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Long time coming

John Adams has waited 39 years to see the Boston Bruins hoist the Stanley Cup.
Former Bruins goalie John Adams didn't dress for the Boston Bruins in 1970, but still has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. (Leith Dunick,
John Adams has waited 39 years to see the Boston Bruins hoist the Stanley Cup.

A third-string goaltender on the Bobby Orr-era Bruins that captured the trophy in 1970, Adams said it was a special feeling Wednesday night watching his former team win again for the first time since 1972.

”I’m a Boston fan. I’m an alumni member. They haven’t gotten too close the last few years, so it was really special this year because there was nobody from Thunder Bay in the final that I had to cheer against.”

The Bruins clinched the title with a 4-0 road win over Vancouver, ending decades of frustration for a franchise that hadn’t been to an NHL final since 1990, after making unsuccessful appearances in 1974, 1977, 1978 and 1988.

In 1974 they came up against the expansion Philadelphia Flyers, whose hunger and belligerent style of play carried them to a championship. In 1977 and 1978 it was the dynastic Montreal Canadiens – not to mention the infamous too many men penalty that cost them a semifinal victory against Montreal in 1979.

In 1988 and 1990 it was the Edmonton Oilers who knocked them off, the first team led by Wayne Gretzky, the second by Mark Messier and the Conn Smythe Trophy stylings of goalie Bill Ranford.

It all adds up to some frustrating times for Bruins fans, Adams said Thursday in his Thunder Bay home, whose basement is decorated with memorabilia from his hockey past, including a signed sweater from the 1970 team.

“They had a lot of setbacks over the years,” said Adams, who remained in the Bruins organization until 1974, finally seeing action in 1972-73 when he played 14 games, registering his only career shutout in Atlanta.

“That Philadelphia club, when Bobby Clarke was playing, they knocked them off when the Bruins were favoured. Then Montreal in 1971, when Ken Dryden stood on his head, I was there at time as well. We were really big favourites, but like Dryden ended up winning the Conn Smythe and he was the first person to win it before he won the rookie of the year award.”

Adams, who wound up his NHL playing days with Washington in their debut 1974-75 season, losing seven of seven decisions, said watching the Bruins implode a year ago might have been the toughest of them all.

“They had a 3-0 lead on Philadelphia. That really hurt. But maybe because of that setback it helped them this year. Who knows? It was very rewarding to see.”

The 64-year-old likes to think he played a small role in the Bruins turnaround this season. Last year the members of the 1970 championship team were invited back to Boston for a celebration and got to mix and mingle with the current edition of the team.

As a former goaltender, Adams said he gravitated toward a struggling Tim Thomas, who by then had lost his job, despite being less than a year removed from a Vezina Trophy win as the NHL’s most valuable between the pipes.

“He was a backup and he was down in the dumps and we sat around for awhile and had a lot of talks. That was my role. I was a backup when I played,” Adams said. “We had a good talk and I’m really happy he came back this year because he’s a great guy.

“I told him to just hang in there. I know he’s had a long road. He’s 37 years old. He’s played everywhere, every minor league, over in Europe. He just needed a chance ... He hung in there and worked hard in practice and when he got a chance he proved he was ready and followed it up.

“Goaltending’s a funny business. It’s all confidence. When you get on a streak and you’re playing well, the puck looks like a beach ball. And the year before it was looking like a pea probably to him. Once you get on a roll, the more you play, the more confident you are, everything works hand in hand.”

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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