Festivities well worth long wait
It took all of 30 seconds - 40 tops - to raise the 2011 Stanley Cup championship banner to the TD Garden rafters last night.
But Bruins fans couldn’t be faulted if they’d chosen a different measure of time to mark the occasion. Thirty-nine years is a long time to wait for anything.
Such a gap between the 1972 championship of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and the beloved Big Bad Bruins and the one secured by the 2010-11 edition that June night in Vancouver may have been prolonged and at times agonizing. But what was evident at this year’s championship parade through Boston was again confirmed last night during the pregame banner-raising ceremony.
The Bruins and their fans haven’t forgotten how to properly celebrate.
“It was awesome,’’ said forward Brad Marchand, who scored the Bruins’ first goal this season in last night’s 2-1 loss to the Flyers after scoring the final goal in Game 7 of the Finals. “It was even better than I thought it would be.’’
While there might have been a bittersweet aftertaste - “We wanted to get that win on a special night but we couldn’t do it,’’ said Patrice Bergeron - chances are the players will remember the ceremony long after they’ve forgotten the final score.
Last night’s festivities began, appropriately, with the Bruins logo-adorned “fan banner,’’ a staple at playoff games since the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, being passed around the loge sections.
At 7 p.m., a mesmerizing, nostalgic video featuring highlights from past championship teams as well as the Bruins’ four 2011 postseason series was shown on the scoreboard.
The package was accompanied by images on an enormous 360-degree screen at center ice that looked like a white curtain surrounding the faceoff circle.
Its additional purpose was soon apparent: When the video ended, the screen dropped to the ice, revealing the golden banner with black lettering adorned with words Bruins fans had longed to see:
The unveiling of the banner was followed by the arrival on ice of the players who made it happen - including two who are no longer Bruins but will always be remembered as such.
Zdeno Chara, the captain, led the way, and to say the cheers were raucous would be akin to saying goalie Tim Thomas played OK in the postseason. The noise never waned as the Bruins took turns raising the Cup, but it may have hit its crescendo not for Chara or Thomas, but for Mark Recchi, the savvy winger who retired after Game 7 of the Cup Final.
Defenseman Shane Hnidy was the other alumnus from last year’s team to participate.
“It was the last time I’ll be on the ice as an NHL player and be around my teammates in that aspect,’’ said Recchi, who acknowledged having chills. “To be on the ice with them and be in Boston with this crowd . . .
“The reaction to winning the Stanley Cup has been absolutely amazing in this city, and how much it has embraced this. It’s a special time, and I was glad to be able to share it tonight.’’
With a spotlight on the Bruins bench and another on the Stanley Cup at center ice, Bruins president Cam Neely, general manager Peter Chiarelli, and owner Jeremy Jacobs each briefly addressed the crowd.
The biggest roars were reserved for Neely, which was no surprise. That Jacobs was also cheered was further confirmation that everything is copasetic between the franchise and its fans now.
Then came perhaps the most sentimental moment of the night. Andrew Ference, who along with Chris Kelly will share the alternate captain duties Recchi held last year, presented his former teammate with the jacket - purchased by the defenseman on eBay - that came to symbolize the Bruins’ unity during the Cup run. After each victory, it was presented to the player of the game as determined by his peers. Recchi was given the jacket after Game 7 of the Final.
“To get the jacket last in Vancouver and then get it repeated tonight, in front of the home crowd, is something I’ll never forget,’’ said Recchi, who said the jacket will be preserved on display in the dressing room.
The jacket presentation was the prelude to the moment everyone came to see. Members of the 1972 champs, led by Orr, then took the ice to help raise the banner, the legendary champs joining the new champs. As Chara, Thomas, Recchi, and Patrice Bergeron, joined by Neely and other ownership and management personnel, tugged the ropes to hoist the banner, the 17,565 in attendance rocked the Garden once more.
It took less than a minute to arrive at its destination, to the left of the ’72 banner. And it took all of 39 years.
“After winning in Vancouver, having the Cup on the ice here was one more last way to celebrate before moving on,’’ Marchand said. “And watching the banner go up, that’s something I’ll never forget. I don’t think any of us will. It got pretty loud in here, so I know the fans feel the same.’’