Bruins arrive home with the Cup

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Bruins arrive home with the Cup

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
BOSTON -- The yellow charter buses blared their arrival to the TD Garden parking lot. The lead driver laid on the horn, grinning like a Cheshire cat as he steered Boston's most precious passenger to a safe stop.

The Stanley Cup, returned to the Hub after 39 years.

Bruins fans were already waiting. Whether in suits or sundresses, hundreds gathered to welcome their winning warriors home and catch a glimpse of hockey's sacred mug.

Captain Zdeno Chara held the trophy in his arms. The hulking blueliner carried the Cup off the bus, stepping off behind Shawn Thornton and raising it high above his head. A smile spread over Chara's face and he bit down on his bottom lip as though trying to hold back his heart from jumping out of his throat. The cheering throng surged as he walked around the bus unprompted to show them, to share it, let them touch it, so they could be certain it wasn't all a dream.

"He's bigger in person!" one fan marveled. "And so is the Cup."

Rookie Tyler Seguin stumbled out into the crowd, black pinstripe blazer over his white Stanley Cup championship t-shirt. He wore the matching hat backwards, slightly off kilter and unintentionally so. Seguin looked exhausted, drunk on champagne and joy.

"How does this sound: Tyler Seguin, Stanley Cup champion?" a reporter asked.

He rubbed his eyes with one hand as a slow smile spread across his face. "It feels amazing."

Tuukka Rask wandered over and he and Seguin slung arms across each other's shoulders. Seguin put a hand affectionately to Rask's head, where Nathan Horton's helmet sat (also askew), unclasped.

"I can't describe it," Seguin said. "It was a dream come true." His voice was softened by sleeplessness.

Shawn Thornton, trademark aviators on, was more brisk in his answers. When asked what he would do during his day with the Cup, he didn't hesitate. "Who knows? Haven't thought about it." And he was gone.

Three Bruins piled into a Boston police car for a ride home. As the squad vehicle slowly rolled through the crowd, the trio raised their hands in celebration through the backseat bars. The crowd returned the salute. They were tired, too, but equally unconcerned.

"I couldn't sleep last night," one man said from within his foam bear head. "I tried for half-an-hour, then figured I'd better just be here."

Others claimed to have not slept for two days. Adrenaline raised their arms in the air in wild wave. A well-worn sign, "WE WANT THE CUP" scrawled across the top, had gotten some happy editing. Gone was the wanting, struck through with a fat black line; in its stead was simple satisfaction: "WE GOT THE CUP."

The man in the bear head gushed over the generosity of Andrew Ference. The defenseman had pulled his car as close to the mob as he could, if only to share the happiness beaming from his face. It was a small gesture that had huge significance.

"We had our own personal reasons for wanting to win the Cup," Ference said. "But we wanted to win it for the city, to finish off the quad; the other teams have done their job."

Bruins president Cam Neely also addressed his new membership into Title Town.

"It is our turn and it is sweet. It is so sweet," he said. "I know the passion that our fans have and I know how excited they are."

"Absolutely, baby!" the fans roared back.

Neely's statement to the fans was marvelous. He skated for Boston during a Cup-less decade in the '80s and '90s. Neely's Bruins won three division championships, two Eastern Conference crowns and one Presidents Trophy. He knew how badly their stomachs ached with hunger because he had felt it himself. When Neely spoke on Thursday, the diplomatic and professional walls were toppled and naked pride was revealed.

"Cam, I named my son after you, Boss," a faceless fan yelled. "I really did."

Neely raises his fist in reply, then stuck up his thumb.

"You guys waited a long time for this and the fans certainly deserve this," he said. "We got the best fans in the league. The support that you guys showed our players . . . it was a privilege to play in front of the fans. We're thrilled to bring this back to Boston and have this rolling rally Saturday morning, 11 o'clock. It's going to be quite an experience for everybody.

"I just want to thank our fan base for all the support for all these years. It's really hard to say how you feel right now, but it's incredible. All I can tell you is I'm very happy."

Neely's smile was effervescent. He scanned the crowd, soaked it in. Then he pumped his fist another time.

