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Oral history of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final: From biting to cheap shots to riots

If the 2011 Stanley Cup Final were pitched as a movie script, it would have been rejected for being too outlandish.

One player biting his opponent. A series-long suspension after a star player was stretchered off the ice after a hit. Goalie trash talk in the media. The heavy underdog upsetting the favorite, and in the process going from one of hockey’s most hated teams to the club North America rallied behind in the series. Oh, and in the end, a riot that left the losing city in flames.

Yet it all happened in the Boston Bruins‘ seven-game series win over the Vancouver Canucks 10 years ago this week.

The teams couldn’t have been more different. Vancouver, who won the Presidents’ Trophy for the season’s best record, was the first team in 33 years to lead the NHL in both goals scored and fewest goals allowed. They were seeking their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and to become the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since 1993.

The Bruins hadn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1972, but had recaptured the hearts of Boston with a defensively strong and physically brutal style of play. They were also resilient, making the Stanley Cup Final after two straight postseasons of heartbreak, including a blown 3-0 series lead against Philadelphia in 2010.

What turned this matchup into one for the ages? We took a look back with four players who participated in it: Bruins winger Milan Lucic, now with the Calgary Flames; Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who is now the director of social impact for the NHL; Bruins winger Mark Recchi, now an assistant coach with New Jersey who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017; and Vancouver winger Chris Higgins, who is currently a development coach with the Canucks. (We reached out to other Vancouver players, who either respectfully declined or did not respond.)

Here’s how they remember the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, with the benefit of hindsight:

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