Two hundred sixty-eight.
Due to the National Hockey League lockout, that is the number of days since the black-and-gold lost to the Washington Capitals in the playoffs on April 25. And the wait was grueling for fans and businesses throughout Boston.
A breath of relief, however, was universally exhaled by hockey fans on Jan. 6 when the NHL announced an end to the lockout and the upcoming start of a 48-game season. And 13 days after the news, fans flocked down Causeway Street on Saturday, piling into bars, restaurants, and the TD Garden to enjoy the start to a season some thought would not happen.
“I’m totally stoked that it’s over, I love hockey more than anything,” Matty LaRose said as he headed into the Garden to watch the Bruins’ season opener against the New York Rangers.
LaRose, 28, of Upton, was decked out in Bruins gear with his friend Andre Aureliano, 24, of Milford. Dressed in the team’s colors, each wore his symbol proudly. LaRose wore a custom Bruins jersey with his last name across the back.
“It’s just a relief, you know?” said Aureliano. “It’s pretty much what we live for. Just the atmosphere of being out here in Boston, you can’t beat it.”
Despite the lockout’s end, some fans still fostered disdain toward what had transpired and the loss of almost half of the standard season. LaRose was one of them.
“I have very ill feelings toward Jeremy Jacobs [the Bruins owner] and Gary Bettman [the NHL commissioner],” said LaRose. “They are the worst thing to ever happen to hockey. Hockey is about passion, life, and love, and they’re not about that. They’re about dollar signs, and that really kills me. But I love the Bruins, I love the organization, so to me, it’s worth it to deal with their crap.”
Other fans were just relieved to have a hockey season.
“Definitely not happy about it, but I don’t really hold it against them,” said Chris Ferrante, 22, of Rockport after he snapped a picture of his friends Kassie LaPointe and Brittany McMakin in front of Bobby Orr’s statue outside the Garden.
“I guess there’s some apprehension. . . . It does kind of suck that we missed the Winter Classic though, but it is what it is,” Ferrante said. “As long as we have a Stanley Cup champ and some hockey to watch, I’m happy.”
LaPointe and McMakin held a sign as they posed for a picture before Saturday night’s game. “The Boys are Back and they’re looking for trouble,” the handmade poster said,using the Bruins B.
They, too, were excited to have the Bruins back in action.
“Finally,” said LaPointe, 21, of Hamilton. “It’s about time. Hockey’s back.”
“Watched a lot of Providence Bruins,” McMakin, 22, of Holbrooke said about dealing with the lockout. “We definitely got our doses, but nothing beats the NHL.”
LaPointe and McMakin were at the recent scrimmage the Boston Bruins played and lost against the Providence Bruins on Tuesday. Neither was worried about a rusty performance from the pro team.
“Providence is already into their season and they’re just starting out, so that was one of their first real games back,” said LaPointe. “I feel like they were just getting back into the feel of it. I think being in the Garden with all their fans, an actual game, they’ll definitely play well tonight.”
Ferrante said he hopes to see fierce playing in the upcoming games due to the short season.
“When you have, whatever it is, 80 or 90 games, you can afford to lose a couple and it’s not a big deal,” he said, adjusting his Tyler Seguin jersey. “But when you’re playing 48 games and you lose a couple games in a row, that’s the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs, so I think everyone will be playing out of their minds.”
LaRose agreed this NHL season would be something incredible to watch.
“This is the season to watch because everything is going to happen so fast,” he said. “Every game means something, and that’s pretty cool.”
Derek J. Anderson can be reached at email@example.com.