No Raiders? I'm backing Boston Bruins

Andy Heinze in action for Raiders against Basingstoke

Andy Heinze in action for Romford Raiders against Basingstoke Beavers - Credit: Archant

With a shortened 2020-21 National League season now looking very unlikely, I have decided to become a Boston Bruins fan.

I've followed ice hockey since Romford Raiders first took to the ice in 1987, but was not too aware of the NHL at that point, other than the fact a certain Wayne Gretzky was the best player in the world.

I suppose I became a bit more interested in 1990 when Raiders signed American forward Andy Heinze, who just so happened to be the brother of Boston's Steve Heinze.

But I've never really latched onto an NHL team in the many years since, although I have shown an interest in several different players, having followed their careers from an early age.

I was lucky enough to see Sidney Crosby play junior hockey for Rimouski while attending the World Pee-Wee Championships in Quebec with England under-13s back in 2004 - and got to meet the great goalie Patrick Roy in person during the same trip.

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And Crosby, considered by many to be the heir to 'Great One' Gretzky, has gone on to lift the Stanley Cup three times with Pittsburgh Penguins, while enjoying some superb battles with Washington's talismanic Russian star Alex Ovechkin.

More recently I have kept a close eye on Jaden Schwartz and Brayden McNabb, having seen them both play at the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament (KIBIHT) in 2006.

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They helped the Notre Dame Hounds win the competition and, even though Schwartz was still only 12 years old and McNabb was just 14, they both looked like they might go on to enjoy good professional careers.

As it turned out both were subsequently drafted into the NHL and McNabb helped expansion team Vegas Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup final in their very first season, before losing to Ovechkin's Capitals.

Schwartz, meanwhile, got to the final with St Louis Blues a year later and lifted the greatest trophy in sport after picking up a pair of assists in their game seven win over Boston.

The Bruins went on to finish the shortened 2019-20 regular season as the NHL's top team - pipping St Louis - but both missed out in the play-offs, which I was grateful to be able to follow last September, as Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Cup.

But my reasoning for supporting the Bruins from next week (they start against New Jersey Devils on Thursday, having seen their long-serving captain Zdeno Chara leave for Washington) is more to do with the fact they play in the East division.

I will able to follow games more easily (I've added their website to my favourites, followed the Twitter account) due to the time difference, hopefully listening to play-by-play broadcasts and watching the odd game too where possible, but I will also be able to discuss their ongoing progress with James Duval, another former Raider and proud Bostonian. Lets go Bruins!

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