins officially do the same.
But then again, what do I know?