By JD Lagrange – On Sunday night, I was watching the end of the game between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers and, like most hockey fans out there, I was shocked by the outcome. But what really got me during those post-game moments, was seeing Patrice Bergeron hugging each and every Bruins’ player coming off the ice. Then, seeing how emotional he got when hugging David Krejci… and then, Brad Marchand.
This whole sequence made me realize how much appreciation and admiration I have for Bergeron. Yes, in spite of him playing for one of the two teams I dislike the most. I guess it is possible to hate a team, but love a player on their roster.
It got me thinking that today, like most Habs’ fan out there, there are two teams that I strongly dislike (not to use the word ‘hate’): the Boston Bruins, of course, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Historically, since I’ve been following the NHL, you can add the Quebec Nordiques to these two. Oh there have been other teams that I disliked over the years, mostly due to short rivalries (like the Ottawa Senators), but it comes nowhere close to Quebec, Boston and Toronto.
With that said, there have been players on those teams that I have really liked. I will try to dress a list but don’t worry, you’ll see that it’s rather short.
Bobby Orr: What’s there not to like about the guy? He could do it all on the ice. Offense, defense and he was tough as nail. The best defenseman to ever play the game, in my opinion.
Brad Park: For some reason, I have always liked Park, a defenseman who wore the Bruins’ colours from 1975 to 1983.
Jean Ratelle: I’ve just mentioned Brad Park, but Ratelle was traded with Park and Joe Zanussi to the Boston Bruins for Esposito and Carol Vadnais in November of 1975. I remember him more as a Bruin, with whom he had 450 points in 419 games in Boston.
Raymond Bourque: Again, another class act on and off the ice. If you were to put a picture in the dictionary about the definition of the Norris Trophy, as the best all-round defenseman, he would be it during his time.
Patrice Bergeron: We’ve just talked about him a bit, but he’s another genuine good guy. Great leader, good at both ends of the ice and on faceoffs. Doing the little things right.
Wendel Clark: Clark is simply the type of player that I like most: power-forward who will play a physical game, and who can (and will) drop the gloves while contributing offensively as well. They don’t come any grittier than that, while being an excellent hockey player.
Darryl Sittler: The Leafs’ captain was cut in the same cloth as Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. Class acts, great player, who can forget that afro? He was a 200-foot player who made his teammates better.
Lanny McDonald: A prolific goals’ scorer often better known for his red moustache. I liked him as a Leafs, but also as a Flames when he went to Calgary.
Rick Vaive: My admiration for Vaive dates from before he ever skated in the NHL. He was one of the many former Castors de Sherbrooke, in the QMJHL, whom I grew up watching, alongside Jimmy Mann, Richard Sévigny, Jere Gillis, Ron Carter and Floyd Lahache, amongst many others.
Michel Goulet: I hated him for his timely goals against the Canadiens, but what a good goals’ scorer he was. He wasn’t dirty but played hard, and he was always a threat while on the ice. You just couldn’t hate the guy.
Joe Sakic: Burnaby Joe was putting up 100 points a season on a bottom-feeding Nordiques’ team, well before they became respectable. In the same mold as many of the players in this article, he is a true class act and has been his entire playing career and now, in management.
Owen Nolan: Again, the power-forward who could do it all. It’s unfortunate that he and Sakic had to continue their career in Colorado when the NHL moved the Nordiques’ franchise there in 1995…
There you have it. So it’s a total of 12 players on three teams over a period of about 50 years! Not a high percentage, is it? I didn’t dislike every other players on those teams, far from there, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I liked them either. Who would be on your list? Put them down in the comments below.