Twas the Night Before Game 7

On the way home from work I started thinking that it was the night before game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I decided to grab my phone and start orally recording a poem (loosely to the beat of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Here’s what I came up with. Not perfect, but hey, I was driving. Go Bruins!

Twas the night before game 7, I lay pondering the fate
Of how my team would fair, in a sport done on skates
B-lievers were nestled, nervously in bed
With dreams of a Stanley Cup hoist o’er head

I curled up in my sweater, and whispered a plea,
That the Stanley Cup winners, would wear a spoked-B.
And back in New England,
I needn’t be told
My fellow B-lievers wore black and wore gold.

When down in the hall, I heard the crack of a door,
I sprang from my bed as I heard a loud roar.
I ran down the stairs to see what was abuzz,
And found a tall creature standing, all covered in fuzz.

He didn’t say much, but it knew from his stare,
This was none other than the famed Bruins bear.
His eyes didn’t twinkle, no cheeks like a rose,
He was brown, he was hairy, wit
h a long snoutish nose.

When he stood on his hind legs, oh what a sight,
I couldn’t believe what was happening that night.
More rapid than slap shots, he started to name,
All the bears who would play a role in this game.

“Score David Krejci, and Ryder, and Marchand,
Lead us Big Chara, and Recchi, and Bergeron,
Show us your heart, young Lucic and Seguin,
Prove to the world this is your moment to win.

Be strong on the blue line, Tomas and Dennis,
The same message goes out to Adam and Ference,
Be in the moment Shawn, Paille and Boychuk,
Timmy Thomas protect as you dive for the puck.

Shane Hnidy and Kampfer, and goaltender Rask,
You are Boston Bruins, with or without mask.
In all that you do, be a part of this team,
As you bleed black and gold and follow this dream.

Campbell and Kelly, Peverley and Kaberle
You have made it this far, continue to play.
Work hard in your battles in corners and walls,
Now grind away! Grind away! Grind away all.

Do it for Chief, Cam, Ray, Dit and Orr,
Do it for Hitchman, Milt, Terry and Shore.
Do it for Savvy, and the pride in your chest,
Do it for Horton, and the ‘B’ on your crest.”

With a tear in my eye, matched by one in his fur,
Our hearts filled with longing Lord Stanley could cure.
We both knew our mission, this Game 7 Eve,
No matter what happened, we had to B-lieve.

“I’m off to Vancouver” he said with a roar,
He waved his right paw, and made way for the door.
As I watched the bear travel, away from my sight,
I heard him say surely “Tomorrow’s our night.”

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Goodbye, Mark Stuart!

Before game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. the Montreal Canadiens

Today, Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler were traded from the Boston Bruins to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.

Although he’s had a rough season, Stuart has been one of my favorite players for the Boston Bruins. Not a flashy guy, but gets the job done and is one of those all-around nice guys. I admit, I may be one of the few hockey fans who has his jersey.

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to interview him while working in the Boston Bruins media relations department. Here’s the story that resulted from our conversation:

Stuart’s Strong on Boston’s Back Line

Before settling in at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, or “The Dunk” (as it is affectionately known by Bruins fan of both the Boston and Providence variety), was home to Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart for the majority of his career in Black & Gold.

Although the trips up and down I-95 seem to be a thing of the past, this past Sunday, in his third pro year and first as a full time Boston blue liner, Stuart faced some new opponents in a different dunk—the dunk tank at the 18th Annual Boston Bruins Wives Carnival. Fans who attended the carnival were able to take their shot at submerging Stuart in 450 gallons of water.

While the joke on Causeway Street had been which Bruin would be this year’s Dunk Tank victim, the truth is that the good-natured Stuart actually volunteered for the task.

Stuie in the dunk tank at the 2008 Bruins Wives Carnival

“It’s a role I accepted,” Stuart told BostonBruins.com prior to the carnival, “I’ve never been in a dunk tank. I mean, I’ve participated, but never inside the tank.”

What was his one concern?

“I hope it’s not too cold.”

As if that would be a problem for the defenseman who has been braving the cold since he first toddled onto the ice as a curious three year old that wanted to do everything his big brothers did.

“I was kind of a little copy cat,” he admitted.

Fortunately for Stuart (and Bruins fans), he’s been able to do at least two things like his older brothers. All three brothers played for Colorado College and all three were drafted into the National Hockey League.

Eldest brother Mike was drafted by the Nashville Predators and spent time playing with the St. Louis Blues. Middle brother Colin Stuart scored his first NHL goal this past New Year’s Eve when the Atlanta Thrashers paid a visit to the TD Banknorth Garden.

Don’t worry Bruins fans—Mark, the youngest of the Stuart men, returned the favor by netting his own goal against his brother’s squad the next period.

But playing for different teams seems to be the extent of sibling rivalry for these brothers. When asked about how his brothers have influenced his hockey career, Mark had nothing but glowing praise for both of them.

“Colin [has] been huge for me,” said Mark of his brother, who was just recently called up to Atlanta for his first NHL stint. “It’s pretty cool to see him get rewarded. It’s his fourth year pro. He has really put in his time and developed. He’s worked really hard.”

“I looked up to both of them. My oldest brother Mike is a defenseman, so when I was younger I did exactly what he did on and off the ice…He helped me a lot growing up.”

In fact, Stuart credits his family as “the number one reason I am where I am today.”

Not to be neglected in the very athletic family is the littlest Stuart (in both age and stature), Cristin, a senior at Boston College who serves as captain of the Eagles’ women’s ice hockey team, and who Mark says is “ doing great, with both the hockey thing and the school thing.”

Beyond his “real” family, for Stuart the extended family members that he has acquired as part of the Bruins organization have also served as role models.

“Coming into the league, Jay Leach, who was our captain down in Providence, was a good example. [I admired] how hard he worked and took care of his body. He was a very levelheaded guy. I think I looked up to him and learned a lot from him.”

Stuart’s own levelheadedness, work ethic, and leadership are some of the strongest qualities he brings to ice. During the last two seasons, when he was sent up and down between Providence and Boston, Mark never got down on himself.

Instead, he viewed his assignments as opportunities to become a better player.

“When I was in Providence it was great, because the coaches down there really teach…It really is a development team and [the AHL is] a development league. That’s where I really improved.”

Not that his early stints in Boston weren’t appreciated.

“You get to come up here for a few games and learn what it’s like to play at this level and say ‘I could do this,’ you go back down there and continue to work and hope that you get called back up.”

After two years of ups and downs, it looks as though Mark Stuart is finally able to call Boston his home.

And with his “will do” attitude, he’ll look to do whatever it takes to stay — even if it means braving Boston’s finest fans at the Dunk Tank, which he did with aplomb on January 6th.

“The first session I was freezing,” said Stuart of his tank experience. “But you get used to it. The second session was easier than the first.”

Again, just like his first few games in the NHL and his time AHL, Stuart’s experience showed him the way.

“The second session I got smart,” he said, with a laugh. “I put (moisture wicking athletic gear) and a tight long sleeve shirt and another long sleeve over that.

“So, I was a little warmer the second time around.”