Sanderson overcomes demons to reach 'happily ever after'

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Sanderson overcomes demons to reach 'happily ever after'

BOSTON Life was simple if not necessarily stable -- when Derek Sanderson was a wild-and-crazy jock blazing a trail through the Boston Bruins and professional hockey in the 1970s.

He was never taken aback with the notion that he owned night clubs with Joe Namath, found himself squiring around Playboy pin-ups, or always seemed to be the moustache-sporting life of the party. It was always part of the deal with being the Turk.

He describes his younger self as kinda devilish and a little off the wall.

So its rather appropriate that Sanderson writes this in the second paragraph of his new biography, 'Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original': I have a friend who told me,'Hanging out with you is like living in a movie.' When I look back on it, I realize that every day, something crazy was going on, but when youre in it, you dont realize that. Its your normal. I have no doubt that I should be dead or in jail.

"Thank God, Im neither."

Or as Sanderson put it when he sat down for a wide-ranging interview with CSNNE.com in the picturesque 19thfloor conference room at the Baystate Financial Services office, where he serves as vice-president: It was a rude day when I went to my financial guy to get some money and he said, Youre broke. I was an alcoholic and in various troubles. I had a Rolls Royce and I didnt have the money to insure it. How does that happen to somebody? I ended up sleeping in Central Park and sleeping under bridges. When that happens, it is just a rude day.

Theres a lot of fun in the book. But some tough times, too, because it was a dark path that I went down."

The book contains "a lot of great stories (about the 1970s Bruins). We had a great team. But its also about facing your fears and dealing with what I was afraid of in my life.

Sanderson was a charismatic agitator adept at killing penalties and taking big faceoffs while helping bring the Bs a pair of Stanley Cup championships. Third-line centers dont get much better or more effective than Derek Sanderson was during his time with the Bruins.

Off the ice, however, it was one drunken escapade after another. Sanderson recounted stories of waking up alone underneath a bridge and passing out on a park bench after evenings filled with drinking and carousing. The police would routinely return his Rolls Royce to him after a night of partying because Sanderson couldnt remember where hed parked his expensive car.

It was a different era, but things like that would happen a lot, said Sanderson. We can chuckle about it now a little because Ive battled back my demons. Those are crazy things that alcohol can do to you. The poor decision-making just blows you away.

Other people arent so lucky and its not so funny. They do things that you would never do in a million years if you were sober. There are two main things I try to get across in the book: I tried to use alcohol as a coping mechanism for my fear. I never had that foundation for success in place and it was my undoing.

"Also, its amazing what a wonderful woman can do for you. Would I have stayed sober if I didnt have my wife Nancy, who has given me two wonderful boys? Its impossible to say for sure.

The craziness became much more commonplace once he left Boston. The short-lived World Hockey Association barged onto the scene in 1972 and began raiding NHL rosters in anattempt to become a second major hockey league. The WHA's Philadelphia franchise lured Sanderson away from the Bruins with an outlandish (for the time) 2.6 million contract.
When he left, however, he also left the comfort, friends and structure he had with Harry Sinden, Bobby Orr and the adoring army of Bruins fans in Boston.

Were still a family, Sanderson says today. We were close. It was an era, you know? The Bruins was something that just happened in the town at the time, and we grew up together.
"Now pretty much all of us have stayed here. Thats got to tell you something.

Back then, however, the loss of that family started Sanderson down, in his words, "a dark path". 'Crossing the Line' takes readers through the manic wild rides Sanderson undertook once drinking and stacks of money became a toxic mix. The Bruins iconoclast has some jarringly unforgettable stories, such as taking three actresses and two Playboy models on a spontaneous flight to Hawaii with nothing but the clothes on their back, a tripmarred by the mother of all sunburns when Sanderson passed out on the beach.

There was also the day Sanderson bought himself a Rolls Royce on a whim, and the night ended with him waking up all alone outdoors on a park bench. He knew he was in Central Park, but had no idea what happened to the friends he'd been with or his new car.

He also recounts the debt owed to his co-owner at the bar they owned together, Daisy Buchanans. The friend locked up Sanderson's Stanley Cup rings so he wouldnt pawn either of them when financial times got tough.

The 388-page book is full of those highs and lows during Sandersons ride to the top and subsequent drop to rock-bottom. But writing the book with acclaimed hockey writer Kevin Shea also allowed Sanderson to have a conversation with his 25-year-old self.

Oh, I would have beaten him silly. But he wouldnt have listened, said Sanderson of his younger self. I dont think anybody listens. I think we all have to bounce off the walls a little bit. Oftentimes there are no brakes and people just go.

There are plenty of classic stories about the Bruins glory days of the Bobby Orr era to satiate even the most discerning of Bs fans.

-- There was the quiet, steady leadership and unwavering support from Orr, who never stopped supporting his teammate.He was always as good as gold to me, and that never changed from the time he was 16 years old, said Sanderson.

-- There was Sandersons first game against the hated Montreal Canadiens, when he attacked Jean Beliveau because the gentlemanly Habs legend never signed an autograph for him when he was a kid.

-- Theres the larger-than-life story of the Bruins wheeling Phil Esposito from his hospital bed, where he was recuperating from surgery, to a Boston bar so he could enjoy a celebration with his Boston teammates.

But Sanderson also goes through the cause of his hard-partying ways. He was afraid to fly in an era where professional athletes needed to make piece with the heavy travel schedule, and that was a constant battle in Sandersons Bacchanalian life.

I was deathly afraid of flying, but I didnt want to lose what I had, said Sanderson. I was single, I lived in this town and it was great. So then Im saying to myself I own four nightclubs and Ive got to get on this plane to go to Oakland. Oh. Why, God? I wanted to say Sorry, Ive got a bad back.

But that was part of the crew with the Bruins. We all played through injuries and fought through our own things. Harry Sinden was only one coach and there were never really any rules or anything. One guy just followed the next guy and did their job.

Perhaps the most elementary question for Sanderson: Why now to write a book that was 66 years in the making, with so many of the stories stemming from experiences that took place 20 or 30 years ago?

The answer is simple: Sanderson was waiting for a happy ending.

Its something Ive always wanted to do, but I always wanted to wait until I had an ending to the story, said Sanderson. I help professional athletes manage their money now in the investment business at Baystate Financial Services, and thats what Ive been doing for 21 years.

It really ends my story on a positive note, whereas it was kinda just out there 20 years ago. Yeah, I was sober. But being an assistant golf pro not even the head golf pro, for God sakes wasnt going to cut it. I had to do something now that the story is finished.

Plus, cracked Sanderson, with that familiar twinkle in his eye. College costs a lot of money.

You dont have to read the book to know that theres plenty of life and charm whenever Sanderson is involved. But theres also the kind of wisdom that comes only by going beyond the looking glass and back while living to tell about it, and thats Derek Sanderson to a B.

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.

He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.

In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.

But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.

“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.

“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”

Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.

“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”

The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.

So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.

“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”

Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. 

After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.

This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.

That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.

But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.

“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”

That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.

“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”

And we get that message, loud and clear!

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”