Sam Bennett has become public enemy number one to Boston Bruins fans

Between a hit on their captain and scoring a controversial goal, Sam Bennett of the Florida Panthers has become an enemy of the Boston Bruins and their fans.
Apr 21, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) moves the puck against
Apr 21, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) moves the puck against / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Boston sports fans don’t tend to like New York sports heroes. First, a certain shortstop for the New York Yankees became known to the Beantown faithful as an enemy after hitting a big-time home run.

More recently Boston fans learned to hate New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning after he beat Tom Brady and their New England Patriots not once, but twice.

The latest athlete to draw the ire of the Boston faithful doesn’t come from New York (or New Jersey if we want to be overly technical with that Eli Manning on the Giants example) but from South Florida.

That would be Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett. Storylines involving Bennett have quickly taken over this series. In game three Bennett delivered a neutral zone hit on Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand. 

Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett is making an impact on the series

Depending on what angle you watch, it looked more like a punch in the face. The play would go un-penalized, but Marchand would be out of the following game’s lineup with an upper-body injury as a result.

In the game official’s defense, it wasn’t until other video angles came out that made it clear this wasn’t a normal hockey hit. That game was also Bennett’s first playoff game back since being injured in game two of the Panthers ' opening-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bennett explained that he was just trying to brace for the hit and had no intention of punching him. Some people accepted Bennett’s defense, and others did not. Marchand traveled to Florida with the team in preparation for game six.

Bennett would go on to score the tying goal in game four in Boston on Sunday afternoon. To add insult to injury, the goal was challenged for goaltender interference but allowed to stand.

To add even more insult to injury, this was the game where Marchand was out as a result of Bennett’s hit where Boston had once held a 2-0 lead. The Panthers would come back to win 3-2 and take a three games to one gold on the series.

The crowd and the Bruins team have made it clear that Bennett is becoming an enemy, however, the retaliations have been mostly mild by Boston standards. Fans booed him whenever he touched the puck in game four.

Fans booed when his name was announced as the goal scorer on that controversial tying goal. Bruins forward Patrick Maroon challenged him to a fight, which Bennett politely refused.

Villians emerging in the NHL playoffs is nothing new. A few seasons ago St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington entered that territory when he threw a water bottle at then Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri during a televised interview. For a few reasons, this deal with Sam Bennett seems a bit different.

First, the hate towards Bennett seems to be coming almost entirely from the Bruins fan base. Even If other fans don’t agree with the on-ice conclusions of his hit and goal in subsequent games, those lines haven’t crossed “disagreement” territory yet.

Secondly, the victim of his questionable hit was Marchand, who has a reputation for being the type of player you love to hate.

Marchand has had his fair share of questionable calls and actions go his way. Fans of the NHL’s other 31 teams don’t have a lot of sympathy for him. At least Bennett didn’t try to lick him, after all.

Most importantly the Bruins fan base hatred is coming as a result of Bennett’s actions during a game. The Binnington example was an uncalled-for response that happened afterward.

It’s the playoffs and tensions are running high. Bennett has found himself in not one, but two, things to make enemies of the Bruins and their fans. Until that handshake line after the series clincher, they are going to take every chance to let him know so.