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Thursday, April 3, 2008


Whoa, Canada!

Double dose of beans ready for Ontario Friday

This is spring fever at its best, eh? Even the Arctic air of Canada shouldn’t be able to tone down the spiking buzz surrounding the Bruins and Red Sox simultaneous visits to Ontario.

In the provincial capital of Toronto, you’ve got the reigning world champs dropping in after they cleared the hectic hurdles of excess stardom in Tokyo and Tinseltown for an impressionable mini-sweep of Oakland. After a nice day off on Thursday, the Sox will look to build on their best start (3-1) in recent memory versus a Blue Jays team –former Friar John MacDonald and all- just coming off a road tussle with the reformed Yankees.

Thirty minutes after the first pitch at Rogers Centre, over in the national capital, the aspiring Cup contenders will lock their twigs with the Senators. After they extracted half of a win from New Jersey at Prudential Center –the other House That Lamoriello Built- the 40-28-12 Bruins will look to squeeze a few more drops of Superglue on their still unsolidified playoff berth. Ironically, the iffy-looking Sens, who clammed up before Bruins Buffs at the Garden last Saturday, will just be rolling in from a visit to the provincial rival Maple Leafs.

Pretty cool combo. But, in the words of Beantown athletics fan Denis Leary, let’s face the facts. We have to make a choice; just like we did in mid-September when the Sox battled the Yanks opposite a Patriots-Chargers bout; just like we did when the Bs were making an early impression at the expense of the Blackhawks while the Sox were constricting the Rockies in Game 2 of the World Series.

Now, unlike the Tim Horton’s patrons providing all of Friday’s hospitality, most of the Dunkin diners around here will probably disagree with the following sentiment. But the fact is, the rink-based matters are what rank highest this time.

Yes, while NESN’s main network is putting Globe writers on the air an hour before game time to spend 15 minutes of breath on when the heck Curt Schilling might be seen on the mound again, hockey fans will be grinding through local listings to find the benchwarmer “plus” network that will begin its coverage thirty minutes before face-off at Scotiabank Place.

Even though, at night’s end, the Red Sox will have 157 games still to work with, including a still-full plate of Fenway dates. Conversely, the Bruins’ agenda will probably still be undecided. It will partially depend on Thursday’s fate of both the stalking Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres. And they will have more chance to assert themselves in their home finale against Buffalo on Saturday.

Well, what can you do? Ever since the Bs ruined the perfect Patriots Day 2004 by spilling Game 7 of their series with Montreal (hours after the Marathon and a decisive Sox triumph of the Pinstripes), New England has rejoiced over two Fall Classics. That number matches the number of consecutive playoff no-shows and coach firings on the Bruins’ part.

That said, it’s only a given that whereas two Bruins’ home games back in October were converted to matinees, you won’t see any role reversals this time. Maybe you would if the Maple Leafs were in the equation since Jays’ fans are notorious for wandering away from their seats to watch their national pastime on the concourse. But the Leafs had their final post-season hopes shriveled last week with a loss to none other than the Black and Gold.

But enough about our northern neighbours, eh? Something wicked gratifying is potentially in store for New Englanders: that being all four major franchises (five if you toss in the MLS Cup-finalist Revs) earning second season credit in the span of one year. Hard as it may be, try to imagine that the Bruins are not out of it yet.

It’s nights like these where it really ought to hit you: a fan base is a team of teams. At least Saturday’s ballgame is slated for a good-and-early 1 PM pitch well before the Bruins do “Shirts Off Our Back.” And the Sox will hang up their new pennant in broad daylight next Tuesday, at which point the Bruins would at best be fostering for a playoff opener no earlier than Wednesday.

As for Friday, thank goodness for the diverse lineup of media outlets: television, radio, online scoreboards, boston.com blogs. Anything that helps you balance your loyalty.

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