Picard: My Cup runneth over

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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.

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

BRIGHTON, Mass -- The Bruins lost Matt Beleskey for six weeks to a knee injury this week, and now they’re hoping to get another winger back now that 22-year-old Frank Vatrano has rejoined the Bruins at practice.

Vatrano was wearing a red no-contact jersey at Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, but his presence along with the other players at the team skate means that he’s moving closer toward a return to the B’s lineup. While initial timetables for his recovery from foot surgery had him in the early January range for returning to the Bruins lineup, it appears that he might be at least a couple of weeks ahead of that initial expectation.

Either way Vatrano is happy to be back on the ice with his teammates after the torn ligaments in his foot wiped out his training camp and the first two plus months of the regular season for him.

“It was a big step for me today. It was nice to be out there with the guys for the first time,” said Vatrano, who scored a combined 44 goals last season for Providence and Boston in a breakout season with the B’s organization. “I’ve gone through the rehab and done everything I need to do to get back playing, so now the next step is getting back on the ice with the guys. I felt great, so now it’s just waiting to hear the news when I start playing again.”

While Vatrano is still a young, relatively inexperienced player with just one full year of pro hockey under his belt, the sense from the Bruins is that he’s going to help a team that’s currently ranked 25th in the NHL in offense. Claude Julien was encouraged by seeing him out there in the red, no-contact jersey that his teammates were chirping him about, and said that his level play at last spring’s world championships should give him confidence when he jumps back into a big role with the Black and Gold.

“It’s a step in the right direction for Frank. That’s the best way for him to get to the pace of our game because it’s going to take a while when you’ve been out that long,” said Vatrano. “I think his experience at world championships last year is a real blessing in disguise because he gained a lot of confidence there. I think that’s going to help him a lot more than had he not gone.

“He played against a lot of elite players last year, and he fared really well. I think he’ll be coming in now with some confidence, and we just have to sure coming in that we give him every opportunity to succeed by using him properly, and giving him a chance to find his game.”

That certainly sounds like the Bruins are preparing for a top-6 role and maybe some power play time once the young, sharp-shooting Vatrano is back up to full speed. That should be fun to watch once he’s ready to play, and ready to again unleash that shot and release that rivals anybody else for tops on the Bruins roster. 

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

BOSTON -- Ryan Spooner has definitely heard the reports out there that he’s being shopped in trade by the Boston Bruins, and he played like a guy that didn’t want to be moved in Monday’s win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Spooner had his good skating legs, created chances for his teammates and set up the third period goal that got the B’s into overtime when he flipped a shot at the net that was tipped in by David Backes while camped out around the crease. Spooner finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating along with five shot attempts in his 14:24 of ice time, and looked much more like the energized, creative player that was at the heart of some pretty good offensive things last season.

In other words, Spooner looked much more like the talented young player that finished with 13 goals and 49 points last season while centering the third line.

“I think there were five or six games there where I felt I wasn’t playing a bad game. Then six or seven games there where it was hard to get, I guess, the ice time that I wanted,” said Spooner. “At the end of the day, I’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“I just have to go out there and use my speed and my skill and I found that in the game here. I thought that I did that and I just need to play with that, and I should be fine.”

Multiple sources have indicated to CSN New England that the Bruins are talking about a possible Ryan Spooner deal with multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Part of it is certainly the need for the Bruins to collect a bit more goal-scoring as Monday night’s win was just the eighth time in 26 games this season that Boston’s offense has scored more than two goals.

Part of it is also, however, a challenging season for Spooner where he’s been in and out of Claude Julien’s dog house while getting dropped to the fourth line at times, and even being left off the power play a handful of times as well. He’s played out of position at left wing rather than center and has underachieved to three goals and nine points in 25 games largely played with David Krejci and David Backes.

Whatever the history and the number of potential trade scenarios, Spooner said was “fed up” with all of it in his own words as he headed into Monday night’s game, and one thing remained true above all else: He wants to stick around as a member of the Bruins.

“I try to just put it in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I went through the same thing [in junior hockey]. I definitely want to play here,” said Spooner. “I want to help out and that’s kind of where I’m at now. If I play like I did [against the Panthers], I think I’ll be fine. I just want to go out, I want to help out, and that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The Black and Gold are looking for a top-6 forward capable of putting the puck in the net on the trade market in any possible deal involving Spooner, but it would seem that the 23-year can control his own destiny in Boston if he starts generating offense and putting the puck in the net. Spooner did just that on Monday night while setting up a third period goal, and lo and behold the Bruins offense posted four goals after struggling to get more than two for most of the season.

That could turn into the kind of trend that keeps Spooner in Boston if he knocks out the inconsistency in his game, and instead steps on the gas pedal and brings the speed and skill that got him to the NHL in the first place.