By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — With the Boston Bruins making their Stanley Cup finals appearance tonight, the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics are getting a taste of what it feels like to be fighting off a power play.
After years as the middle child of Boston sports — too often they’ve been lost in the mix — the icemen cometh with stunning playoff victories over the Toronto Maple Leafs (an overtime win in Game 7 after coming back from a three-goal deficit), the New York Rangers (4 games to 1) and Pittsburgh Penguins (4 games to none), victories that have zapped their fan base and brought along increasing numbers of new hockey fans.
Anticipation for the matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks, which, like Boston, is one of the six original National Hockey League franchises, is growing.
Paul Millman at Modell’s Sporting Goods in Beverly has seen the results firsthand.
“It was very busy here on Saturday (following the victory over the Penguins). ... We had people waiting in the morning, lining up,” Millman said.
So many Bruins items flew out of the store that new shipments were quickly ordered.
“Locker room hats were the most popular item. Those are the white hats they wear on the ice after the game. They were gone pretty quick,” he said.
Game jerseys, with prices as high as $160, move a little more slowly.
“But we could put anything out Bruins and they’d grab it,” he said. “Anything with a Bruins logo.”
Saleswoman Logan Carbello of Danvers notes that items emblazoned with the names of forwards Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are drawing a lot of interest, along with those bearing the name Torey Krug, “because he’s one of the youngest out there.” She expects, in the days to come, lots of new fans “will be jumping on the bandwagon.”
In downtown Salem, Rick Naples, who manages Tavern In the Square, said that he can’t keep even one of the tavern’s 33 televisions tuned to the Red Sox while the Bruins are on the ice.
“When the Bruins games are on, no one wants to watch anything else,” he said. “... The whole place is black and gold. There is no separation.”
The situation was similar two years ago when the Bruins clinched the Stanley Cup by beating the Vancouver Canucks on their own ice, he added. Naples is upbeat about this year’s Cup finals despite the Blackhawks’ reputation. He expects celebrations.
“We’ll have the whole place decked out with balloons,” he said. “Everything in here is going to be black and gold.” It’s got to be, he conceded, because every club and eatery around will be doing the same thing.
Passing nearby, Salem resident Andrew Blaisdell was wearing a T-shirt including the faded logo of the team he grew up with — the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. Like the Bruins, the Blues have suffered in the shadow of the baseball Cardinals with their 11 World Series titles, he said. That might have helped Blaisdell in letting go of his original hometown team. After 31/2 years in Salem, he’s begun to warm to the black and gold.
”I’m happy for the Bruins,” he said, before musing, “I could probably make the switch. ... As they do so well, it’s harder to not watch.”
William Katramados and Adrianna Marinaro, who were also out in downtown Salem, have no problem keeping their attention on the ice.
“They’ve done it again,” Katramados said of his beloved Bruins, adding that he can remember “when the Cup was a big dream.” In particular, he praised the extraordinary performance of Finnish-born goalie Tuukka Rask.
Ironically, the strike that shortened the season may have played a role in bringing more fans to the game, leaving them hungry for hockey, Marinaro said.
“Hockey is a big part of Boston,” she said.
Moreover, winning hockey has way of spreading the contagion.
”I refer to this as Christmas in June,” said Alan Forbes, who runs Sports Collectibles in Peabody Square. Of late, he added, “the bulk of our business has been Bruins merchandise.” And that’s everything from banners to Bruins jerseys for infants.
Sports successes like the Bruins’ playoff run typically produce a rush of business that lasts only a few days, but it can be intense, he said.
“The calls for Tuukka Rask jerseys have been unbelievable,” Forbes said.
So far, the bulk of Forbes’ customers are diehard Bruins fans, but he is also expecting the team’s success to bring in more converts to the sport, drawn by the allure of a winner.
“That will happen after they win the Stanley Cup,” he promised.