The Celtics saw Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn wearing Nets uniforms on Tuesday. That same night, Jarome Iginla returned to Calgary, the city where he played the first sixteen plus seasons and served as the Flames captain for nine of them, but this time he was wearing Black and Gold. On Wednesday, Doc Rivers returned to the TD Garden as the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, after nearly a decade as the head coach of the Celtics. On Thursday, the Bruins traveled to Edmonton, where former Bruin defenseman Andrew Ference is now captain of the Oilers. Tonight, the B’s visit Vancouver for the first time since the night the won the Stanley Cup.
Each reunion has a different feel, but they are all worthy of note. KG and Piece will have a more meaningful reunion when they come back to the Garden later this season. The same is true for Andy Ference when he’ll get a chance to play in front of the Bruins faithful as an Oiler later this season. While he wasn’t a superstar like the former Celtics in Brooklyn, Ference endeared himself to Bruins fans with his gritty style of play despite his lack of size in his seven seasons in Boston, which included winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reaching the Stanley Cup Finals again in 2013. He was a leader in the dressing room and an active member of the community who would probably still be a Bruin if they didn’t have so many young defensive options and they weren’t so pressed up against the salary cap last summer.
Iginla’s return to Calgary was reminiscent of when Ray Bourque came back to Boston (when the TD Garden was still called The Fleet Center) as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Hopefully, the Bruins will be able to do for Iggy what the Avs were able to do for 77: get his name on the Stanley Cup at the end of a long Hall of Fame career. The Bruins are the best team in the East so far, and have a good chance to make that happen despite playing with injury after injury.
Doc’s return was one I had mixed feelings about. He was a great coach, and always seemed to say the right things when he was with the Celtics (a gift that he seems to have lost since leaving town), but he left on a weird note. The Celtics weren’t right in Doc’s last season in Boston. When Rajon Rondo was healthy, they weren’t on the same page, and when Rondo was hurt, they were too old and too slow to even advance past a flawed New York Knicks team in the first round. The writing was on the wall that the Celtics needed to get younger and make changes, but Doc didn’t want to be around for that. He spent his first few years in Boston trying to rebuild the Celtics. Danny Ainge ended up pulling off a trade that sent Rivers to LA in exchange for a 1st Round draft pick. Soon after, Trader Danny sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the two foundation pieces of the 2008 championship roster to Brooklyn along with Jason Terry in exchange for some journeyman NBA players and three 1st Round picks. It’s only December of the first season of the rebuild, but Danny already looks like a genius for the moves he made this summer. The Nets are struggling out of the gate, the Celtics have a boatload of picks over the next five years, and he made the right coaching hire in Brad Stevens, who is the perfect person to guide this young roster through the growing pains. Doc has a team in the Clippers who can compete right away, but the Celtics future has gotten a lot brighter a lot faster than anyone expected.
After the way he left, I was half expecting Doc to get booed at the Garden this week, but Celtics fans were not quick to forget the work he put in for the hometown team. Rivers was visibly emotional at the ovation and tribute he got from the Celtics. Both parties are happy. Doc can win a championship this year, and the Celtics have the coach and some of the pieces in place for the next great Celtics team.
Tonight’s reunion between the Boston Bruins and the city of Vancouver is certain to be the most hostile. Losing the Stanley Cup Finals on home ice, and the city was getting destroyed by rioters outside is not a pleasant memory for the Canucks and their fans. Vancouver native Milan Lucic will have his hands full as the toughest tough guy in the Bruins lineup. The Canucks have not been able to repeat the success they had in 2011, and replaced coach Alain Vigneault with former New York Rangers head coach and West Concord, MA native John Tortorella. It should bring back a lot of the hostility and resentment from two and a half years ago, even with different faces on the two teams. Not every reunion is a pleasant one.