Picard: My Cup runneth over

495416.jpg

Picard: My Cup runneth over

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Follow @dannypicard
SOUTH BOSTON The first time I kissed the Stanley Cup was in 1994.

South Bostons own Brian Noonan won it with the New York Rangers, and brought it home for the rest of the neighborhood to enjoy.

Perhaps enjoy isnt the right word. If youve ever been in the same room as the Cup, then you know what Im talking about.

Ive been fortunate enough to be in the same room as the Stanley Cup twice now, after it made its way to L Street Tavern in my hometown of South Boston last Wednesday night.

It was the first time the damn thing graced the streets of Southie since 1994, thanks to the Bruins remarkable championship run.

There werent any players with it, though. The actual Bruins themselves didnt bring it to Southie during their multinight binge on the town. Instead, they took it to Charlestown, the North End, and Foxwoods.

Maybe Im missing a few stops along the way. But the point being, they never brought it to Southie, and unless some of my Dot-rat friends were sworn into complete secrecy, they never brought the Cup to Dorchester either.

As two hockey-crazed communities, both deserved a chance to see the Cup up close and in person.

Luckily for my community of South Boston, we had our night with it on Wednesday.

It capped a two-week Cup-hunt throughout the city, a two-week period in which the only Cup me and my friends could get a picture of, was with the life-sized inflatable Stanley Cup we purchased online during the Finals.

It showed up in the mail the morning of Game 7. It was immediately inflated, and put in a closet, only to be revealed to the rest of the party if the Bruins were hoisting the actual, 35 pound trophy at the end of the game.

The moment Brad Marchands empty netter made it 4-0, the inflatable Cup came out, and it went everywhere our crew went. Castle Island, M Street beach, L Street Tavern, Atlantic Beer Garden. If we were there, the inflatable Stanley Cup was with us.

Thats another reason why the Cup is so special. I mean, do they even make an inflatable Lombardi Trophy? And if they did, would you even want to be seen carrying it around down the beach or at a bar?

Sure, laugh about how childish an inflatable Stanley Cup may seem, especially for a bunch of Southie kids in their mid-to-late 20s to be taking it with them everywhere they go. But Im willing to guarantee that if you were around it, youd be the first to come over and ask to hoist it for a picture.

I can actually remember telling my mother that I felt like I, personally, won the Stanley Cup, with the way people were gravitating to the 2-pound balloon in local establishments.

It was all in good fun of course, but people in Southie wanted to spend a few moments with the actual Cup so badly, that they were willing to settle for our party toy.

In the weeks following the Bruins Game 7 win, my crew was tipped off and we were told to make our way to several local establishments in which the real Stanley Cup would possibly be showing up.

While coming from reliable sources, none of those tips ever led us to Lord Stanley. And I must admit, being part of these Cup hunts was sometimes difficult, because I am an active member of the Boston media.

When Im on the clock, I do my job. But Ill never lose my passion for the sport of hockey. That would be a sin.

I grew up in South Boston, a place where your skates are laced up and youre thrown onto the ice down the little rink with Arnies Army at the age of 6, learning to walk on water, whether you like it or not. Most continue to love it and play for years, like myself. Its a way of life in our neighborhood, our 11th commandment if you will.

You play every day in the winter, and spend summer mornings inside a rink for one reason: to eventually win a Stanley Cup. And when you realize that dream is dead, you hope for a friend or for your local team to carry out that dream for you.

So my passion for hockey isnt going anywhere. And therefore, neither is my passion for the Bruins, or even for the Stanley Cup.

The same goes for the entire community. And Im sure that passion is no different in other hockey-crazed towns throughout New England. But Im only in one place at one time. And when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, I was only in South Boston.

For two weeks that followed, the only Cup sighting in Southie was our inflatable one, until this past Wednesday night, when a tip from a source finally paid off, and Lord Stanley finally made its way through the back door at L Street Tavern, or as we locals call it, Striggies.

And as the Cup guy (isnt that what everyone calls him?) carried the shiny trophy to the back of the bar with his white gloves on, there wasnt one person whose eyes didnt light up.

