By Ken Hegan for The National Post
So my marriage fell down and exploded, much like that darn greedy pigeon who gobbled too much rice at our wedding.
Right away, my best friend Jim flew over to see me. He wanted to orchestrate my comeback. So he gave me a self-help book called The Maxims of Manhood: 100 Rules Every Real Man Must Live By. The paperback’s cover art makes it look like the book is patched up with duct tape. Based on that alone, I figured it would totally suck. But it’s actually a wise primer on how to be a strong and honorable modern man. Some tips include:
- “First date is always drinks”
- “Never sleep with your roommate”
- “Stop using emoticons”
- “Always hold the door [for women].”
But the most valuable chapter was on Sports where it said, “You should settle on your favourite team by the day you stop trick-or-treating.” The author, Jeff Wilser, says picking your team when you’re young — and sticking with them for life — teaches you the value of relationships.
“Switching your favourite sports team is forbidden,” says Wilser, because “the man who changes teams cannot be trusted.”
I grew up in BC when the Vancouver Canucks were horrendous and the Boston Bruins were champions. My hero was #4 Bobby Orr. So I backed the Bruins and I’ve stuck with them ever since.
That’s right: I’m a diehard Bruins fan from Vancouver and the only BC boy who wants them to DEMOLISH the Canucks.
Jim is disgusted. He can’t believe I won’t back the Canucks. But no, The Book has spoken. You always stick with your team.
Jim’s studying some robotics whatnot at MiT. So I flew over to see him. My plan was to watch Game 3 with him in a raucous Boston sports bar. But my main mission in Boston is to get an interview with Bobby Orr. I want to ask him how to recover from my losses and live a life of purpose.
But Mr. Orr is notoriously media shy and didn’t write me back. So I reached out to Cam Neely, who was a Bruins hero in my youth and is now the team president. When the Canucks traded him to Boston, he became a superstar. A talented power forward, he battled for every goal. He was like a really angry Gretzky.
Injuries killed his playing career. So I wanted to ask Neely about comebacks. The Bruins are down two games to zero. I wanted to know what life lessons he could give me, that might also work for our team. But he turned me down, too. Damn. I suppose he’s busy with other stuff right now. Maybe he’s just teaching me the importance of focus, much like my uncle who used to zip me inside a hockey bag, then throw me in the pool and have me claw my way out. [note: that might have just been a dream]
So I came to Boston anyway. It’s midnight outside the TD Garden in Boston’s north end. I’m with Jim and my pal Chris who’s such a Canuck fan, he rode his motorcycle 11 hours to get here. They’re both tempting disaster here tonight … because they’re both wearing Canucks jerseys and we’re bar-hopping right across from the rink.
Suddenly we’re surrounded by rabid Bruins fans who are pouring out of the arena. Now, you should know that Bruins are notoriously rowdy. Jim and I learned that a few years ago. We came to watch the Bruins take on the Canadiens and we ended up sitting beside a drunk dad named Walter Cutler. He was excited to watch that night because it was his first game back after being banned for a year … for urinating on Montreal Canadiens fans. Really. Google it. Walter’s famous in this town for starting what the papers called ‘The Boston Pee Party’.
Now you understand why I’m nervous to be seen with my Canuck fan friends. Will they get shoved, smacked, kicked, whizzed on? Everything’s possible in Boston. But none of that’s happening tonight because the Bruins just CRUSHED the Canucks by a resounding 8-1. I’ve seen blowouts before but this was a brutal Beantown beatdown.
I’m the happiest Vancouverite in Boston.
We watched the game in a great sports bar called The Four’s. Sports Illustrated has called The Four’s “the best sports bar in America.” It has the requisite zillion TV screens but the place is 100% authentic (no generic pre-fab team merchandise that you see in places with names like ‘Shenanigans’, ‘Hooplas’ or ‘Happy Sports Time Sushi’). Named for Bobby Orr, it’s packed with Orr-autographed pucks and jerseys, and the main bar is made of a tough plank of heavy scuffed oak. Just sitting at it, I swear I feel four new chest hairs punching their way out of my skin.
Tonight, the Four’s is infested by Canucks fans who took over the bar and cockily dubbed it ‘Fort Nucks’. However, now, after being tossed like chowder on a rollercoaster, the Canucks fans look sad, stunned, and miserable. I want to celebrate (see ya, losers!), so I dragged my friends next door to a jauntier tavern, Sullivan’s Tap, a classic (read: ‘dive’) Boston sports bar.
The bouncer waves me in but suddenly clamps a hand on my shoulder. He nods at my friends’ Canucks jerseys.
“You can come in,” he says, “but your friends can’t. This is a Bruins bahh.” Instantly, I get what he’s saying. He’s barring them entry because he’s worried for their safety.
Through the doors, I can see a happy sea of black and gold jerseys as far as the eye could see. Burly thick-necked dockworkers and hahd-pahtying women, all wearing the spoked-B on their chests as a proud badge of honour. This is my team. Always has, always will be. And tonight, our momentum shifted. Our team routed the evil invaders and our comeback’s under way.
I shrug to my friends. Should I leave them behind? The Sullivan’s Tap crowd is smiling and high-fiving. In Vancouver, I’m perpetually alone in a sea of Orca car flags… but this bar feels like home. These people feel what I feel. Yet because of the company I keep, my loyalties are torn.
Jim steps up and says, “That’s your tribe, man. Go. You’ve come this far, you deserve to celebrate with your people.”
It’s my Sophie’s choice: I can stick with my team, like the duct-tape book says. Or I can stick with my teammates who were there for me after my separation. I gaze longingly inside the Bruins den. Then I grab my pals and we head back to the only bar in Boston that will grudgingly accept them.
— Ken Hegan