Road Trip: Indianapolis - Day 1, Post 1What of the Leather man?

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Road Trip: Indianapolis - Day 1, Post 1What of the Leather man?

Welcome to the Road Trip: Indianapolis, a creatively-named blog that will detail my five-day, 1300-mile drive from Boston to Super Bowl XLVI.

But before we get started, a quick story:

The Patriots won their first Super Bowl on my 22nd birthday.

The end.

Just kidding. Theres a little more.

At the time, I was a senior in college in upstate New York, with no clue what I was going to do or where I was going to live once real life began in May. But more important than what would happen a few months later at least for the sake of this story was a phone call Id received a week before.

It was from my Dad back in Boston, in the moments after the Pats upset the Steelers in the AFC Championship:

Him: Hey, so you see the Super Bowls on your birthday this year?

Me: Yeah! Unbelievable, right?

Him: Yeah, so I was thinking what if we went down to New Orleans?

So, we went down to New Orleans.

We took one of those insane 24-hour charters where the flight Pats fans only leaves from Boston at 6 a.m. on the morning of the Super Bowl, and flies back three hours after the game. We had no idea what we were in store for. We had no idea how to even prepare.

It was crazy. It was spontaneous.

It was, and is, one of the greatest decisions weve ever made.

As a sports fan, Ive still never felt anything like I did as Vinatieris field goal split the uprights. It was the culmination of every pathetic moment of my lifelong fandom. It validated every ounce of pain, in the most dramatic and fantastic way possible. And as confetti rained down on the Superdome stage, I didnt know what else to do but put my hands on my head and cry.

Everything got the best of me.

My dad was emotional, too.

Listen, he said, as the party played out on the field in front of us. I dont know where youll be living after this year, or how often well even get to see you, so lets make a deal: From here on out, no matter where you are, if the Pats are in the Super Bowl well be there.

We hugged it out and had a deal.

Of course, there were two things he didnt count on.

1. That Id move back to Boston after only one year away, and spend the next nine living within a 20 minute drive of him and my mom.

2. That the little engine that could Patriots team that shocked the world in New Orleans would morph into a modern day dynasty and return to the Big Game in three of the next six seasons.

All things considered, I wouldve understood if he found a way to finagle out of our Superdome pact, but he hasnt. And every year from New Orleans to Houston to Jacksonville to Glendale (with mom!), he and I have been there. For better or worse.

And well be there in Indianapolis.

Hes flying into Indy on Saturday.

Im driving to Indy right now.

As you read this, Im rolling down I-90 towards Buffalo.

Later this afternoon, Ill land in Williamsville, NY the hometown of Rob Gronkowski where Ill spend a few hours investigating the legend of Gronk, and report back to you in the form of text, photos and video (that will be the case for every stop along the way).

When the days done in Williamsville, Ill head to beautiful Buffalo, and spend the night hanging with a few beautiful Bills fans.

On Tuesday, Ill wake up and drive 230 miles from Buffalo to Canton, OH.

Canton is home to both the Football Hall of Fame and the William McKinley Presidential Library. Ill spend the day at one of these two historic establishments, but dont want to ruin the suspense.

From Canton, Ill drive 64 miles and spend the night in Mansfield, OH.

Theres no fancy reason for Mansfield. (Originally, I had a choice between staying there or staying in Lima, OH. I chose Lima as a tribute to Jose, but then realized Mansfield actually made a lot more sense. Hence, Tuesday night in Mansfield.)

First thing Wednesday, Ill make the 80-mile drive from Mansfield to Ada.

Adas a village (not a town; a village) in Northwest Ohio which is home to less than 6,000 people and the only leather football manufacturing facility in the United States.

The Wilson Football factory in Ada churns out 4,000 balls a day, over 700,000 a year and has made every NFL football since 1955. As soon as I get there, Ill be on a tour.

From Ada, Ill drive 82 miles down to Greenville, OH the hometown of Matt Light and spend the rest of Wednesday in and around No. 72s turf.

Greenvilles less than 100 miles from Indianapolis, but its only Wednesday, so with a day to spare Ill bypass Indy for a historic detour. But first, Ill have to drive 150 miles drive to Bloomington, IN.

It will be late by the time I land in Hoosier Town, but thats OK.

Its only a pit stop.

On Thursday, Ill wake up in Bloomington, and drive 59 miles down to a little place called French Lick.

Sure, this is a football trip. But theres far more on the line than football. Its Boston sports history, and within that realm, there are few more historic places than French Lick.

Ill spend Thursday in the land of the Legend, and hopefully make it out in one piece.