Ference was also at a loss. He said the reaction was delayed, that the discipline of executing a successful Stanley Cup title run didn't allow for instant emotional release.

"Part of the reason we were successful is because we blocked out our emotions very well, so it takes a while to sink in," Ference said. "I didn't want to believe it until there was about 10 seconds left on the clock and then I started crying. I just couldn't believe it. "

"When we actually got to hold the Cup . . . it's surreal. You block your emotions out for so long it's hard to come back to reality. It started to sink in. Once we passed it around on the plane and got it in the locker room and partied with our families, drank from it . . . "

Ference looked up to the news helicopters hovering vigilantly overhead like dragonflies on a lake at dusk.

He smiled. "It's sinking in."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Morning Skate: Sabres' Okposo back on the ice

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Morning Skate: Sabres' Okposo back on the ice

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while officially in the Dead Zone of the NHL offseason.

*A great sight to see is Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo taking the ice in a summer league in Minnesota after a health scare at the end of last season.

*Nolan Patrick might be fresh off abdominal surgery, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be rushed if he plays for the Flyers.

*Here’s an offseason power ranking of the offseason moves for the NHL teams, and the Bruins rank 28th out of 31 teams with the organization being “stuck” in the estimation of this writer. I don’t disagree that they’re kind of paralyzed right now until David Pastrnak signs an extension, with other things being held up because of that. The Paul Postma and Kenny Agostino signings were about as small time as you can get on July 1. But the Bruins’ goal for this summer wasn’t to win in the offseason moves department, but instead continue to let their interesting mix of young players and established veterans grow into an effective mix. Winning the offseason power rankings really isn’t the thing for the Black and Gold, and that’s perfectly okay given their situation.

*There’s a wide gap between the Detroit Red Wings and Tomas Tatar with salary arbitration looming.

*It’s a good thing that Barstool Sports is here to ask the really tough questions, like whether Jaromir Jagr is being treated unfairly by NHL teams because of his hair.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Johnny Gaudreau really high on the window for the Calgary Flames to compete over the next three years with the young, talented group they have in place.  

*Nico Hischier is looking to be a playmaking force for the New Jersey Devils right off the bat after being the No. 1 overall pick in Jersey.

*A slew of soon-to-be college sophomores starred in development camps across the NHL and showed what they learned at the NCAA level.

*Classy tweet from the Arizona Coyotes wishing war hero and distinguished statesman John McCain well in his battle with brain cancer.

*Players that are on AHL contracts will be allowed to participate in the Winter Olympics this season. While the loss of NHL participation would be a difficult blow to the Olympics and fans, part of me is happy that some of these AHL guys will get to experience playing for their country when they might not have been able to otherwise.  

*For something completely different: Paul Pierce sees some very good things with first-round pick Jayson Tatum, but he’ll need to see “killer instinct” from the Celtics rookie for him to live up to the Pierce comparisons.

 

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

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AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

Players on American Hockey League contracts will be eligible to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President and CEO David Andrews confirmed through a league spokesman Wednesday that teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The AHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs saying players could only be loaned for Olympic participation from Feb. 5-26.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament runs from Feb. 9-25. Like the NHL, which is not having its players participate for the first time since 1994, the AHL does not have an Olympic break in its schedule.

The AHL's decision does not affect players assigned to that league on NHL one- or two-way contracts. No final decision has been made about those players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report that the league had told its 31 teams that AHL players could be loaned to play in the Olympics. It was an AHL memo sent at the direction of that league's board of governors.

When the NHL announced in April that it wouldn't be sending players to South Korea after participating in five consecutive Olympics, Andrews said the AHL was prepared for Canada, the United States and other national federations to request players.

"I would guess we're going to lose a fair number of players," Andrews said in April. "Not just to Canada and the U.S., but we're going to lose some players to other teams, as well. But we're used to that. Every team in our league has usually got two or three guys who are on recalls to the NHL, so it's not going to really change our competitive integrity or anything else."

The U.S. and Canada are expected to rely heavily on players in European professional leagues and college and major junior hockey to fill out Olympic rosters without NHL players.