Barhopping Downtown while the Bruins Win Game 4

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Posted June 11, 2013 by Luke O'Neil in Eat & Drink
jm Curley

The streets of Downtown Crossing were quiet on Friday night, almost eerily so. That was because game 4 of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Penguins was about to start, and everyone was hunkered down at home or in their favorite bar getting ready to watch. But the quiet was also because of the near-hurricane-level rains flooding some of the side streets of the Ladder District. That made the choice to pop into the first place I came across on my Bruins-watching barhop a lot easier.

On the corner of Avery and Washington Streets, the bright lights of the theaters were reflecting off the tall windows of Sip, so I stole a glance inside and saw the telltale signs I was looking for: The game was showing on five screens, and the volume was resounding throughout the space, even while a low thrum of dance music pulsed underneath. You might think of Sip normally as a more reserved wine bar, but things have a way of changing on big game nights around the city.

“I’m surprised you have the game on,” I said to the bartender, who hurried over to take my order.

“Sorry, the Bruins take me out of my element,” he said. “We usually have sports on, but not the sounds.”

“I suppose every bar in Boston is a sports bar during the playoffs, right?”

A family was packing up to leave after dinner, kids reluctantly shrugging on rain jackets while squealing and pointing at the game. At the bar, a group of twenty- and thirtysomethings was drinking glasses of Rioja and light beer out of tall glasses, cheering a near miss shot on goal. The series may have been at 3-0, but there was still a bit of trepidation in the air. “I don’t want them to let up,” a huge fan explained to me a bit earlier. “Especially after the Toronto series. I think they’ll still take it but maybe not tonight. Pittsburgh is so deep.”

It would’ve been easy to be overconfident at this point, but as much as we love our teams around here, this is still Boston. Even a decade’s worth of championships still hasn’t completely wiped the slate clean for fans hungry for another Stanley Cup victory.

I turned back to the game. It didn’t hurt that the TV was just above the whiskey shelf behind the bar. It made for a pleasant distraction during the commercials.

Around the corner at Back Deck, a mercifully quick walk in the rain, the game volume was turned up on the one TV. There were a few scattered Bruins jerseys around the circular bar. A small but intent crowd was concentrating on the game, while a few twentysomething ladies yelled in excitement at every carom of the puck. Down the length of the long room, diners at patio tables craned their necks toward the screen whenever the volume of the crowd surged. The Bruins are the Bruins, but it was only the first period, so you can’t blame them for letting barbecue take precedence.

Flooding Streets of Boston

Near-hurricane-level rains flooding some of the side streets of the Ladder District. Photo Credit: Luke O’Neil

The rain was coming down in thick sheets now. A couple of fans at the bar were talking about what would happen if the DirecTV signal went out. The consensus, unsurprisingly, was that this would be a huge bummer.

Before long, the same group was launching into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for the bartender. I couldn’t help but note that they waited until the first intermission to get this out of the way.

A dude from North Carolina in a Toronto hat and Florida shirt sat down next to me. It turned out he was actually a fan of Pittsburgh: “I figured I better not wear my Pittsburgh hat up here this weekend,” he said. Probably a good idea, I told him—depending on who wins.

Just as we’d feared, the feed for the game went down shortly afterward as I was hopping across the street to Max and Dylans. That probably explains why it was relatively quiet in there. Around the corner at Stoddard’s, they were having the same problem. Instead they had the radio broadcast of the game playing loudly over the speakers. Stoddard’s old-timey tavern aesthetic is meant to evoke a bygone era, so listening to the radio seemed appropriate somehow.

Nearby, at jm Curley, the broadcast was working. The room was packed, and I was lucky to find a seat at the bar, which happened to be next to a friend I didn’t expect to see. There was a drunk guy blasting over our shoulders, making jokes about his cash still having glitter on it from a strip club. Trying to move aside, I kept bumping into the guy on my right accidentally. “It’s OK, it’s tight in here,” he said. “I’m a DirecTV refugee. I wanted to be good and stay in, but I’m here.”

Just then, finally: a goal in the third period. The crowd hooted. I like to think it was the lucky bacon popcorn I had just ordered. Jagr put one right off the post, and the room groaned in unison. “You’re going to see a lot of fights now,” my friend said. “Pittsburgh has nothing to lose.”

Nothing to lose except the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which they did, to the delight of the packed room full of jerseys at the Hub Pub and the Beantown Pub, where the crowds were still amped over the win a short while later. Up the street at Barracuda, the vibe was a bit less pumped, but the aftereffects of the win were lingering. A couple of buddies in Lucic and Krejci jerseys were going back over the details of the game. “Dude,” one said. “That was awesome.”

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