It pains me to write this post. I don’t want to sit here and type these words because I love the Boston Bruins, and like most good Mainers I love watching hockey. I am often seen wearing a Bruins hat, and my dog has a Bruins tag on his collar. As a man closing in on 30, I don’t wear jerseys in public anymore, but will occasionally make an exception to wear my David Krejci one. It’s the only jersey I still hang in my closet instead of shoved in a dresser in the basement. But if they’re not careful New England is about to become a 3 sport town.
Let’s start with this right off the bat; the NHL fan base is shrinking, and compared to the other major sports, their ratings are almost laughable. To put it into perspective; game one of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, the end all be all of the hockey season, drew 4.08 million viewers. Meanwhile, game seven of the NBA Western Conference Finals drew 15.9 million.
Now I know you die hard hockey fans are thinking “sure, but in New England hockey matters! We Bruins fans are diehards!” Not so. According to the Boston Herald, ratings for NESN’s Bruins broadcasts were down 19 percent this past season, and that number was gathered when they were still a playoff team. It dropped even further as they choked away a playoff spot for the second year in a row.
This team lacks any sort of excitement and unlike the Red Sox or Celtics, they seem perfectly fine with the status quo of mediocrity and disappointment. What’s even more frustrating is their ineptitude when it comes to young, talented players. It seems like every time a promising athlete comes along he eventually “doesn’t fit in” with the team and has to be traded for pennies on the dollar, Tyler Seguin being the best example. That leaves us with a roster full of guys that are better off being 3rd and 4th best players all trying to be superstars, or guys that are well past their primes.
Unfortunately this is nothing new for this team and this ownership group. Time and time again rumors linking star players to the Bruins surface (Steven Stamkos anyone?) only to see another team swoop in and steal the headlines. It seems to happen at least 3 or 4 times a year, both at the trade deadline and in free agency. The same holds true of the coaching staff. Claude Julien has been a guarantee to get fired at least a half dozen times, only every time they bring him back. And it’s not that I don’t like the guy, but when you have a team as stagnant as the Bruins, that has collapsed TWICE in a row at the end of the regular season, that says it might be time for a change. Instead they keep the status quo out of fear that Julien might go to another team (Montreal Canadiens) and find success there. When you begin making moves out of fear that’s when you know you’ve hit rock bottom.
The other part of the problem is this; other New England sports teams are just too good. The New England Patriots are the model franchise of the NFL, always Super Bowl contenders. The Boston Red Sox have some of the best young talent in the game, and when they finish last they make sure to at least attempt to fix the problems immediately, rather than letting them fester. While the Boston Celtics may not be title contenders, they still maintain relevancy while continuing to build towards what is a very bright future. Compare that with the stagnant, mosquito infested pond that has become the Boston Bruins, and it’s quick to see why those ratings continue to plummet. And while I hope they figure out how to turn it around, I fear that my David Krejci jersey may be folded up and put away in the basement dresser by the end of next season.
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays from 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.