Longtime Abbotsford resident Scott Bradley will be one of the few British Columbians rooting for the Boston Bruins when the Stanley Cup final opens in Vancouver on Wednesday.
But don’t hold it against him.
Bradley is in his 18th season with the Bruins’ hockey operations department – formerly as director of amateur scouting, currently as director of player personnel. His fingerprints are all over Boston’s roster, and much of the team’s homegrown talent – including the likes of Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand – was drafted under his direct supervision.
From Bradley’s perspective, Canucks-Bruins is “a dream match-up.”
“It’s pretty special to be playing Vancouver,” he told The News. “I have a really close group of friends I’ve grown up with, and they’ve always supported the Canucks, but they’ve also been supportive of myself and the Bruins.
“It’s gratifying – I got 50 messages (when Boston made it to the final). People are saying they’re cheering for the Canucks, but if the Bruins do happen to beat them, they’ll still be pretty happy because of myself being involved.”
When the Bruins finished off the Tampa Bay Lightning last Friday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final to ensure a date with the Canucks, Bradley’s thoughts turned to his late father.
Bart Bradley preceded his son in the Boston organization, working in the scouting department for 30 years. He’s renowned in Bruins lore for convincing general manager Harry Sinden to swing a trade with the Canucks for a young Cam Neely in 1986. Neely blossomed into a Hall of Famer, and is a Boston sports icon.
Bart passed away in five years ago at the age of 76, after a two-month battle with pneumonia. His Stanley Cup ring from 1972 – for his input on a Boston championship team headlined by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito – was left to Scott.
It’s considered taboo in the hockey community to wear a championship ring you didn’t earn yourself, so Scott keeps it in a safe deposit box. He’ll pull it out on special occasions – a couple years ago, he wore it when he walked his sister Jody Lynn down the aisle at her wedding.
He’d love nothing more than to earn his own Stanley Cup ring, to match his dad.
“My dad, to me, was one of the smartest hockey guys who ever walked the planet,” Bradley said. “I sometimes catch myself thinking back to the days when I used to go to games with him when I was young.
“My first-ever recollection of a Canucks game is going with my dad and my brother. We’d find a little corner in the (Pacific) Coliseum and watch the whole game, and one of the security ladies would watch us. It was pretty cool to follow your dad to work.”
This trip to the final is the Bruins’ first since 1991, and it represents a huge feather in Bradley’s cap as a talent evaluator. He’s particularly proud of Lucic, a bruising winger from East Vancouver.
Lucic was the ultimate diamond in the rough, an underrated player who spent his mid-teens playing junior B hockey before beginning his meteoric rise to the NHL. Bradley and the Bruins spent a second-round pick on him in 2006, and he rewarded them with 30 goals this season.
“I had some health issues the year of his draft, so I was around (B.C.) for about a month and a half where I usually wasn’t,” Bradley said of Lucic. “I got to see him more than usual, and what happened with him was, he just got better and better. And he’s continued to do that.”
Bradley has been traveling with the Bruins for most of the playoffs, and he said he’s sensed the team has a special, family-like bond.
But he noted the Bruins must improve on special teams if they hope to topple the favoured Canucks. Boston has struggled mightily on the power play in the post-season, converting on just 8.2 per cent of their man-advantage opportunities.
Bradley professed a great deal of respect for the depth the Canucks possess – from the group of talented forwards led by the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler, a rock-solid defence headlined by the duo of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, and an elite goalie in Roberto Luongo.
“The Canucks are a good hockey team, and we’ll have our hands full with them no matter what,” Bradley predicted. “Their depth is probably a concern of ours, because they have so many good players.
“It sets up to be a pretty good match-up. I’m not going to say we’re going to beat them, but I think we’re going to give them everything they can handle.”
Bradley has been a longtime fixture in the Abbotsford hockey community. He was an all-star goalie for the junior A Abbotsford Flyers in the early 1980s, and backstopped the team to the Centennial Cup national final in 1983.
After a brief minor pro career, Bradley came back home to coach the local senior AAA team, and he led Abbotsford to the Allan Cup final in 1990.