KABUL, Afghanistan — The outgoing commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan has let slip his hockey allegiance, and — unfortunately for Canadians — it turns out he’s a Bruins fan.
It’s true: U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who is originally from New Hampshire, cheers for Boston. And now, he even has a picture of the team to prove it.
A signed team photo of the Stanley Cup champions was presented to Petraeus last week in Kabul as he prepared to leave for his new job as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The heartbreak of Vancouver’s Game 7 loss to Boston may be a distant memory for some, particularly from the vantage point of the wilting Afghan summer. but at Camp Phoenix, one of the larger NATO training bases in Afghanistan, it doesn’t take long before Canadian visitors are reminded who won the showdown.
The camp is protected by U.S. troops belonging to the 26th “Yankee” Brigade, a Massachusetts-based National Guard unit — almost all of them as hockey mad as the best Canadian.
And the world may never have known that Petraeus was a Bruins fan had it not been for a pair of Canadian officers who slipped a mention of the Stanley Cup rivalry into a PowerPoint presentation during the final series.
The general had just been briefed about the unfolding training mission and Col. Peter Dawe’s presentation was almost at an end when a Canadian message for the U.S. hockey fans in the room flashed up on the screen: “Canucks in Five.”
Petraeus, who had a war on his mind, looked up and asked whether the series had started, then added: “Tell me it isn’t the Bruins.”
The Massachusetts troops were delighted.
“He is a Bruins fan,” said Brig.-Gen. John Hammond, the affable commander of the Yankee brigade, a unit which traces its roots in Boston back to the First World War.
“There’s been some friendly ribbing over this right up until just recently.”
Hammond and his soldiers went a step further and contacted the Bruins, asking for a signed photo, which was quickly turned around and shipped over to Kabul.
The photo presentation last week capped what Hammond jokingly described as “a tumultuous time” between the Americans and Canadians.
The rivalry was intense.
A trophy, which the soldiers affectionately christened the Stanley Cup, was appropriated and painted with a red maple leaf on one side and the U.S. brigade’s logo on the other.
“We had a friendly, good-sportsman relationship with the Canadian leadership, where we passed the trophy back and forth each game,” said Hammond.
The mess hall, where there are big-screen televisions, would be full every morning at the crack of dawn as soldiers disregarded the time difference and got up to watch the games.
“The ultimate passing (of the trophy) was when it was brought here,” Hammond said with a huge grin.
“It was good because it kind of takes your mind off some other things.”