When it comes to villanizing professional athletes, Boston sports fans have that role down to a science. Their memories of Bucky Dent’s home run, David Tyree’s catch and Magic Johnson’s hook shot are long-lasting.
Over the years, the Pittsburgh Penguins have provided a few names on the list of Boston’s sports villains.
The first name that pops up on that list is Ulf Samuelsson, whose dirty check to the knee of Cam Neely in the 1991 Wales Conference Finals hampered his playing career. While the current Bruins President did play five more seasons, including the 1993-94 campaign where he scored 50 goals in 49 games, his knee problems – in addition to his hip condition – forced him to retire after the 1995-96 season.
Nineteen years after Samuelsson, Matt Cooke added his name to the list of Boston’s hockey villains when he delivered a dirty elbow to the head of Marc Savard. Due to his severe concussion, a once promising career for Savard never came to fruition. Savard has not played since January of 2011 when another severe concussion knocked him out seemingly for good.
Fast forward to March of 2013. Prior to their tilt with the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli believed, after a call from Flames GM Jay Feaster, that his team were the winners of the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes. The B’s would have shipped Matt Bartkowski, Alex Khoklachev and a first round pick to Calgary, but an eleventh hour deal between the Flames and Penguins sent Iginla (who had a no-movement clause) to Pittsburgh in exchange for Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski and the Pens’ first round pick in 2013.
Eventually, the Bruins wound up acquiring former Penguin Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Cody Payne, Lane MacDermid and a 2013 first round pick – as a result of the B’s reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. But the cold shoulder Iginla gave is still fresh in the heart of many Bostonians.
The Black and Gold are faring well without Iginla (and I hear that Bartkowski is also fitting in nicely on Boston’s blue-line). But when the Bruins and Penguins take the ice this week in Game 1, the Iginla storyline needs to take a backseat.
This isn’t to say that Iginla, and for that matter Cooke, will get their share of boos every time they touch the puck at the TD Garden. This isn’t to say that Bruins fans should forgive and forget, either.
But the focus should be on the task in hand. And that task is trying to dethrone the top team in the East in order to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three seasons.
Both Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien echoed that sentiment after the Bruins’ five-game series victory over the New York Rangers.
“I always thought you had to go through them to get to where we want to go at some point,” Chiarelli said. “It’s been well documented, the Iginla stuff and the Jagr stuff, so we’re happy with who we got.”
The best revenge isn’t getting back at any one individual. The Bruins learned that the hard way in 2010 when Cooke and company came to the TD Garden a couple of weeks after the Savard incident, and three years later in Iginla’s first appearance since “the trade”.
The best revenge is on the scoreboard.