Hey, remember that whole brou-ha-ha a few weeks back about what would happen if there were hockey games this year on Christmas?
(Remember when we were optimistic enough to think that hockey would be *back* by December 25th? Good times. I'll be over here, crying into my eggnog.)
As it turns out, Bruins hockey on Christmas used to be something of a tradition -- so much so that in 1942, one Boston reporter bemoaned the fact that in that year, the B's wouldn't be playing on Christmas day, especially since "some wondrous events [had] befallen Bruins on Christmas nights in the past."
‘"What were these ‘wondrous events,'" I mused to myself as I sipped a glass of hot buttered rum. So much more wondrous than I ever could have imagined, fellow Bruins fans. So. Much. More.
Come with me now, my friends, on a magical journey to Christmas night, 1930. The Bruins were playing the Philadelphia Quakers, my personal favorite now-defunct team (we can talk about the hilarity of the Quakers eventually being replaced by the Flyers another time). The Bruins at that point in the season were dominating the NHL, tied for first place with the Blackhawks. Some familiar faces -- Dit Clapper and Eddie Shore, to start -- peppered the roster. 11,000 fans filled the Garden for a holiday evening of hockey, one that might see their Bruins take sole ownership of first in the league.
So. It's the third period, with two minutes left of play. The Bruins were winning the game, 8-0 (8-0 games are my jam, yo). The assembled crowd was high-fiving each other (ok, I might be making that part up) and Christmas Carols were being pumped into the Garden (that I am NOT making up, I swear). At some point in the third, Philadelphia player Hib Milks started a rush out of his own zone, only to get clipped by Bruins defenseman George Owen. Milks took exception, and he and Owen got into it (years later, Owen would claim that Milks slashed him prior to the clip, and his hit was retribution. Oh, hockey players). A nice holiday scrap for the gathered crowd, I'm sure most in the audience thought.
That was only the beginning, as it turns out. Eddie Shore, Owen's D-partner, decided to get involved, too, and that was apparently the signal to start what the Boston Globe delightfully called a "Battle Royale." I could cry, this story is so amazing.
Once Shore jumped in, it was a freaking free-for-all. Every player on BOTH teams threw themselves into the fray (the lone exception being the Quaker's goalie, who was at the wrong end of the ice). Milks and Owen were "rolling around on the ice" while Dit Clapper "stood whacking, dropping Willie Kilrea." It was at this point that the police were called in (the police, guys) to try to stop the two teams from actually ripping each other's limbs off. The whole thing sounds like the first scene in Goon (NSFW, obviously). At some point, a Quaker player who had already been in the penalty box jumped out and threw himself at the nearest Bruin. Shore and the Philly player he was fighting had to be physically separated by the cops, and in the meantime, the police were simultaneously arresting people in the stands who, not wanting to be left out of the fun, were lobbing "missiles" at the players. When all was said and done, the brawl to end all brawls had lasted over 10 minutes, Christmas Carols being played over the speakers the whole time. Ah-mazing.
Eventually a billion penalties and "match fouls" were handed out, and the referees tried valiantly to shepherd the game through the last minutes of the third. Another fight promptly broke out, of course, at which point I like to think the refs were like ‘Eff it, let ‘em kill each other.'
The reporters on the scene were downright gleeful about this whole thing, by the way. The article that appeared the next day in the Globe included this tidbit: "The affair, however, excelled anything ever seen in a hockey game in Boston. It was far more exciting than the battle of the ‘rotten eggs' at the arena five years ago. The police drove the spectators out of the lobbies." And twelve years later, people were still wistfully remembering the "most glorious free-for-all in the history of Boston professional hockey."
I'm not actually trying to glorify rampant violence here, my friends. But I think most people here appreciate the value of a good scrap in hockey (for all the reasons that lilybraden lays out so wonderfully here). Part of the Bruins image, and part of how fans relate to and understand the team, is this idea of the rough and tumble Big Bad Bruins. That image hasn't always been accurate, but the 1930-1931 squad would probably fit the bill fairly nicely.
Because 82 years ago, on a magical Christmas night, actual police had to separate Eddie Shore from Al Shields while fans threw objects on the ice. If that's not a Christmas miracle, Boston-style, then I don't know what is.
Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Hanukkah Sameakh, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus, and a very very Happy New Year to you all!