Your 1926 Bruins Fan Club
Royal Rooters and the Origins of a (Crazy)(Awesome) Fanbase
What does it mean to be a fan of the Boston Bruins? Every person reading this piece would have a different answer to that question. It's one of the wonderful things about being a fan -- you can experience the object of your affection in whatever ways make you feel satisfied (and as some really smart folks recently pointed out, you should be able to do that free of any kind of judgement based on your gender, yo). Basically, so long as you don't jeopardize your team's victory by lobbing objects on the ice, be whatever kind of fan suits you best.
Some folks, for example, are season ticket holders, while others are happy to watch the games on TV most days, and maybe catch one or two at the Garden as time/money allows. Others may organize gatherings at their local watering hole (whether in Boston or elsewhere) to experience the highs and lows of a typical Bruins game (wherein the highs are the penalty kill and the lows are the power plays, obviously) with like-minded folks. There are a billion different ways we as a fanbase celebrate the team and bond with the larger group of Bruins supporters that the team attracts.
As Bruins fans, furthermore, we are part of a long-standing and fairly awesome historical tradition. Followers of the team of long ago had that same urge to express support and devotion to their team, and people came out in droves to see Boston's first professional hockey team play, even during their terrible first season. The Bruins' more successful second season only served to further solidify the fanbase and create more of a buzz in the city about hockey in general and the Bruins' prospects in particular. In the midst of this growing Bruins fervor, at least one segment of supporters had the same idea so many of us have had while in the throes of passion for our team: ROAD TRIP.
More specifically, on January 22nd, 1926, a group of intrepid Bruins faithful packed up their sassy fedoras and floor length fur coats (that's what the picture leads me to believe, anyway) and gathered at South Station to embark on a voyage to New York. Some speculated that this group, which were boarding the "Twilight Express" train to see the following day's game against the New York Americans, was one of the first of its kind in the United States: a group of 25 diehard hockey fans taking their show of support on the road, pennants and banners in hand.
The group was not entirely unconnected to the team, as it turns out -- the head organizer was none other than A. Vernon Adams, brother of Bruins president Charles Adams. He, along with his wife and 23 others, formed one of four groups making the trip to New York. The plan was for all the various people traveling to meet up and sit together at the game in order to form a cheering section for the Black and Gold deep in the heart of enemy territory.
It was, as the Globe put it, "shades of Boston baseball championship days, of ‘Tessie' and the baseball royal rooters of long ago." While nowhere near the level of crazy fannish support that the city put forth for the Red Sox, the Bruins (still only in their second year) had clearly already inspired deep devotion in the hearts of Boston fans. The picture (seen above) that accompanied the newspaper article detailing the rooters' voyage shows a group of fans ecstatic to be hitting the road, taking their love of Boston hockey with them. That group -- including 12 women, by the way -- wasn't the last of it's kind, either. Less than a month later, a group of rooters (50 people strong) hopped a train for Montreal to see the Bs face off against Les Canadiens. There were so many people that two extra cars were attached to the normal train service to accommodate the party of travellers, and the rooters made sure to arrange their schedule so as not to miss the Bruins' home game a few days later.
Obviously, the act of traveling to see the Bruins play has changed a bit since the 1920s. I only wish someone would rent special train cars for me to go to New York to watch the Bs take on the Rangers, for example. But has the reasoning behind such trips changed, really? Why do those fans who travel to see games nowadays chose to do so? Sure, sometimes it's because tickets are cheaper elsewhere, or it's a convenient reason to visit friends and family in other NHL cities (come to DC, guys. Seriously). But more than anything, I think those of us who do decide to go on trips -- day or otherwise -- to cheer on our team do so for the same reasons those 25 people got on a Boston to New York train on a January night in 1926: "to cheer on the players and to instill in them added confidence with the knowledge that they have many staunch supporters in Boston who are willing to lend their support to the boys in their fights away from home ice."
As someone who has undertaken one or two road trips herself in order to see my team play, yeah. That's it, exactly. Bruins fans of yesteryear: I salute you.