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Magic spills forth from Cup

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By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / October 7, 2011

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Hockey is hip again in our town, and last night, with TD Garden shaking and Causeway Street quaking, the Bruins hoisted their 2011 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters to prove the point.

No longer the running joke of sports talk radio.

No longer the team that time and talent forgot.

No longer the franchise with the longest 0-for-whatever-and-a-day championship drought.

It’s OK again in the Hub to talk hockey in the office, on the way out of church, with the guy behind the deli counter at Stop & Shop or the guy on the other side of the gas pump. Gone are the days when you had to say, “Yeah, that’s right, the Bruins are my team. You got a problem with that?’’

Before a sellout crowd of 17,565, on a night when they easily could have banged out a building as big as Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium combined, the Cup-winning Bruins tucked their sixth championship banner into the rafters.

Team captain Zdeno Chara, plus Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron, and the retired Mark Recchi did the honors, pulling the ropes. They were aided by a select cast from the 1972 Cup-winning team, including Bobby Orr, Derek Sanderson, John Bucyk, Ken Hodge, and others. A smiling Milt Schmidt, 93 years old, was there, too, his dignity and grace still as much a part of the franchise as the colors Black and Gold.

If there is one litmus test for how dramatically things have changed for hockey around here, let it be noted that team owner Jeremy Jacobs bellied up to the microphone at center ice at 7:14 p.m. and was received with warm, respectful cheers. Live cheers, too. Not taped and played on cue over the PA system. All of a sudden, everyone loves Jeremy, who for decades was vilified as the city’s supreme skinflint owner.

“Good evening, Boston,’’ said the Buffalo-based owner from the center-ice podium. “You’ve waited a long time, and I’m happy to say the wait is over.’’

Yes, that Jeremy Jacobs, the man who not long ago inspired the creation of the website pleasesellthebruins.com. Not even the bumbling Patriots, under the ownership of Billy Sullivan or Victor Kiam, summoned such wrath. John Y. Brown and Paul “Thanks Dad’’ Gaston never were treated to the Jacobs kind of hate in their days as Celtics owners.

But it’s a magic elixir that pours forth from the Stanley Cup, its curative powers never more evident than in the supreme makeover of the Bruins owner.

We live for moments like last night, and we are fortunate that they come with such frequency around here. Red Sox Nation wrings its hands these days because it’s been - what, four years now? - without a World Series championship. The Celtics, their NBA season perhaps lost to a lockout this year, tugged their last banner into the rafters in 2008. The Patriots have gone without a Super Bowl win since 2004 and are now the region’s beggars, not choosers, having waited the longest for their rolling parade.

By late yesterday morning, fans in Spoked-B ball caps and sweatshirts were already milling around the Garden, chatting along the fence that rings the players’ parking lot where the old Garden stood for decades. The Pro Shop did a steady crush of business throughout the day. The ever-present independent ticket sellers (read: scalpers) were pushing seats in all price ranges, all of them at least $200 over face.

“It was a gold mine here last year,’’ said one of the regular ticket sellers, standing within sniffing distance of a pumpkin latte near a Dunkin’ Donuts stand. “It made up for a long summer at Fenway. We got croaked over there. It rained for 20-25 of the games. Night after night, stacks of unsold tickets.’’

Soon after 6 p.m., the Garden gates swung open and the born-again puck faithful began to fill up the House of Jeremy. Bruins management encouraged everyone to be seated by 6:40 in order to take in the whole show, and after 39 years of waiting for some kind of wonderful to come back to the old West End, they showed up on time.

The joint really began to rock when the Bruins took the ice for their pregame skate, with music blaring out of the PA that no one in the press box over the age of 20 could identify (honest, I asked a bunch of ’em). Much has changed since that last Cup in ’72, when Billboard’s Top 10 playlist featured “Alone Again, Naturally’’ by Gilbert O’Sullivan, “I Can See Clearly Now’’ by Johnny Nash, “A Horse With No Name,’’ by America, and “My Ding-A-Ling’’ by the great Chuck Berry. Now it’s all Dropkick Murphys and a cloud of ice chips.

Other than the hoisting of the banner, the night’s highlight - surprise, surprise - was the appearance of the Cup itself. Chara, last seen lifting it high inside Vancouver’s Rogers Arena on June 15, did the same here at precisely 7:04 p.m. Big Z then handed it to Recchi, who then gave it to Bergeron. The loudest cheer of the night erupted when Bergeron handed it over to Thomas, the unbeatable goalie who last season won the Cup, the Conn Smythe (playoff MVP), and the Vezina.

Recchi was joined by fellow retiree Shane Hnidy (now a Winnipeg Jets broadcaster). Neither Tomas Kaberle nor Michael Ryder, both of whom left as free agents, were here for the party. Someone in the press box asked if Ryder was in the house, but he was quickly reminded by one wag that the veteran right wing rarely shows up in the regular season.

Team president Cam Neely, during his short visit to the podium, thanked ownership “for giving us the resources’’ to win the championship. When he said “resources,’’ the smiling power forward raised his hands and rubbed his fingers, sign language for “money!’’

General manager Peter Chiarelli, hired as the makeover man in June 2006, turned to his team along the boards and thanked them for allowing him “to be part of their incredible run.’’ The former Harvard captain added, “We asked them to climb Mount Everest, and they did.’’

The banner soon went up. The Cup was cleared, along with the red carpet, podium, chairs, and the rest of the ceremony’s bric-a-brac. The gray-haired Black-and-Gold guys, who never had a party like this in ’72, gingerly made their way off the ice. And in short order, the puck was dropped on the 87th home opener in franchise history, the first of 82 regular-season games in 2011-12. The long wait over, another long haul began.

“Trust me,’’ said Jacobs, “we will win it again.’’

It’s the Cup, folks. It makes dreams come true, helps aches and pains disappear, even turns haters into lovers. Lord Stanley of Preston could never have dreamed it.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.

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