BOSTON – It might be hard to think about it right now, after such a shocking end to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, but this Bruins team deserves to be celebrated. In the wake of one of the most tragic events in Boston history, they gave the city something to cheer.
It seems silly to say that hockey helped us heal from the Marathon bombing that took place on April 15. Hockey is irrelevant compared to what happened that day, and what happened three nights later when the bombing suspects murdered MIT police officer Sean Collier. The Bruins themselves have been the first ones to acknowledge that. And yet, hockey did help us heal.
Our first chance to really come together in a public venue came that Wednesday at TD Garden, when the Bruins hosted the Sabres two nights after having a game against the Senators postponed. There was a moment of silence. There was a moving Boston Strong video montage set to Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” There was that wonderful moment when Rene Rancourt handed over the national anthem to the sellout crowd of 17,565. And then, for the next two and a half hours, we got to focus on something other than the bombing.
The Bruins had another game postponed that Friday while the manhunt for Dzokhar Tsarnaev forced Boston and surrounding towns to shelter in place. Tsarnaev was captured Friday evening, ending a week of terror. On Saturday afternoon, we once again gathered at TD Garden, where the Bruins took on the Penguins. We honored the memories of Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Martin Richard and Sean Collier, and we celebrated the efforts of local law enforcement.
The next day, it was the fans who took the lead. The team’s annual Shirts Off Their Backs ceremony, in which players give game-worn jerseys to lucky fans, was set to take place after an afternoon tilt against the Panthers. But this year, a group of season ticket holders requested that the jerseys be given to first responders instead. The Bruins happily obliged, and what ensued was yet another emotional ceremony, one that the vast majority of the crowd stuck around to watch.
The playoffs started 10 days later, and the Bruins weren’t done honoring those who deserved to be honored. In 2011, the Bruins started a new playoff tradition by having an honorary fan banner captain help get a giant Bruins banner started on a lap around the lower bowl. For its first two years, the banner captain was typically a Bruins legend. In the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, for example, the honor went to Cam Neely, Bobby Orr, then Milt Schmidt.
This year, however, the honor went to those who were most affected by the bombing, and each banner captain went on the ice to wave a Boston Strong flag. The list alone is enough to make your eyes well up, never mind the ovation each and every one of them got from the Garden crowd.
Game 1- Todd Brown, Sean Tierney, Eric Gahagan and Ariane Thibodeau (local bomb technicians)
Game 2- Jeff Bauman (helped police identify one of the suspects while recovering from the loss of both his legs)
Game 5- Carlos Arredondo (ran toward the blast and helped Bauman, as well as others)
Game 7- Jarrod Clowery (Bruins fan who was injured in the blast and has since worked to raise money for other victims)
Game 1- Adrianne Haslet-Davis (vows to dance and run again despite losing her left foot)
Game 2- Chris Dumont (State Police officer who helped save the life of Richard Donohue)
Game 5- J.P. and Paul Norden (brothers who each lost a leg)
Eastern Conference Final
Game 3- Richard Donohue (Transit Police officer who was injured in a firefight with the suspects)
Game 4- William and Patricia Campbell (parents of Krystle Campbell)
Stanley Cup Final
Game 3- Rob Rogers, Jenn Rogers and Jennifer Lemmerman (siblings of Sean Collier)
Game 4- Marc Fucarile (the last bombing victim to be released from Massachusetts General Hospital)
Game 6- Jeff Bauman (standing on his new prosthetic legs) and Carlos Arredondo
All of these incredible moments — the first game after the bombing, the first game after the manhunt, Shirts Off Their Backs, the fan banner captains — were more than just opportunities for the Bruins to show that they cared. They were opportunities for Bruins fans — and, on a representative level, all Bostonians — to show these people how much they were appreciated.
This was how so many of us healed. We didn’t want to forget what happened. We wanted to show our love for those killed or injured, for the heroes who ran toward the blast, and for the law enforcement officials who worked tirelessly to identify and bring down the suspects. But we also wanted to do things that made life feel normal again. We got to do all of that at Bruins games.
The way the Bruins helped this city recover may have made it feel like it was their destiny to win the Stanley Cup. And that Game 7 comeback against Toronto may have reinforced those kinds of thoughts. But championships aren’t won by destiny. Championships are won by the best team in the league, and unfortunately for the Bruins, the best team was the Chicago Blackhawks.
A Stanley Cup would have been nice for Boston, but it wasn’t necessary. This Bruins team had already given the city plenty to cheer. Monday night’s disappointing finish doesn’t negate any of that.