---- — The Boston Bruins are No. 1.
And I’m not referring to their place in the National Hockey League, which has another week or two decide that.
I’m referring to their place in the hearts (and passion) of this region.
This is no slapdown of the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics, all of whom have collectively embraced the Patriots-induced drive to win championships.
I’m referring to the team on the ice. They have kept their identity — tough, edgy, relentless and diligent — for decades.
And that identity is a microcosm of this region, which likes to embrace all of those admirable qualities.
(Thankfully, your Bruins haven’t taken on two other not-so-charming qualities we tend to have — braggadocious and arrogance.)
There are two occurrences from the series with the Pittsburgh Penguins that encapsulate these themes:
Gregory Campbell staying on the ice for 45 seconds with a broken bone in his leg and the last 30 seconds of Game 4.
Campbell will never have to pay for a dinner again in the Boston area. He personifies being a Bruin ... whatever it takes.
And the last 30 seconds of series with the Penguins, with Bruins bodies flying and diving, doing anything to keep the puck out of the net, was extraordinary. It was not luck that Zdeno Chara saved the puck with his glove (on Evgeni Malkin’s potential tying shot) without seeing it. It was a Bruin giving everything he had. Isn’t that what being a Bruin is.
It’s hard to play in June. The gashes on the face are deeper. Broken noses are collateral damage to winning. And there are no days off.
Following championship teams is a ball whether it’s from the my seat in the press box or your seat in the family room. But following this team isn’t the same.
The Red Sox are in a fight for the best record in the majors, but there are lingering effects from the Josh Beckett Red Sox which haven’t gone away just yet.
The Celtics are on the 18th hole with the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and appear to be weeks away from blowing up their amazing run.
My biggest criticism of the Patriots is that, unlike the Bruins, they have forgotten their way, slightly. Those teams in the early part of the last decade might as well have had a roster of players born and bred in New England ... tough. Some recent Patriots teams have looked more like the Los Angeles Lakers than the best Patriots team of all, the 2004 team.
Anyway, I don’t care what the ratings say or the sellout streaks are.
Right now, the Boston Bruins are No. 1.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter handle is @burttalkssports.
Stanley Cup Finals schedule Game 1: Wed., at Chicago, 8 p.m. Game 2: Sat., at Chicago, 8 p.m. Game 3: Mon., at Boston, 8 p.m. Game 4: Wed., at Boston, 8 p.m. If necessary Game 5: Sat., June 22, at Chicago 8 p.m. Game 6: Mon, June 24, at Boston, 8 p.m. Game 7: Wed, June 26, at Chicago, 8 p.m.