June 13, 2013

Steve Solloway: A lifelong devotion sizzles as Bruins enter finals

By Steve Solloway ssolloway@pressherald.com

Jim Joyce cheered with all the enthusiasm of his 14 years. The Boston Bruins had scored and scored again on the fabled Montreal Canadiens. It was the deciding Game 7 of the 1979 NHL semifinals.   

Boston Bruins fan Jim Joyce, right, who works at Maine Hardware in Portland, on Tuesday holds a towel from Game 4 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Joyce attended the 2011 game with his brother.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Joyce was in hockey heaven along with his younger brother and their father. In fact, they were in front of the television in the living room of their Port-land home. None of these three avid Bruins fans could know they would be in a far worse place less than an hour later.   

“My brother and I were crying our eyes out,” said Joyce. “I looked at my father and he was holding his tears back.”   

After leading 3-1, then 4-3 with just a few minutes left, the Bruins lost 5-4 in overtime. Montreal went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Bruins’ season was over, but the shared memory with thousands of fans is never over, but the shared memory with thousands of fans is never truly lost.   

Wednesday night, Joyce will be home in front of his television again with hockey on his mind. The Bruins play the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the best-of-seven championship series. Joyce’s younger brother, Harold “Smokey” Foley, now lives in Massachusetts, and their father, Michael Joyce, died in 2008.   

Joyce won’t feel alone even though Bruins fans can sometimes feel like the stepchild to Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics fans. Many times, hockey isn’t the go-to topic on sports talk outlets, even in New England.   

“Hockey is my sport, bar none,” said Joyce. “It’s exciting in its artistry and physicality. I love baseball, but it’s such an overpriced, (pampered) sport. Hockey is so draining, for the players and the fans. It’s so violent and there’s so much on the line in playoff hockey, but at the end, they shake hands and pay respect to each other. Watch them. It’s sincere.”   

Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson, the Big Bad Bruins and the 1970 Stanley Cup team were the hockey gods of Mike Joyce’s generation. The elder Joyce was a boilermaker by trade. Jim Joyce was 12 when his father took him to the old Bos-ton Garden for the first time in 1977. The son was transfixed by the smells, the noise, and watching players skate up and down the ice.   

“It’s jaw-dropping when you see a game live,” he said. “How big the players are and how quick. You have to know how to skate. Then you have to know how to skate and handle a stick and move and pass and shoot. How easy is that?”   

Especially when an opponent is throwing his body into you at high speed, trying to knock you out of your skates. Joyce has played the game. His regret is that Deering High started its hockey program in 1984, one year after Joyce graduated.   

(Continued on page 2)

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