Fewer than 48 hours after the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, we all received a reminder of the bad old days. Jeremy Jacobs stood on a stage outside the TD Garden and offered the backhandest complement most of us can remember. Speaking to current Bruins president Cam Neely, Jacobs turned and said the following:
"I also want to recognize Cam Neely. I think I have communicated more than once that all along he is such a great role model for the players and the organization. He is the heart and soul of what a Bruin means. You couldn't have been a better leader."
None of that is bad. Hell, one could even call it good. Fans were happy. Neely seemed pleased, and Jacobs almost even seemed sincere. Then, the the Mr. Jacobs we all know and love came out: "On top of it, he brought us a Stanley Cup, something he couldn't do while he was skating."
Yup. That's our Jeremy. Honoring a player most Bruins' fans don't hesitate to place all on their all-time Bruins' first line then chopping him down, reminding everyone Neely, like 38 other years' worth of Bruins, failed to win a championship. For many of the, oh, let's call them "new" Bruins fans that appeared on Canal Street, Government Center, Boylston Street and throughout the rest of the city that day, this may have passed without much of a thought. You're thinking: "He's the owner. He's the president. They're old friends. Definitely just a friendly jab before everyone goes home and plays cribbage."
No, sorry, guys. Your first experience as a Bruins fan may've been one of the franchise's proudest. But Jacobs' comments that day were just another indication of his genuine ambivalence toward the organization he bought in 1975.
There are myths about Jacobs, and his role in piecing together the front office that pieced together a team that won a Stanley Cup can't be denied. Ultimately, though, the reason we are where we are right now (Re: NHL Lockout) is Jacobs. He and a few other power brokers on the league's Board of Governors won't budge from their firm stance that the NHL Players Association forget about all those silly ideas like "honoring existing contracts" and "splitting revenue evenly" and "not getting screwed in literally every way imaginable" and do what the money tells them to. Jacobs' power is such that he managed to round up a group of misfit owners from such NHL powers as Anaheim and Columbus to form the consortium of greed that makes the current situation as dire as it is. Jacobs managed to convince these buffoons the last thing they need to improve their revenue is the very product they sell.
This man is the reason many of these "new fans" took so long to come around in the first place. Throughout his time as owner, the Bruins always seemed to choose the option that kept Jacobs' wallet as fat as possible while keeping the Bruins, more or less, all right. With his dedicated servant Harry Sinden pulling the strings, the Bruins were rarely bad. Fans came out, because being "pretty good" leads fans to blind optimism that a few breaks one way could lead to a championship. It almost even worked a few times.
Since the last lockout in 2004-05, Jacobs has come around to an extent. After the Bruins lost, basically, their entire roster and tried to plug gaps with Alexei Zhamnov and a "past it three years earlier" Brian Leetch, Jacobs saw attendance falling, season tickets disappearing and his precious crappy hot dog business losing its most steady customers. Out went Sinden and Mike O'Connell, in favor of the brain trust that constructed (and kind of lucked their way into) a championship. It seemed like all would be forgiven. Following the Bruins' exit from the playoffs last season, Jacobs exclaimed that the eventual Stanley Cup winner should be informed that Jacobs' Bruins would be ready to win it back when the next season started.
Unfortunately, no one cared to ask Jacobs when that next season would begin.
It's Nov. 2. The Bruins haven't played a game. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly keeps tossing out figures about lost revenue and NHLPA chief Donald Fehr states the obvious to a reporter or two every couple days. Behind it all, there's our dear, dear Mr. Jacobs. Dangling hockey in front of us all just waiting for the players to accept the reality Bruins' fans have known for 37 years.