By Matt Jenkins
---- — It’s not that Mike Rood’s allegiance is torn, but he couldn’t possibly be stuck any more in the middle of the Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup finals matchup that begins tonight.
Rood is a Beverly native who grew up rooting for the hometown Bruins. Now he’s a Chicago resident who has, over the years, grown to appreciate the Blackhawks’ style of play.
He has two children — a 9-year-old daughter, Maya, who was born locally and refuses to cheer on any team not affiliated with Boston or New England, and a 7-year-old son, Paxon, who was born in Chicago and has already stated that he will be rooting against his father in the Cup finals.
To top it all off Rood had previously arranged a family trip home to Beverly for late June, which would coincide with Games 5, 6 and 7, meaning his time could almost be evenly split between the competing cities if the series goes the distance.
“Chicago, they kind of like you if you’re from Boston. It’s the same kind of sports town,” said Rood, 41, who is the General Manager of Go Roma, an Italian restaurant in Chicago. “Everybody out here liked the Bruins; there was never any animosity. But now my Facebook is blowing up and guys I play hockey with here and people I work with are saying we can’t talk now for the next couple weeks. I’m officially in enemy territory.”
Rood, who has played hockey since he was a kid and skated on one of the best-ever Beverly High teams in the winter of 1990, isn’t in a can’t-lose situation. But he is a big fan of Blackhawks star right wing Patrick Kane and would take some enjoyment out of Chicago capturing the Stanley Cup.
Rood has been to one Blackhawks game since he moved to Chicago and says it was one of the best sporting events he has ever attended.
“The year before (the Blackhawks) won the Cup in 2010 I started watching,” Rood said. “They got really good and I watched them more than the Bruins that year because I didn’t have the NHL Center Ice package or anything. The last couple years, the NHL Network has been good because the Bruins have been on a lot and I’ve been watching them more.”
Rood’s brother, Brendan Fullerton, moved to Chicago 10 months ago and has similar feelings about this series.
The 26-year-old, who was a standout baseball and hockey player at Beverly High, has also become a Blackhawks fan. He’ll still be rooting for the Bruins to hoist the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years, but he won’t be rubbing it in anyone’s face or flaunting his allegiance with a Bruins sweater or hat.
“The guys (in Chicago) have been pretty cool about it, and they know I’m not going to act like an idiot,” said Fullerton, who intends to watch the games at a bar in his Chicago neighborhood. “My mother has called and said, ‘You guys better be careful.’ You can watch the game here and know it’s friendly; you’re not just some guy off the street.
“Obviously I want the Bruins to win, but it’s my two favorite teams so it’s pretty sweet.”
Rood has actually found it somewhat easier to watch Blackhawks’ games because he doesn’t feel the same level of stress.
“It’s totally different. I watch the Bruins and I’m having a heart attack; with the Blackhawks I can just chill,” Rood said. “It’s more enjoyable to watch the Hawks (where) I’m not living and dying with every play.”
There may be scant few Bruins’ fans with more knowledge of the Blackhawks than Rood and Fullerton. Both brothers, who each eclipsed 100 career points in their Beverly High careers, are expecting an excellent series.
“Going into the playoffs, I really thought the Hawks were going to win it all. The Bruins were so up and down; it was so frustrating,” Rood said. “Then they make that amazing comeback (in Game 7 of the quarterfinals against Toronto) and they’re playing unbelievable now. I see them matching up really well, especially the way they played Pittsburgh.
“It’s going to be a battle, at least six games. If it goes seven, I could see the Hawks winning.”
Fullerton feels the Blackhawks are the more talented team, but believes the Bruins will make it a war.
“From a hockey standpoint, Chicago is more skilled than the Bruins — but so were the Penguins. I think Chicago is better defensively and in goal (compared to Pittsburgh),” Fullerton said. “I think we’ve got them in net; (Corey) Crawford is not as good as (Tuukka Rask). Crawford is weak, but he’s been playing well. I know he can let up a weak goal, so hopefully the Bruins can throw pucks to the net and hopefully shut down Kane.”