Book Review – The Big 50: Boston Bruins

There are moments in our lives that define us. All of those moments, comprised of either positive or negative happenings, give us our own unique outlook on how we perceive our existence.

When it comes to professional sports, there are moments that define the careers of the athletes that dedicate their entire lives in achieving success. More often than not, it usually occurs when they reach the pinnacle of their respective sport of choice: hosting a trophy after a championship game or series. Although most athletes are seen to have tunnel vision and care only about the short-term success of the organization that they play for, few take the time to realize the impact that they will have on the future.

Take hokey, for example. It is one of the most prolific team sports in history. The National Hockey League prides itself on having 30 (soon-to-be 31) great franchises representing the shield, each one defined by signature players and historical moments.

For one NHL franchise, there are 50 of them.

The Boston Globe’s own Fluto Shinzawa captures 50 of the greatest moments in the history of the Boston Bruins. The book itself, entitled The Big 50: Boston Bruins – The Men and Moments That Made the Boston Bruins, takes an in-depth look at all six Stanley Cup championships, the intense rivalry between the Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens, and the stunning trades that altered the franchise. When it came to the original idea for this book, it was certainly something worth taking and running with.

“Triumph Books pitched the concept,” said Shinzawa when asked about the influence behind the book. “I thought it worked well for the organization and could apply well to other teams and sports too.”

Shinzawa is the Bruins beat writer for the Globe and has been covering the sport of hockey ever since he was in high school. He was the perfect person to complete this work.

“I enjoyed the sport and became more engaged once I went to Boston University and covered the team for the student newspaper,” said Shinzawa. “I liked learning about hockey because I never played. Of all the athletes, hockey players are the best people.”

After a brief forward from current Bruins color commentator and former player Andy Brickley, the book officially begins with the legend of Booby Orr. Honestly, if you are going to construct a book listing the top players and/or moments of this franchise, then there is no other place to start than with Number Four. Orr was arguably the greatest player to ever lace up skates, and he practiced his craft for 10 seasons here in Boston. In one of the longer chapters in the book, the opening tale talks about the highs of his career. The 1970 and 1972 Stanley Cup victories for the Bruins were in large part due to the play of Orr and his wizardry with the puck. Did you know that Foster Hewitt (legendary broadcaster for Hockey Night in Canada) was quoted as saying that Orr needed to spend some time in the minors? Imagine that.

This chapter also discusses the lows of Orr’s career, including his deteriorating knees, his brief stint with the Chicago Blackhawks, and his fallen out with disgraced agent Alan Eagleson. Despite capturing both sides of the up-and-down career of Orr, Shinzawa really does a superb job accentuating the positives of the hockey legend in which he is most remembered for.

One neat feature that makes this book unique is the continuous alternating between modern Bruins history and events that took place decades ago. Let’s be honest, most (not all) Bruins fans are relatively new and are comprised of a younger demographic. The familiarity with the signings of Zdeno Chara, the blockbuster trade of Joe Thornton, and the hiring of Claude Julien behind the bench should be well implanted in our memories.

However, Shinzawa reminded us of some of the forgotten players and moments that shaped the franchise to what we know it as today. The book designates a couple depictions of Eddie Shore, the first true tough guy of the NHL. Also, the incredible pregame ceremony where Ray Bourque revealed his new number in honor of Phil Esposito and the travesty that prematurely ended the career of Normand Leveille were great reminders of just how many ups and downs this organization has experienced.

As the book progresses, you get a sense that you are reading an extended article from the Globe. There are a plethora of quotes from sources associated with the Bruins spread out over multiple eras. It was quite fascinating to see the collection of first-hand accounts from the individuals closest to the men and moments that made the Bruins. Also, the photographs included in this publication were excellent. Often times, books become so convoluted with pictures that it takes away from the content. Shinzawa really dug deep into the vault and accumulated 10-12 photos to include in the book that perfectly enhanced the metaphorical “trip down memory lane.”

The most profound impact that this book will have on the reader is the detailed account of the Bruins run to the 2011 Stanley Cup. There were certain key happenings that were instantly recalled upon reading about the Cup run, such as Nathan Horton spraying some TD Garden water onto the ice at Rogers Centre and Tim Thomas using his paddle to rob Steve Downie in the most spectacular save ever seen. All of those dramatic moments culminated in the Bruins hoisting the greatest trophy in all of sports after nearly 40 years. It was great to relive that occurrence.

The book concludes with the Bruins letting the 2013 Stanley Cup get away from them. Whether it was a form of symbolism or irony, a blown opportunity in the Cup finals was the most that this team has accomplished in the last several years. A look back at what might have been was the perfect way to close the book, as well as giving the reader a chance to appreciate what Patrice Bergeron put his body through in that series.

According to Shinzawa, the feedback that has been received thus far regarding the book is very good, as well it should. Even though all positive comments have been trickling in, there are no other planned books for the highly-regarded beat writer at the moment.

If things change, ideally it will not be until sometime in late June after the Bruins make a deep run in the playoffs. One can only hope.


The Big 50: Boston Bruins – The Men and Moments That Made the Boston Bruins

By: Fluto Shinzawa

Triumph Books, 2016

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