The sound of metal ripping through the cold surface is drowned out by passionate screams. Shafts smack rubber; bodies thrash against bodies. The sheer intensity of the players can be matched only by that of their fans.
Hockey has been long overlooked in most of America, but New England is one of the few regions with a widespread appreciation for the sport. And as the Bruins progress in the playoffs, they find new fans and invigorate longstanding ones.
“It’s so much more intense than the regular season,” freshman Joe DeCoff said of the playoffs. “There’s more hitting, and the players really want it.” The Bruins hope to defeat the Philidelphia Flyers for the second time tonight, in a best-of-seven series.
The 16 teams sprinting toward the Stanley Cup, eliminating one another through three playoff rounds and the Cup finals, create a burning fervor on the ice. And the spectators seem to care as much as the players do. Hockey is a sport with few casual fans and many diehards. The crowd in the T.D. Garden and the many others watching the games on television are dying to see the B’s win their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
“We haven’t won (Stanley Cup) in so long,” said sophomore Julie Coates. “It’s like the Red Sox. You just want to win so bad.”
Coates took an informal poll of students in the lobby of Aubuchon Hall to find out whether more were excited for the Stanley Cup playoffs or the NBA playoffs. While basketball won the competition 59-53, the small margin suggests that hockey is on the minds of many college students.
Boston has historically been a more hockey-centric city than most in the country. While the Red Wings’ consistent success has given Detroit the label “Hockeytown,” the Bruins are the NHL’s oldest American franchise. Greats like Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Cam Neely kept fans watching in years past.
What makes New Englanders love the sport today?
“It’s in our heritage,” said DeCoff. “And a lot of people here go out and skate.”