By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON The Bruins basked in the love of over one million Bruins fans Saturday while fully enjoying their rollicking rolling rally from TD Garden to Copley Place, and the celebration alternated between hearty waves, aggressive thumbs ups to the crowd and Brad Marchands boozy singing of Black and Yellow through the parade route.
The bottom line was this: the love-fest between the city of Boston and the game of hockey is again in full bloom just like it was in the early 1970s when the Bs were toast of the town and their players were considered rock stars.
I just feel like everybody in the city feels like we do, said Andrew Ference. Weve waited our whole lives with a lot of work and dedication to raise a Cup, and all of the hockey fans here have put in their hard work by supporting the team for so long.
Its amazing how many people will come up and introduce themselves, and say Ive been a season ticket holder for so many years. Thats hard work. Thats a chore. Thats incredible dedication to the sport and to the team, so of course theyre excited as we are. Im sure in some cities you celebrate with the team and thats about it. But thats not the way it is here.
That much was clear when Tim Thomas was treated with chants of MVP as he walked to his car holding his daughters hand after the rally was over, and Patrice Bergeron exhibited the same kind of passion fist-pumping the crowd like a jersey shore extra as he did keeping offensive players in tight check during the postseason.
It was a light, festive vibe throughout the crowd with signs like Roberto Luongo is golfing right now, this is better -- and Bite This! with a picture of Alex Burrows biting down on Patrice Bergerons finger underscoring the hard feelings and emotion that went into seizing the Stanley Cup.
All of those emotions turned from taut suspense and piercing intensity into simple, weightless elation, and the players picked up on all of it. The best sight: the scores of young children taking it all in with a newfound love of hockey that might not have been there for the prior generation of Boston youngsters.
Its incredible. Its such a great sports town anyway, said Recchi. With the Red Six, Patriots and Celtics all winning over the last 10 years, its great for the Bruins to be able to do it. It had been a long time. Its great to give them an opportunity to see the Stanley Cup, be a champion and bring a championship to the city. Theres nothing better.
I love this city. I love everything about it. Its been an amazing experience since I was traded here a few years ago. I love the people and Ill be back here a lotthats for sure.
There were a handful of arrests, one attempted purse-snatching on Boston Common and a healthy number of dehydrated souls passing out in the intense June heat while the Bruins rolled through the streets of Boston on the duck boats but nobody was complaining as hockey has once again seized a front page in the summertime along with a Boston Red Sox club that ostracized them for so many years.
Players were obviously excited about watching hockey make such a stunning comeback four years after hitting rock bottom in the two years that marked the GM baton passing from Mike OConnell to Peter Chiarelli.
The rolling rally and Boston love-in with the Stanley Cup simply put all of those efforts into proper perspective.
It would seem hockey will have a bountiful run in the Hub with a young corps thats been managed into a positive cap situation moving ahead, and that bodes well for the Black and Gold.
But thats a story for next season.
This year the Bs will keep parading the Cup around New England over the next few days before the trophy starts getting distributed to individual players and team staff through the next two months. Andrew Ference said everything the Bruins have done with the Cup including his novel approach of putting the 35-pound piece of hardware into a baby carriage on Thursday is about sharing their big trophy utterly and completely with the city.
Its not like the World Series trophy in 2004 or 2007 that felt more like a museum relic than something to be enjoyed interactively. The Cup is everybodys toy and deserving of a photo op or a smooch to the chalice for every red-blooded Bostonian thats lived and died with the Black and Gold over the last four decades.
Everybody wanted to take the Cup out, said Ference. Its there for everybody to enjoy. Theres no reason to lock it away. Thats the whole point of the trophy. It turns everybody into little kids.
They asked me what it was like to lift the Cup, and honestly it was great. But it was just as cool to watch your teammates reactions when they lift itor other peoples reactions when they touch it. Just walking down the street with it and walking people jump out of their cars just to touch it is awesome.
Shawn Thornton got some alone time with the Cup on Friday in honor of his wedding anniversary, and he recounted -- with equal parts amusement and annoyance a surprising number of Charlestown neighbors that simply walked right into his backyard to sneak a view of the legendary three-foot high trophy.
The Bruins should be prepared for these kinds of guerilla tactics in Boston, however, because its a pretty damned big deal that the Stanley Cup has returned to the Hub.
Everyone wants a piece of Cup after watching these Bruins in action over the course of 107 compelling, infuriating, draining and largely winning games, and thats a very beautiful thing.