On Friday, Ill wake up in French Lick on my 32nd birthday 10 years to the day since Vinatieris kick sailed through the uprights and forever changed the face of Boston sports.
From there, Ill make the 108-mile drive to Indianapolis, where two days later, the Pats will try to make it four Super Bowl.

My dad arrives on Saturday, but for now, I can barely see that far ahead.

Thats days and miles away.

In the meantime, I hope youll stick around and follow along for what should be an exciting ride.

Ill check in again before we get to Buffalo.

Pare 'brings energy' as big-bodied, sixth-round Bruins pick

Pare 'brings energy' as big-bodied, sixth-round Bruins pick

CHICAGO – The Bruins aren’t ever going to shy away from big, strong centers with a willingness to play on the physical side, so it was no surprise they selected big French-Canadian center Cedric Pare in the sixth round of the NHL Draft Saturday at the United Center.

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The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Pare was described as “a project” by Bruins assistant general manager Scott Bradley, who said that he’s looking forward to the big-bodied forward playing a top-six role in the QMJHL next season. Pare had five goals and 16 points in 64 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs before posting three points in 18 playoff games. Bradley said the Bruins hope to see more offense as he gets more exposure as a player.

“Pare is a developed kid that we got in the sixth round. He went to the Memorial Cup and we’ve seen good things from him. We think we got good value there,” said Bradley. “He plays with a lot of energy and I think his skating is undervalued. Over the course of the year he really picked it up with his skating, and his stride has lengthened a little bit. We just like that he plays with energy and he scored in the Memorial Cup despite playing a limited role.

“He was playing on the fourth line last year. I think this year he’ll be playing on one of their top lines as a top-six forward and he’ll get a lot of ice time...hopefully get some good development there.”

Pare indicated that the Bruins had shown interest in him throughout the season and he had an idea the Black and Gold might call his name in the later rounds. While there’s always room in the B’s prospect cupboard for a big-bodied center that plays with plenty of energy, it remains to be seen if Pare was worth using a sixth-round pick on when there are plenty of big-bodied hockey players out there willing to play with energy and aggressiveness. 

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

CHICAGO – It was thought the Bruins might swing for the fences with Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger, particularly if they traded down in the first round, but they ended up filling their goalie quota on Saturday in the fourth round of the NHL Draft at the United Center. The B’s selected University of Maine-bound Jeremy Swayman with the 111th pick in the draft after an impressive run for the Alaska native at Sioux Falls as a junior hockey player.

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The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Swayman posted a 2.90 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 32 games for a poor Sioux City junior team, but distinguished himself with his size, athleticism and competitiveness as the rare goalie prospect to come out of the great state of Alaska. Swayman was eating breakfast in his Alaskan home while watching himself get drafted by the Bruins. Needless to say, he was pumped as he readies for his first season in Hockey East.

“I’ve been working my whole life for this and just to kind of have the notion of, your work has paid off in a small area of time or a small trinket, it’s very worth all of the hard times and tough times, and kind of working at everything for it. It’s kind of a token back and just an incredible opportunity for sure,” said Swayman, who said he models his game after Braden Holtby while also envying Tuukka Rask’s flexibility. “I would describe myself as a challenge goalie. So, a competitive goalie just kind of fighting through traffic at all times. Being able to see the puck from anywhere on the ice, whether there is a screen in front or a point shot and, of course, a point blank shot. Again, I trust my ability on my skates. I have good feet. I can stay up longer than most goalies in situations where they would have to slide. So, I can stay up and cover more net on a backdoor pass, per say. I also like to cut down the angle a lot.”

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted that Swayman wasn’t the first choice of everybody at the B’s draft table, but said the scouts were confident making him the pick after another goalie was taken off the board before him. There were three goalies taken in the fourth round, including Prince Albert netminder Ian Scott taken one pick before the B’s selection, so it’s difficult to tell which other goalie Boston had their eyes on.

Clearly, the hope now is that Swayman follows in a proud tradition of stud Black Bears goalies that include Ben Bishop, Jimmy Howard, Scott Darling, Mike Dunham and Garth Snow, and that the B’s have drafted a new goalie of the future with Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre in the AHL.

“He’s a goalie that [Bruins goalie coach] Bob Essensa had really liked, and had scouted him. Most of our staff was on board with the goalie. We targeted another goalie, but he just went before our pick,” said Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley. “We heard good things from [the University of Maine] staff there, and we did our due diligence on him. We’re happy with him.”

It remains to be seen how Swayman develops in college, but the B’s hope it’s a steady, ascending development like that of McIntyre after they drafted him prior to his starring run at North Dakota.