BOSTON — The power of the Stanley Cup is truly amazing.
With that shiny trophy perched in front of them on the makeshift stage set up on the TD Garden ice on Monday night, the annual State of the Bruins town-hall style meeting for season-ticket holders took on a much different tone this year. Where the event had bordered on downright hostility in past years, this time the emotions flowing through the building were strictly joyous.
"This has been the most enjoyable State of the Bruins, there's no question about that," Bruins president Cam Neely said after the event. "It's gotten better every year, but this has certainly been the best."
Neely was joined on stage by owner Jeremy Jacobs, principal Charlie Jacobs, general manager Peter Chiarelli, coach Claude Julien, goalie Tim Thomas and forward Patrice Bergeron, while NESN analyst Andy Brickley served as emcee.
All of the participants were greeted warmly with loud cheers when introduced, with Julien even eliciting a standing ovation. It had to be sweet vindication for Julien, who had been subjected to constant calls for his head over the last couple years. But as usual, Julien took the high road.
"They were all going to the bathroom," Julien joked.
"It was certainly a lot better going up there on the stage than it has been in previous years," Julien added. "When you win the Cup, it's a lot more positive."
Jeremy Jacobs received a warm reception as well, then discussed how much the club's first championship in 39 years meant to him.
"I was never as happy and never as exhausted as I was when we finished [the Cup Final]," Jacobs said. "And that stuck with me for a couple weeks afterwards, and it truly hasn't settled in yet to be honest with you. It's hard to express or imagine what's involved in that. Winning a Stanley Cup was a dream come true."
This championship might not have fully sunk in, but Jacobs is already looking ahead to hoisting the Cup again.
"We have the same team," Jacobs said. "We've got the same organization. They know what it takes to win now, and it's an interesting phenomenon to see guys that have been there, what they're willing to reach down in order to succeed. This is a group of wonderful guys. We've been very lucky."
Jacobs, like the crowd at the Garden, was also quick to credit Julien's contributions to the Cup victory while downplaying his role as an owner.
"He is a great coach," Jacobs said. "Ownership is a passive position. I don't find myself in the same atmosphere as he does. I think he did something. I watched. I think it's a little more humbling to be an owner than to be a coach. I think a coach has every reason to stick his chest out because he did achieve something special."
Julien, however, is also looking forward and already preparing for the challenges ahead.
"Now that we've won the Stanley Cup, I would certainly like to let the people here know that we're never satisfied," Julien told the crowd. "We look to get better from management down to the players. This year is going to be one of those years where every team is going to up their game against us, and I guarantee that we're planning to up our game as well in order to meet that challenge."
Julien did also try to give both his players and himself some much needed rest during their abbreviated offseason. He didn't allow the players to report back to their workouts in Boston until after Labor Day, while also trying to force himself to take a bit of a mental break as well.
"We're different than players, for players rest and conditioning is the most important part," Julien said. "For us [as coaches], it's rest and the mental state of ourselves. Three days after we won the Cup, I was already going on how do I handle the offseason. That was automatic for me. You start worrying about the following year as soon as the job's done. But somehow during the summer I've tried hard to push myself away, just kind of block everything off and come back as fresh as I could."
Returning to the warm welcome he received Monday night certainly had to be refreshing for Julien and the rest of the Bruins.