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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Women of the Stanley Cup: Marguerite Norris

I have often spoken about my dream of being one of the handful of women to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup. Many outside the hockey community don’t realize that the top executives of a Stanley Cup winning team also get their name on the trophy. So far, 12 women have earned this special honor.
 
Over the next few weeks I aim to tell their stories.
 
First up is Marguerite Norris.
Yes, that James Norris.

Marguerite Norris was just about as close as you can get to hockey royalty. Her dad was the legendary James Norris, who in the 1930s purchased the Detroit Falcons franchise—promptly changing the name to the Red Wings.

Despite owning the team, the Norris family didn’t often make it out to games. James had a heart condition, which forced him to stay in Chicago for much of his tenure as team president. Still, he managed to stay plenty informed about the goings on of the team, connecting with coach/GM Jack Adams (yup, that Jack Adams) by phone after each game.

While unable to travel far from his home in Lake Forest, Illinois, James taught his family to love the game of hockey as well. Standing just one inch shy of six feet tall, Marguerite used to play goalie during family hockey games. Although she shared her father’s interest in the game, Marguerite pursued her owns interests as well, earning a degree from Smith College, then working for Dun & Bradstreet in New York and West Farm Management in Chicago.

When James passed away from a heart attack on December 4, 1952, Marguerite took over control as president of the Red Wings per her father’s wishes. Although she had attend many games in Chicago and New York, the game she attended on December 18 of that year was first Red Wings game she had seen at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium in 20 years (in case you were wondering, the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs tied 1-1).

Not much has been documented about Marguerite’s time with the Red Wings, but the team finished in first place during the three seasons she was at the helm. Marguerite was not shy about her disdain for coach Jack, but Mr. Adams remained the Red Wings head coach and guided the team to two Stanley Cups under Marguerite’s reign (1954, 1955). During the 1955 off-season, Marguerite lost an intrafamily struggle to her brother Bruce, who took over the team until 1982.

After leaving hockey, Marguerite moved to Connecticut and pursued an interest in raising cattle and horses. In her adopted hometown of Southbury, she was introduced to John Riker, the man she would marry in 1960. John was a graduate of the University of Alaska, had a master’s degree from Columbia University, and worked in the television business. While running their farm, the Rikers established themselves as leaders in the American Quarter Horse community. They were instrumental in introducing English events to the circuit and developed a popular breed of horses.

Marguerite died from heart failure in Connecticut on May 12, 1994. Her memory is honored each year with a scholarship to a graduating student at Nonnewaug High School—an agricultural high school not far from where she and John owned their farm. The scholarship goes to a student who excels in math, science and athletics and has financial need.

If you have any more information on Marguerite Norris, please post a comment or get in touch via email.

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.”

“The jealous are possessed by a mad Devil…”

Well, I have a little social media envy.

The New Jersey Devils just launched Mission Control which, as a social media/hockey nut, is the “office” I thought only existed in my wildest fantasies.

Surprisingly, “the stuff Melissa’s dreams are made of” is not how Mission Control is described. Rather, the Devils refer to mission control as:

A Digital Command Center designed to activate and further extend the franchise’s online brand presence. Located inside Prudential Center (@PruCenter), the command center will be fueled by fans using Twitter, Facebook and other online channels hosted by the franchise and opening its digital outlets to bloggers and message board users. (full press release here)

A group of 25 (lucky) social media savvy fans called the Devils Army Generals and team social communications consultant Jim Delaney (@activate, one of my personal favorite tweeters) helped develop the idea for the space, which boasts 15 individual screens to monitor the online conversation surrounding the Devils and Prudential Center brands.

I’m a little hazy on how this room and the Army Generals will work together, but I’m eager to see the results. What I can say is that I am glad the Devils have truly embraced social media by involving their fans. Far too many teams have insisted on using social media to “broadcast” versus engage, and there is nothing social about that.

As much as I might pine for a social media command center, I must accept that something like this wouldn’t work for our minor league baseball team. However, there are certain elements from the Devils social media strategy that could apply to a minor league franchise like the one I work for:

  • Encouraging and promoting fans who thoughtfully blog (shout out to the New York Islanders Blog Box).
  • Launching a concourse station which includes computers for fans to update Facebook and Twitter statuses and a photo booth to share an instant game photo with friends.
    For us, this likely can’t happen in the next year or two. We can adapt this strategy by having a concourse table where we can explain to fans how to interact with and follow our team during the game through their smart phones.
  • Get fans involved with crowd sourcing. Even something as simple as a contest to design the next “Burger of the Home Stand” gives fans a larger stake in the team. From personal observation, fans who feel involved with a team are more likely to become advocates of the team, come to games more often, and convince their friends (both offline and on) to attend a game.

It’s incredible how social communications keep on evolving, and there is no place more exciting for these advances to occur than in the arena of sports.