April 18, 2013 in Sports

Boston returns to sporting world with emotional tribute

Jimmy Golen Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A Bruins “Boston Strong” jersey bears the city’s area code.
(Full-size photo)

BOSTON – Emerging from a moment of silence with a deafening cheer, fans at Wednesday night’s Bruins game paid tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing with a stirring a cappella national anthem and thunderous chants for their city, their country and their team.

Taking over the “Star-Spangled Banner” when longtime Garden troubadour Rene Rancourt signaled for them to sing, the sold-out crowd at Boston’s first major sporting event since Monday’s attack electrified the arena and spurred the Bruins to an early goal. Even after Buffalo tied it in the final minute and won in a shootout 3-2, the Bruins fans departed with one final chant of “U.S.A.!”

“That’s what Boston is all about,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said. “The city’s a winner, for sure. It was something very special to be a part of. It’s one of those games you really wanted to get – not only for the team, but for the city.”

Two days after a pair of bombs at the marathon finish line killed three people and wounded 170 others, fans lined up for metal-detecting wands and random car inspections to get into the TD Garden. Once inside, they watched a somber video with scenes from the marathon that ended with the words, “We are Boston. We are Strong.”

The players on the ice for the opening faceoff banged their sticks in the traditional hockey salute, drifting back off the blue lines so that they, too, could see the video. The Boston Fire Department Honor Guard brought out the U.S. flag to honor the first responders who rushed to the aid of the injured.

Rancourt took his place for the “Star-Spangled Banner,” but he sang only the first few lines, allowing the crowd to carry the tune while he pumped his fist to keep time.

“It was extremely emotional. I was definitely fighting back tears,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “It’s something that we’ll never forget. For everyone to show their respect and obviously give their thoughts and prayers for everyone, it’s great that everyone is kind of coming together at this time and helping each other out.”

It was a touching return to normal life for the city, which has been dazed by the attacks on one of its signature and most beloved events. Monday’s scheduled NHL game against Ottawa was rescheduled, and Tuesday night’s Celtics game was canceled outright.

“We understood what it meant to Boston,” said Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, who was the starting goalie on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. “You’re really a citizen of the world and this is an attack on a free country. … It’s emotional for us, too. It’s a scary situation. We’re happy to see from all this terribleness that Boston has pride, Boston cares and people are coming together.”

Players on both teams wore “Boston Strong” decals on their helmets, and the Garden was illuminated outside in blue and yellow, the colors of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the marathon. Another thunderous cheer welcomed the first responders from the state and local police were recognized in the second period.

Bruins players and staff collected 80 tickets to the game to donate to the first responders. Forward Brad Marchand raffled off his own suite for the team’s first playoff game, with the proceeds to go to the family of 8-year-old Martin Richards, who was killed in the blast.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs pledged $100,000 to The One Fund Boston, the charity established to help families affected by the bombing; the Garden, the NHL and the players association pledged $50,000 each. Ads on the dasher boards and the video screens gave the website address for the fund.

During the game’s first break, public address announcer Jim Martin asked any runners from Monday’s race to stand up. Many were wearing their finishers’ medals.

© Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email