United and Boston Strong

At 5:30 p.m. there was a double line at both entrances of the TD Garden, fans filed in and packed the gates waiting to be let into the arena donning their black and gold gear. For a game day, nothing looked out of the ordinary at a quick glance.

However, just a few yards away from the two lines there are dozens of armed security personnel, men in full Army Combat uniforms circling the Garden. The fans keep a smile on their faces as they await the gates to open, very aware of the increased security around them, but even more aware of the pride they feel wearing their Boston jerseys.

Normally a lively city, outside the doors to the surrounding the Garden is largely deserted other than with fans filing into the arena, which is unusual for a beautiful spring day in April. This is not how Boston is supposed to look.

Monday something very drastic changed the city and it’s people forever. The bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street took three innocent lives and over 150 people were injured in the blast.

Boston still recovering, is not the same; but on Wednesday Bruins fans still filled the Garden going through tight security before entering the building. Even with all the security threats in the city, fans had a united reason for leaving their houses and heading into Boston just days after Monday’s horrific events took place.

“We wouldn’t miss it,” said Plymouth native Christina Herman holding a Boston Strong sign as she waited in the long line to get into the Garden. “It’s our city, it’s our home and we are not going to be afraid.”

“You’d think that the stadium wouldn’t be sold out that everyone wouldn’t come out because we’d be afraid to,” said Rebecca Hopkins also of Plymouth. “But here we are and we’re all here; I think it speaks volumes about or city. We purposely bought tickets to this game because Boston is united and this is what Boston sports fans do as a city… as a whole.”

As it reached game time the 17,565 people in attendance that packed into the Garden had prepared themselves for an emotional tribute, but even the players had a difficult time keeping it together thorough the montage of the first responders and runners that acted as heroes played. This video game with a message: Boston Strong.

“Tough to keep a dry eye after the memorial on the big screen,” said Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton who has made his home in the city of Boston. “To hear the crowd singing like that is pretty special… It was definitely a different experience but great to see everyone rallying around each other which doesn’t surprise you in this city.”

Garden favorite Rene Rancourt was scheduled to sing the national anthem, he sang the opening few lines before he turned it to the crowed for an awe inspiring rendition of the anthem. It was hard to find a dry eye among the nearly 18,000 people and millions watching from home as Bostonians sang united in pride of their country, service men and women and all the heroes in their community and beyond.

“It shows what kind of city Boston is to come in and stand there and sing the anthem,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. “It just shows that everyone is united and we’ve come together. That’s what you need to do in a situation like this and that’s why, again, Boston is such a great city.”

It was clear before the puck even dropped that Wednesday night’s Boston Bruins game meant a whole lot more to a city than simply a number on the score sheet. Despite the Bruins’ shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the game gave Boston fans something to cheer about for the first time in what seems like a very long time.

The Bruins game was also a chance for Bostonians to honor the men and women who acted as heroes on Monday as all of the people who have run, volunteered or have shown support of the Boston Marathon. At the end of the game, both teams took center ice to raise their sticks in salute to the Boston Crowd, a touching end to an emotional evening at the Garden.

“We are Boston” chants echoed throughout the building as the Garden faithful showed support for their city, and even after the loss the crowds of people still chanted “We are Boston” as they left the building and went onto the streets of Boston headed home. Fans, players and the people working at the game were united in a way that is special to Boston sports culture.

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