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Jacobs: We ache to repay our fans

Thursday, 10.5.2006 / 12:00 AM ET / News
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Jacobs: We ache to repay our fans
This article originally appeared in the Boston Herald on 10/5/06

By Steve Buckley
Boston Herald General Sports Columnist

 Buckley on the Bruins
Herald columnist Steve Buckley talked about his tour of the Garden with Charlie Jacobs and the upcoming Bruins season.
The Bruins are about to begin one of the most important seasons in the history of the franchise. In addition to the (real or imagined) annual quest to win a Stanley Cup, now the Bruins face the task of winning back the trust of their own fans, many of whom have grown wary of the product over the years, with season after season dissolving into a litany of, at best, first-round playoff disappearances.

Let’s put it another way: The Bruins, whose season opener is tomorrow night in Sunrise, Fla., have made a plethora of changes, from administration and players to concession stands and even a new high-definition scoreboard, all with the hope of being relevant again.

“I hope you don’t put that in writing as my words,” said Charlie Jacobs, executive vice president of the Bruins and, of course, son of team owner Jeremy Jacobs.

But while relevancy may not be the word Jacobs chooses to put into play, he absolutely understands that the Bruins have some work to do.

“Everybody here is anxious,” he said. “And when I say everybody, I mean everybody. Myself included. We’re anxious to get this season started. We have a lot riding on this. I really hope we get back on the landscape of Boston’s media, and, more importantly, of course, our fans.

“That we can repay them for all their patience.”

Jacobs’ assessment came early Monday afternoon, as the Garden was being retooled for a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert that was to be staged that night. The purpose of the interview was for Jacobs to talk about the Bruins, how the team has a new general manager (Peter Chiarelli), a new coach (Dave Lewis), a new director of player personnel (Jim Benning), a new director of player development (former Bruin Don Sweeney), and even a new captain: Tall-drink-of-water defenseman Zdeno Chara, a free agent who signed with the B’s during the summer, has earned his “C” before playing his first regular-season game with the club.

But as if to prove his point - that times are changing and that the team has, indeed, listened to its fans - Jacobs went on a stroll through the spruced-up TD Banknorth Garden, with its new bars, its dazzling new scoreboard and jazzed-up concession stands with such names as Pile High Deli, Links Grill and a popcorn stand called Boston Pops.

“This year, there has been so much significant change that’s occurred from top to bottom,” he said. “Listen, we could look at the (organizational) chart and say, ‘These people are gone,’ and, ‘These people are in,’ but on top of that, there have been physical changes . . . from the ground up. When you walk into North Station, and all the way up to Level 9, you’ll see change.

“Some of this would have happened because it had to happen, but it’s happening now, and people are going to come in here and see that this is radically different. These are changes for the better, not for the sake of change.”

Never mind invoking the old line about how these are not your father’s Bruins.

These are not even your Bruins.

Remember last year? The lockout over, the lost 2004-05 season left behind, the Bruins opened 2005-06 with high expectations. When it ended, the Bruins had amassed just 74 points and no invite to the Stanley Cup playoffs, to say nothing of the fact that Joe Thornton, the crown jewel of the franchise, had been traded away.

“I think we all have much higher expectations than what we delivered last year,” Jacobs said. “You can’t do things the same way and expect different results year after year.”

For the Bruins, this is a startling admission. They are not pretending. They are not trucking out actor Denis Leary to fool fans into believing the B’s are a collection of blue-collar boys who reflect the character of the city.

No, the Bruins are showing they recognize that what they’re running here is a major league sport, and that it should be treated as one. And if some feathers were ruffled along the way - Harry Sinden has joined Red Auerbach (Celtics), Lou Gorman (Red Sox) and Bucko Kilroy (Patriots) in Vito Corelone’s tomato garden - then that’s just the cost of doing business.

Will the Bruins win? Remains to be seen. But in the absence of any evidence yet, Hub hockey fans are already winners.

They told the Bruins to jump, and, for once, management said, “How high?”
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