BOSTON — Maybe Montreal would have been better, or even Vancouver with the bitterness that remains from last year's Final. But getting a chance to raise the Stanley Cup banner in front of the Philadelphia Flyers isn't bad, either, after the Bruins and Flyers have clashed in memorable playoff series in each of the last two years.
"It's right up there, for sure," Bruins defenseman and newly named alternate captain Andrew Ference said. But Ference also added that there's respect mixed in with the animosity in a rivalry like the Bruins have with the Flyers, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Boston in 2010, but were swept aside by the Bruins in four straight in the second round last spring.
"It's funny, the teams you have the biggest rivalries with as players are the teams you have quite a bit of respect for as well," Ference said. "You have the biggest battles against those teams, so you respect them for that."
That doesn't mean the Bruins don't mind rubbing the Flyers' noses in it just a little. And the Flyers know it won't be much fun seeing the Bruins and the Garden crowd celebrating their championship on Thursday night.
"I've never been a part of it, one of these ceremonies," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "I'd love to be on a team that could raise a banner to the rafters, but they had to go through us to get that Stanley Cup, so the memories are fresh for sure.
"Going all the way and losing a couple years ago, I don't think there is any worse feeling than when we lost in Game 6 in overtime," Hartnell added of the 2010 Final, when Philadelphia lost to Chicago. "We didn't really see much of them raising the banner and any of that stuff, but we'll probably see that [Thursday night]. It might bring back some of those memories of two years ago when we were there and lost, but you just have to take it all in I guess. I think we're only worried about one thing tonight, and that's getting two points and kind of ruining the night for the Boston Bruins fans that are in attendance."
"Coming into Boston with what happened last year, if you're not fired up for tonight I don't know what you'll get fired up for," Hartnell added.
The Bruins certainly expect the Flyers to be fired up in the hopes of spoiling Boston's celebration.
"I think there's always more concentration on what's going on with your team than what's going on with the other side," Ference said. "But obviously they want to ruin the party, that's a no-brainer."
Ference has been on the other side of banner raisings twice before, including his NHL debut. He was with Pittsburgh when the Penguins were the visitors as Dallas celebrated its 1999 championship. The Bruins were also the opponent when Anaheim raised its banner in 2007.
"My first NHL game was in Dallas when they raised their Cup [banner] too," Ference said. "I can remember a lot more from the Anaheim game, because the Dallas one my head was spinning around. It's an opening night and team opening nights are always a little crazy. You wait a little longer in the room for all the pageantry to get done with. You're mentally prepared for it. It is what it is. It's kind of one of those things where most guys approach it that it's out of your control and you just kind of deal with it."
The Flyers are dealing with the distractions, but they are letting a little bit of envy show through.
"I've never been a part of anything like that," Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said. "But I think it just adds fuel to our fire. It's Philadelphia, it's a winning organization, and I don't think you want to be that team next year that's sitting there watching the former Stanley Cup champions. So hopefully we have the opposite next year and we have the banner being raised and the other team is watching us."
Philadelphia forward James van Riemsdyk played his college hockey at the University of New Hampshire, but this return to New England will be a little different.
"Boston is always a special place to play," van Riemsdyk said. "It's one of the better places in the league as far as atmosphere and that sort of thing. Starting the season here should be pretty exciting. Obviously they're going to be raising their banner, which is pretty tough to see. It's rubbed in your face a bit for these guys that were here last year, so maybe it does give you that little extra edge."