Going to Bruins games since, quite literally, the womb, I thought I had run the gamut of emotions a fan will experience in 40 years. Whether it was embarrassment to be a fan or elation at finally winning a Cup in my lifetime or the knowing fear as I entered the building with LaFleur and Dryden (every time, you two!) waiting yet again to ruin another Christmas present to everything in between, I felt I had more or less seen it all as a Bs fan. Of course, that, like so, so much else, has been permanently changed.
I hadn’t originally planned on attending last night’s game but I flipped around my schedule a bit so that I would be there. For the simple truth is I needed to be there. I needed to get away from the news, away from dwelling on the horror. The old standbys of music and movies weren’t doing the trick of chasing the blues, even temporarily. I hadn’t done anything resembling smiling or laughing since Monday morning when I scored Stones tickets (by scored, I mean paid through Cyrano de Bergerac’s nose). Goddammit, I needed the Bruins to give me the Calgon treatment, if only for a few hours so I could feel like myself again.
After a video montage of Monday’s heroes and victims was shown on the Jumbletron and met with raucous applause, Rene Rancourt took his usual walk out the Zamboni doors and down the carpet for the National Anthem. He was accompanied by the Boston Fire Department Honor Guard. What transpired next pepper-sprayed North America.
Rancourt began the song at a much softer and slower pace than his usual balls-out effort. With a few waves of his hand, he exhorted the crowd to join in (the PA announcer did as well). He didn’t even get through “what so proudly” before pulling away the mic and playing conductor to the most incredible 18,000-person a capella these eyes have ever seen. It was a truly serene moment that hopefully helped some people begin or continue to heal. Who knew so many Boston accents could combine to produce something so beautiful? And no, the words to the song weren’t shown anywhere in the building.
After the stirring emotion of the Anthem, it was admittedly a bit odd to shift into hockey fan mode so quickly. But, ultimately, that’s what we were all there for—a hockey game. And the Bruins did their part in doing exactly what everybody says to do—go back to doing what you were before Monday, back to your routine.
Unfortunately for the Bs, that meant giving up yet another late third period lead to squander what should have been two points and sole possession of first place in the Northeast. Instead, the Bs and Habs both have 57 points though the Bs do have a game in hand due to Monday’s postponed tilt. But all was not lost as the Bruins did clinch a playoff spot. Still, this was yet another one that got away.
Thanks largely to the dogged work of Chris Kelly, the Bs held a 2-1 lead going into the third. Anton Khudobin held the fort as best he could in the third. But with Buffalo on a 6-on-4 thanks to another dopey over the glass penalty and a pulled Ryan Miller (who was the difference last night), Thomas Vanek’s centering feed hit Cody Hodgson and found its way past the Bs netminder. Tie game with 27 seconds left. Again. After a ho-hum OT, everybody’s favorite breakaway contest was played and Sabre Drew Stafford scored the lone goal to give Buffalo the win on a night when even Roberto Luongo was pulling for the Bs.
Sometime before the conclusion of the game, Vanek came up with the idea of a center ice stick salute by both teams to thank the fans. It was a great, unexpected gesture that provided a nice bookend to a memorable evening’s events. It’s just too bad the Bruins couldn’t write a better story in between them.
Even so, it felt good for people to get out, commiserate, laugh a little, cry a little, and only have to worry about whether their team won or lost. It may have only been a temporary respite but it went a long way toward restoring our normalcy and letting us know things are going to be okay.
On behalf of this great city, thank you to the Boston Bruins for helping me and many others take the first few steps back to being ourselves again. It won’t happen overnight but we’re grateful you’ve helped lead the way.