The city of Boston, has historically been known as a hockey town, with all the college clubs around, minor league teams, and of course the Boston Bruins. There was a period of time though, from December 2005 until April 2008, when Boston wanted nothing to do with the Bruins or the NHL. What Bruins forward, Marco Sturm, did in April 2008 brought the Bruins back to the surface of Boston sports and since then, the Bruins have consistently been a top team in the NHL.
End of the 2004-05 lockout
When the NHL lockout of 2004-05 came to an end and hockey fans rejoiced everywhere. Some fans never came back because they were angered that a whole season was lost over money. Most however, let the NHL back into their hearts.
Boston fans only embraced the NHL coming back until November 30, 2005. After a horrid first month and a half start to the season, GM Mike O’Connell made a late night trade, sending fan-favorite and team captain, Joe Thornton, to the San Jose Sharks for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau, and Marco Sturm. The first two players are lost in B’s history and are only known for the Thornton trade. Sturm ended up being much more than expected.
The Bruins ended the 05-06 season at the bottom of the standings, with a 29-37-16 record, no future success in sight.
Start of the Chiarelli era
The next season, O’Connell and head coach Mike Sullivan were gone, and new GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Dave Lewis were in. Chiarelli and Interim GM Jeff Gorton were quick to make a franchise shifting move, signing both Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard on the first day of free agency in the summer of ’06. Chara was made Captain of the team but the supporting cast were still a bunch of plebeians that should have been playing in Providence.
Throughout the next season the Garden was nearly empty during game-days, with the Bruins begging for people to buy their $10 tickets, even giving away free tickets through e-mail.
At the end of 06-07, the Bruins had finished last in the division again, and Dave Lewis was fired at the end of the season.
Sturm quietly had a fine season, recording 27 goals and 17 assists. What was nice about his goals, was that some of them had won games for the Bs in clutch moments. He was almost always on the ice during these situations, and earned the time because he handled them better than anyone on the team at the time.
On June 22, 2007, the Bruins hired former Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils head coach, Claude Julien. Little did the fans know that this would be an important part of the change in Bruins history.
The 2007-08 Season
At the beginning of the 07-08 season, there were no real expectations for the team. The fans were still down on the team, as was the media, but once again, Sturm took the Bruins by storm.
During the season, he scored even more game-winning and clutch goals. He showed more passion than anyone on the ice. Sturm had his best season as a Bruin, and arguably the best season of his career, potting 27 goals and 29 assists. In the playoffs he would have the most memorable moment of his entire career.
The Bruins finished the 07-08 season in 3rd place in the Northeast Division and had a record of 41-29-12. It was a fun and spectacular season for those who were watching the team at the time, which was still not many.
Boston finished the season in a playoff position and were set to take on the hated Canadiens in the first round.
Fast forward to Game 6 of the first round series. The goals went back and forth until the game was 4-4 in the 3rd period. The Habs were favored to take the game and the series, but a miracle for the Bruins happened with just under three minutes left in the game.
There was a little scrum in front of the Canadiens net, but out comes Sturm with the puck, and he skates in front of the net and waits while still gliding around for what felt like a million years, picks his spot, and goes top shelf. It was a thing of beauty. It was the most important goal the Bruins had scored in years. Chills down the spine started and screams of joy commenced.
The next day the goal was all over the news. Fans told friends and family about it. I even yelled to people on the street that night, “The Bruins are back, the Bruins are back!”
Boston lost the series in Game 7 versus the Canadiens, but the jubilation of fans still stood. The Bruins culture had finally changed for the better.
Bruins fans who had stopped watching for years came back to watch in the 08-09 season and beyond. The Bruins began making the playoffs regularly and the team started winning individual awards, Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Trophy and so on.
Then in the 10-11 Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins won their first Cup since 1972. The year the Bruins won the Cup was Sturm’s last season as a Bruin. He was traded in December 2010 to the Los Angeles Kings for future considerations because of his multiple injuries over the past few seasons.
It was a shame because if anyone deserved the Cup for his time with the Bruins it was Sturm. It was a move that needed to be made so the 10-11 team could move on and win the Cup.
Giving Sturm his credit
Before the Cup win, it was Sturm and the 07-08 Bruins who brought hockey back to Boston. It was the first big step before the promising seasons that came afterward.
Sturm’s Game 6 was the turning point from Bruins mediocrity and he was the largest, most memorable part of that game.
Obviously it was not just Sturm who took part in the change, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, Claude Julien and many others were involved as well. However, that goal and win in game 6 against Montreal changed everything. Yes, the Bruins lost Game 7 but it felt different, it was change.
Was Sturm a great hockey player? Not exactly, but he poured his heart into every game he played with the Bruins.
Though, for the team, at that moment, he was truly great.