Thats what the Stanley Cup does. It lights up a room like no other physical object in the history of the world.

For every minute spent with it, nothing else matters. Personal issues, everyday stress, its all blocked out. Its just you and the Cup. And its a feeling that simply cant be described to perfection.

The first time I saw the Stanley Cup in person, I was 11 years old. My mother came out front and told me and my friend Ryan Sweeney to get on our bikes and head to the old Abbey (a local Southie bar that is now closed), where our fathers were drinking out of the Cup, courtesy of Brian Noonan.

So off I went on my black spray-painted Huffy White Heat, my San Jose Sharks hat (I loved their unis), and a feeling of overwhelming excitement. It was the same feeling I had last Wednesday night, when someone inside L Street Tavern yelled, Its here!

The Cup had arrived back in Southie for the first time since 1994. And for the short period of time that we got to spend with it, nobody in the place had any other care in the world.

And while the multiple pictures I took with the Cup are priceless, it was even more fulfilling to witness the rest of the neighborhood experience what I had already experienced as an 11-year-old kid who didnt yet know just how to appreciate someone elses bliss.

As I looked around L Street Tavern, I realized that this Stanley Cup meant so much more to this city than I had ever imagined. It was the missing piece in many peoples lives. It was more than just a flashy trophy you could drink out of.

It was a sign of hope.

The same sign of hope that younger Southie kids showed when they wouldnt even touch our inflatable Cup, thinking that it would jinx their chances of winning the real thing one day.

The same sign of hope that Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli showed when he signed a 35-year-old goaltender to a 4-year, 20 million deal, thinking that hed one day lead the Bs to the promised land.

The same sign of hope that Nathan Horton showed when he brought melted TD Garden ice with him to Vancouver in a water bottle, and dumped it in front of his bench before Game 7, thinking that it would cure Bostons road woes.

The same sign of hope that me and my friends showed by hanging around our local bar until 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, thinking that the Stanley Cup would eventually show up, when there were no guarantees it would.

As it turns out, the Cup showed up, and hope was fulfilled.

So I kissed it again.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Morning Skate: Petersen snubs Sabres, Fleury pens letter to Pittsburgh

Morning Skate: Petersen snubs Sabres, Fleury pens letter to Pittsburgh

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while the NHL pre-July 1 wooing period is underway.

 

*Another draft pick has snubbed the team that selected him after their college career, and this time it’s the Buffalo Sabres. 

 

*It’s a shame to see the demise of the CTV sports staff in Montreal. Brian Wilde is a friend and a colleague, and a voice on the Habs that deserved to be heart up in that city. 

 

*In an emotional letter penned to the only NHL city that he’d ever played in, Marc-Andre Fleury has plenty to say about Pittsburgh. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers and Peter Chiarelli have signed rugged power forward Zack Kassian to a three-year, $5.85 million contract. Interesting risk here for a player that might be a fourth line guy, and has had some issues toeing the line in the past, but Kassian has been pretty effective for the Oil since they stuck out their neck for him. 

 

*Teemu Selanne is a no-brainer for this season’s Hockey Hall of Fame class, and that’s great. But it will be a crime if three-time Stanley Cup champion and high-ranking lifetime scorer Mark Recchi doesn’t finally get into the Hall this season. Seriously, Recchi has the credentials statistically, he has the Stanley Cups, he has the time playing with some of the greatest players of his generation during his NHL career and he also happens to have been a great person and leader on top of all that. If former Bruins winger Recchi doesn’t hear his name announced this season then something is seriously flawed with the process. 

 

*How exactly will the return of Brandon Saad impact both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane over the next few seasons? One would imagine it’s going to be a positive impact. 

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman thinks that the Columbus Blue Jackets are making a push to be contenders, and will be in the mix for Ilya Kovalchuk. 

 

*Speaking of Blackhawks former Cup champs, Niklas Hjalmarsson is bringing that winning tradition, experience and leadership to the Arizona Coyotes now that he’s been traded. 

 

*For something completely different: What a crazy story this Han Solo movie intrigue has turned into, with reports that the movie’s crew “broke into applause” when it was announced that Ron Howard was taking over direction of the movie. 

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference.