Donaldson: Where do Bruins rank in Boston's championship pantheon?

Jun 17 2011 - 4:00pm

Let me slip on these white gloves.

Pretty spiffy, don't you think? Very Lord Stanley-ish, wouldn't you say?

Now let's open the trophy case.

First of all, let's slide these three Vince Lombardi trophies to this side. Next, let's move these two Commissoner's trophies over here to the other side. But where to put the Larry O'Brien Trophy?

My goodness, this case has gotten awfully crowded.

And we've got to make room for Lord Stanley's Cup, right here in the center.

Because not only is it the biggest, and the newest, addition to the collection, but, most importantly, it completes the set.

The set of championship trophies garnered by Boston's professional sports teams since the turn of the century.

What an amazing, incredible, truly remarkable, absolutely delightful run this has been for New England sports fans.

Eleven years, seven championships, four sports.

No other city, no other region, ever has experienced anything like this.

It was the New England Patriots who got the region on a roll by winning the Super Bowl in 2001. They went on to win three in four years, then came within seconds of another in 2007 after going undefeated in the regular season.

After 86 years of frustration, the Boston Red Sox finally won a World Series in 2004, following a scintillating and wonderfully satisfying comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS against the hated Yankees. Then they won another in 2007.

The Boston Celtics, thanks to Danny Ainge's acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to team with Paul Pierce and form a new "Big Three," added a 17th banner to the Garden rafters in 2008.

There was no Garden party for the Boston Bruins, however.

They were the odd team out in the midst of this remarkable roll. Not only had they not won a championship since 1972, they hadn't even played for one since 1990.

They were the forgotten team, largely ignored on an otherwise highly successful local sports scene by all but hard-core hockey fans.

Nor was there any sense that the situation was going to change this year after the Bruins lost their first two playoff games, on home ice, to their longtime nemesis, the Canadiens. There was talk then not of a title, but of coach Claude Julien being fired and GM Peter Chiarelli heading out the door with him.

But Julien, in his quiet, confident, classy way, turned the team around, and now the Bruins are the toast of the town.

The beloved Red Sox have been playing torrid baseball, but they've been playing second banana as the Bruins battled back to beat Montreal in seven games, swept the Flyers (avenging last year's ignominious playoff loss), topped Tampa Bay in seven games for the conference championship, then overcame deficits of 0-2 and 2-3 to beat the Canucks and win the Cup, taking Game Seven on the road in Vancouver.

It has been a memorable season of hockey in the Hub, a truly unforgettable year in what has been a dream decade for New England sports fans.

Every championship is to be cherished, each a significant achievement.

But everybody loves lists, and so here's one opinion of how all these titles rank:

7. The 2008 Celtics -- We've long been spoiled by the Celts' success. And so a 17th banner, impressive as it was, didn't pack the emotional punch of the other teams' victories.

6. The 2007 Red Sox -- Yes, this team was down 3-1 in the ALCS, but it was against the Indians, not the Yankees, and their World Series sweep was over the Rockies, not the Cardinals.

5. The 2003 Patriots -- When a team that won its last 15 games, capped by a last-second 32-29 victory in a wild Super Bowl against Carolina, ranks only fifth, it ought to give you an idea of just how good things have been around here.

4. The 2004 Patriots -- This championship, the third in four years, established the Pats as the NFL team's Team of the Decade.

3. The 2011 Bruins -- After four decades, Boston finally once again is the Hub of Hockey.

2. The 2001 Patriots -- This was a close call. At midseason, these Pats were 5-5, with their franchise QB sidelined, and in his place a guy who hadn't been drafted until the sixth round the year before. Then young Tommy Brady matured before our eyes, and the Pats won the "Tuck Rule" game in the snow against the Raiders, thanks to a couple of incredibly clutch field goals by Adam Vinatieri. Then, after being introduced as a team rather than individually before Super Bowl XXVI, they upset the high-scoring Rams -- aka "The Greatest Show on Turf" -- on Vinatieri's field goal in the final seconds in New Orleans.

1. The 2004 Red Sox -- As fabulous and surprising as that first Super Bowl win by the Patriots was, it had been nearly a century since the Red Sox had won the World Series. Generations of fans had passed away without seeing the Sox win it all.

Now, in these last 11 years, New England fans have seen all of their teams win titles.

It's never been this good. Not here. Not anywhere.

These are, indeed, the good old days.

 

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