Thoughts from a fairweather hockey fan


Thoughts from a fairweather hockey fan

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.

For now.

But then again, what do I know?

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener


Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener

BOSTON – Marcus Smart’s sprained left ankle injury continues to heal, but the Celtics remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to his availability for the season opener on Wednesday against Brooklyn.
Smart sprained the ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 preseason loss to the New York Knicks when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holliday.
He was helped off the floor by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas along with head trainer Ed Lacerte.
Since the injury, the Celtics have been pleased with the healing progress of the ankle, the same ankle he sprained as a rookie which kept him out for several weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart is no longer in a walking boot and continues to be day-to-day as he receives a steady diet of treatments to help speed up the healing process.
Smart will undergo a series of tests to determine the ankle’s strength, prior to getting any kind of clearance to play.
That’s why Stevens isn’t worried about Smart returning to the floor too soon.
“I trust our staff. Our staff and Marcus will make that decision well,” Stevens said. “Then I play guys, if they are available.”
Smart has established himself as one of the Celtics’ top reserves, with the ability to play both guard positions and some small forward depending on the lineup on the floor. The Celtics have to prepare for the possibility that he will not be able to play in the opener (or the first few games considering Boston opens with three games in four nights.

His absence would create more playing time for Terry Rozier in addition to likely resulting in extended minutes for starters such as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
As eager as Smart is to get back on the floor, he and the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
This team wants to make a deep playoff run and they’ll everyone – Smart included – to do so.
That’s why as much as Smart wants to get on the floor immediately, he has to remember – or be reminded of – that this is an 82-game season and his long-term value to this team and its goals can’t be taken for granted.

Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice


Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice

BOSTON - The Celtics got a bit of good news on the injury front with Kelly Olynyk being cleared for full contact.
The 7-foot center participated in most of the Celtics’ drills on Saturday, some of which included contact.
Olynyk said he had been doing some contact work prior to practice Saturday, but in a more controlled setting.
“I’m just trying to ramp it up a little bit more, every day,” Olynyk said. “Just trying to take a step in the right direction every day.”
Olynyk had surgery on his right shoulder in May with him expected to be out for at least five months.
Danny Ainge, C's president of basketball operations, recently said that he anticipated Olynyk returning sometime in the middle of November.
That would put his return about six months out from the time of surgery.

“He did a lot more than he has done,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We’ll see how he feels and progress at the appropriate rate after that.”
One of the strengths that Olynyk brought to the floor when he played was the ability to help space the floor because of his 3-point shooting.
Olynyk was not just a good 3-point shooter for a center, but one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA last season when he connected on 40.5 percent of his 3s last season.  And it’s clear that last season was not a fluke, evident by him shooting 37.3 percent on 3s for his career.
However, the addition of Al Horford not only solidified the Celtics’ interior defense but also provides them with another stretch center.
Horford, who spent the past nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, shot 34 percent on 3s last season which at the very least, makes him a player that defenses have to respect when he’s outside of the 3-point line.