Covering both sides of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry

Sometimes I sit in amazement and laugh at the fact that a young man from Arlington, Massachusetts, who grew up a die-hard Boston Bruins fan and hated the Montreal Canadiens, now covers both teams. To me, this is the greatest competition in professional sports, but I’ve never opened up to you what it has been like since I started at Montreal Hockey Now while still covering the Bruins for Boston Hockey Now.

Thursday marked eight years since my father passed away. Leave it to my 11-year-old daughter, Maddy, as she always does, to calm my aching soul and make me smile, but it didn’t stop there. While we were having lunch on Thursday, I told her how the hockey world had slowed down over the past week. For the first time since COVID halted the 2019-20 season and upended and reversed the NHL schedule, everyone working in this league is finally starting to get a taste of the normal off season. Yes, we only have August, but still the sense of normalcy is back.

Anyway, back to Maddy to save the day. I told her the news cycle was slowing down, and I was trying to figure out what to write about (by the way, for readers who suggested story ideas on Twitter, I’m here, they’re coming), Maddie suggested I write about how “Papa” (my dad) found it so funny that I cover the Montreal Canadiens The Boston Bruins.

Is that me, or do kids see the obvious answer more than adults? Well, here I am finally telling you what it was like to see the biggest rivalry in professional sports from both sides.

Believe me, I always listen to Red Sox-Yankees. While I’ve been a fan and a reporter watching both, there’s still something that beats the Bruins-Habs. Maybe because my job taught me a lot not just about rivalry but both sides. The players, the coaches, the management, but mostly fans. There is no doubt that if necessary, they would drop the gloves just as Chris Nylan, Jay Miller or Lyndon Byers have done so many times.

Thanks to this post, I have also seen respect between the two fan bases many times over. There’s nothing quite like seeing Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins fans throwing in post-game shots of Jameson at McLean’s Pub in Montreal or Porter’s Bar and Grille in Boston and then trading the good shots.

Usually well-meaning, anyway.

As some of you know this by now, I grew up outside of Boston. As you might imagine, Montreal Canadians weren’t very well liked in my home. Some of my early memories were watching the Boston Bruins on TV38 a long time ago. Then when I turned eight in 1982, I went to the Boston Bruins games in the old Boston Garden with my grandfather (season tickets at Loge 7, seats 11 and 12) until the famous “Last Hurray” fair between the Bruins and Canadiens on September 26, 1995.

Oh my God I miss this building!

Six years later, my grandfather passed away. Six months after that, I was on the Boston Bruins in the Boston metro. I covered the 2001-02 season opener and watched 77th Ray Burke head toward the rafters. I should note that I was also in Old Boston Park on December 4, 1987, when Porky returned seventh to Phil Esposito and donned the 77 for the first time.

The first time I covered a game in Montreal was Game Six of the first round of the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs series that the Montreal Canadiens won in six games. Well, then and there my appreciation for the Montreal Canadiens fans and the city of Montreal was born, and I had the pleasure of knowing what the fans of the Canadiens and the team and that city are all about. With all due respect to the Bruins or any other North American sports fan, there are no more passionate, knowledgeable sports fans out there.

I was also there when José Théodore stole the show again in Game 7 of the 2004 first round series between the Bruins and the Canadiens.

Or how about one of the greatest games you’ve been to as a fan or reporter? Game 6, first round, 2008. The night the Bruins announced they were back and tied the series after 3-1.

Yes, the Montreal Canadiens completely choked the Boston Bruins 5-0 at the Bell Center in Game 7, and yes, I was (fortunately) trapped in Protopia on the lower crescent during the riots and watched a police car explode outside, but that series was a rebirth of rivalry .

The Boston Bruins would sweep the Montreal Canadiens in the first round the following season, but this was a prelude to one of the best series they’ve ever covered, the epic seven-game battle in the first round of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup race.

I can confirm that if the Boston Bruins had lost that match, Claude Julien would have been fired and the core of the Bruins reaching Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final would have been blown.

The next time the two teams met in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I was covering the rivalry from the other side. I’ve been living in Montreal since the summer of 2012 and at that time I was working freelance for NHL.com, TSN, and CTV. Those two years there cemented a place in my heart for the city and the friends I made during that time were there for me when my dad fell into his last days and passed away on August 4, 2014. Three months earlier, the former Montreal Canadiens defenseman had made PK Subban perhaps one of the best 5 Electric Moments You’ve Ever Covered As A Sports Reporter Or Seen As A Fan.

Just under a week later, Suban was kissing then-NBC analyst Pierre McGuire after the Canadians won another Game 7 in Boston.

I came back to Boston in 2015, and was on the Bruins until last January. I’ve taken up Montreal hockey now and by the grace of God I found Marco D’Amico to join MHN and since then he’s been one hell of a reporter. There’s one thing I preached to Marco when he started and a lot of young reporters must, although certainly difficult, you need to bury the fan inside you to be objective and successful in this business. Covering both sides of this rivalry definitely helped me do that, but it also made me a bigger fan of hockey and made me appreciate the teams and cities so much more. Somewhere above, I know that my late father and grandfather are smiling and loving this as much as I am. Thanks Boston, thanks Montreal, and thanks Maddy for inspiring me to write about covering the best competition in professional sports!

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