Theo Epstein always chooses his words carefully in front of the cameras. The Cubs president knew he sounded like a politician breaking down the Stanley Cup finals, the Blackhawks vs. his hometown Boston Bruins.
“I’m going to cop out one way or another, right?” Epstein said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. “I’m just going for a great series.”
Game 1 is Wednesday night at the United Center, and the Cubs have gone to the “Madhouse on Madison” throughout this playoff run and thought about what it would be like in Wrigleyville if they again owned the city the way the Blackhawks do now.
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Epstein grew up near Fenway Park in Brookline, Mass., as Red Sox Nation wound up waiting 86 years for a World Series title. The New England Patriots weren’t the machine they are now, getting smoked by Da Bears in Super Bowl XX, their first appearance in the big game.
The future Red Sox executive – who managed the Yale University hockey team as an undergraduate student – also rooted hard for the Bruins.
“It’s kind of a pattern with me and Boston sports,” Epstein said. “I liked all those teams better when they weren’t winning – or I liked them the most when they weren’t winning.
“It’s like (with) the Bruins – I was a huge fan growing up and they could never beat the Canadiens. And then finally (goalie) Reggie Lemelin got hot one playoff series and they knocked off the Canadians and went to the Stanley Cup finals against the Oilers. When they lost, I had to see the Cup skated around the Boston Garden ice. That wasn’t fun.”
Boston lost to the Edmonton dynasty in 1988 and 1990 and didn’t return to the finals until winning it all in 2011, which became part of the new self-proclaimed “Title Town” image.
“That was great for the Bruins when they won a couple years ago and by then I was pretty much focused on Red Sox stuff,” Epstein said. “But Original Six hockey is fantastic, so this series is going to be something else. The passion for the Hawks in town here reminds me a lot of the way it is for the B’s in Boston. It’s going to be a heck of a series.”
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Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker was trying to get tickets for Game 1, joking how he had to buy a Jonathan Toews jersey for his front-running son Darren, who already wears a LeBron James jersey.
Cubs and White Sox players have made appearances at the United Center throughout the postseason. Former Cubs executives John McDonough and Jay Blunk now run the Blackhawks, who have become the hottest ticket in town.
“I got some friends from Boston threatening to come out and drag me to the game,” Epstein said. “We’ll see. I’ll try to make it to one game, for sure.”