ST. LOUIS — Being an American means different things to different folks. Land of the free, home of the brave, and the opportunity to speak your mind, choose the vocation of your liking, and live where the climate suits your clothes.
For 14 gentlemen occupied as hockey players for the Boston Bruins, they're hoping for a non-traditional American wish: become Stanley Cup champions.
A baker's dozen of Bruins — forwards Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly, David Backes, Noel Acciari, Chris Wagner and Karson Kuhlman, as well as defensemen Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, Brandon Carlo, Steven Kampfer and John Moore — are all fine products of the U.S. of A. who have skated in at least one playoff game this spring.
Add to that mix injured blue liner Kevan Miller, and you've got 14 star spangled standouts who are red, white and blue by birth but who bleed Black and Gold.
Should they go on to defeat St. Louis and capture the 2019 Stanley Cup championship, the Bruins would boast an NHL titlist that had more Americans on it than ever before. The 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins, having won their second straight crown, currently hold that mark with 11.
"I read that stat the other day about the amount of Americans we have, and it's kind of surprising," said Moore, the veteran rearguard who replaced Grzelcyk in the lineup after the latter was placed in injury protocol after a hit to the head in Game 2.
"It's not something that's really talked about it in our room. We respect everyone no matter where they're from and what their background is; they're all welcome. We're just one big family."
This is true. While there are only four Canadians on the roster — minuscule by long-held NHL standards — they're all huge pieces of the puzzle: forwards Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen. So are the squad's two Czechs (fellow forwards David Pastrnak and David Krejci) and its two Swedes (left wingers Marcus Johansson and Joakim Nordstrom).
It's also impossible to ignore Slovakian stalwart Zdeno Chara, the team's 6-foot-9 captain on defense, and it's leading candidate for Conn Smythe Trophy honors as the most valuable player of the playoffs, Finnish netminder Tuukka Rask.
But the team's proliferation of Americans, while certainly not intentional, is nonetheless astounding.
Consider that when the Bruins last lifted the Stanley Cup in June 2011, more than 76 percent of the players who took part in that magical postseason run were Canadian. The only Yank? That would be goaltender Tim Thomas, who also added the Conn Smythe Trophy to his collection of hardware.
Two years later when Boston returned to the Final, there were 15 Canadians and two just from the U.S. (Krug and long forgotten defenseman Matt Bartkowski) who were a part of that run.
Taking it one step further, it's borderline amazing, given the part of the country that we're talking about, that the only player who ever hailed from Massachusetts and won a Stanley Cup with Bruins was a Melrose native named Myles Lane, a defenseman who was traded to Boston late in the season by the Rangers and went on to help defeat his former team in the Final.
Now a pair of South Shore natives and a city kid have a chance to duplicate that feat 90 years after Lane first did so: Coyle (Weymouth), Wagner (Walpole) and Grzelcyk (Charlestown).
Speaking on the eve of the Stanley Cup Final about winning a Cup while wearing a Boston sweater, Coyle said, "It'd be everything. You can't draw it up any better."
A dozen of the above-mentioned 14 came through the U.S. college system, ranging from Boston University (Coyle, Grzelcyk, McAvoy), Providence (Acciari) and Vermont (Miller) to Minnesota State (Backes), Michigan State (Krug) and Minnesota-Duluth (Kuhlman). Only Carlo (Western Hockey League) and Moore (United States Hockey League, then Ontario Hockey League) chose to go the junior hockey route.
There are more Canadian-born players names' on the Stanley Cup than there are stars in the sky. Nothing and no one is going to change that.
But a Bruins' championship this month can add a little more Americana to the most famous trophy in sports.