USA TODAY Sports' Kevin Allen breaks down who will have the biggest impact as the Bruins and Blues prepare for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. USA TODAY
USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher, a Boston guy living in Colorado, has proudly passed along his rooting interest in Boston sports teams to his children.
“My children were born and raised in Colorado, but they have been properly parented,” he says, laughing. “Brainwashed might be another term for it.”
When the Bruins play the St. Louis Blues Wednesday in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET, NBC), he said his children will be going “crazy as if they grew up in Boston.”
Some fans share the misery of their fandom with their children. Not Boston fans. Kelleher’s daughter, Abbey, is 17 and Boston teams have won 12 championships in her lifetime. That’s six by the Patriots, four by the Red Sox, one each by the Celtics and Bruins.
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“If you told me when I was a kid this was possible, I would have said, 'That’s preposterous,’ ” said Tony Massarotti, 51, who partners with Michael Felger on the highly popular Felger and Mazz Show” on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
“We all keep waiting for this to end,” Massarotti said. “And it just keeps going … in all honesty, they had a chance at a fourth. It’s kind of crazy, but the Celtics underachieved. They should have probably been in the Final Four.”
Massarotti said Boston's run of success is a regular topic on his broadcasts. Boston fans want this third title.
“Just driving around here, you see people with the flags on their window, and bumper stickers, people wearing hats, jerseys and jackets,” said Ben Smith, a longtime college coach in the area. “We really didn’t have a spring in New England. People have been kind of housebound. The Bruins have (been a distraction) from the bad weather and maybe they’ve helped the Red Sox because people haven’t noticed how bad they can be. They have been the entertainment factor.”
Different sports landscape
Boston's sports landscape is much different than it used to be.
Massarotti said there was a time in the 1990s when Boston was jokingly referred to as “Loserville.”
“For example, the Patriots were not just bad, they were a laughingstock,” Massarotti said. “They were the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions.”
Today, every sports town would love to have the success Boston is having.
“It’s hard to argue against Boston being the best sports city in America,” said USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program winger Matthew Boldy, a Massachusetts native projected to be a first-round pick in this month's NHL draft.
Boldy, who committed to play at Boston College, says the success of Boston teams is inspirational to younger athletes.
“This is huge for the city and kids growing up in the area,” Boldy said. “Growing up, I’ve seen a lot of parades and championships. It makes it easier for you to dream about that happening for you one day.”
Bruins center Charlie Coyle, from East Weymouth, Mass., says that happened to him.
“I always think back to being in middle school when the Patriots started winning and the Red Sox and you go to school the next day and wear the gear,” Coyle said. “Going to parades. I went to a few growing up. So I was really fortunate to have those great teams here, cheer them on and experience that.”
The Bruins have more Americans (13) on their roster than any other team, and several have a Boston connection. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk grew up within walking distance of TD Garden and his father John is a Bruins employee who helps convert the arena from hockey to basketball.
“Matt can walk out of the arena and take a five-minute walk and be where he grew up,” Smith said. “There is a community feeling about this team.”
Allan Steele has been a Bruins’ season ticketholder in the last row of the balcony for 25 seasons. He remembers paying $15 or $20 per ticket per game in the 1990s. Today, his tickets are $70.
“And I still think it’s a bargain,” he said. “This week, it’s $170 per ticket and we could probably sell them for $2,000 right now.”
But he won't sell them. He said young sports fans in Boston are spoiled by their teams’ success.
Younger generation used to titles
“Kids who are 20 and under don’t understand what real life is,” Steele said. “They just think every team should win. It’s going to be amazing when we hit hard times and go back to normal.”
Given the team’s history of poor performances before this golden era of Boston sports, Massarotti compares it “to a homeless person winning the lottery.”
He said every Boston parent has to have the “talk” with their children about the fact that life as a sports fan isn't this rosy.
“They don’t have a clue," Massarotti said. "They think this is all normal. This is a generation where everyone gets a trophy. And in this case, it’s somewhat true. There’s a parade every year. Every year, there is a final to take your kids to. It’s ridiculous.“