One of the most trying weeks in most of their professional careers came to an end Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers. It was a busy week of uncertainty, a little bit of fear and losing hockey.
Most players grow up playing hockey, working their way up the ranks and training for the NHL, a grueling process in itself. However, there isn’t really any sort of instruction for weeks like this one, where the Bruins saw their own city brutally attacked.
In the aftermath of that, the club was left to try to do its part in the healing process. The city looked to its sports teams, and the Bruins were the first to return to the Hub on Wednesday. They were also technically the first to return to action Saturday after the two suspects in the Boston Marathon explosions were killed or captured after an extremely trying manhunt Friday.
It was an emotional week for a hockey team that’s been short on rest and short on success the last couple of weeks. While the Bruins admitted they got a jump from people’s outpouring of support for one another as well as their efforts to channel their focus back toward sports, the results just simply weren’t there. Those results finally came Saturday, and you could tell that a pretty big weight had been lifted from a weary hockey team trying to carry its city to a better place.
“This time of year we need the wins, but we also know for this city, it gives a lot and takes their mind off of what happened the past week,” Patrice Bergeron said after the win. “We’re all aware of that, but for us it’s also to build momentum toward the playoffs.”
It was certainly an unprecedented scenario for the Bruins. On more than one occasion this week, the B’s had to postpone games. Already in the teeth of an abbreviated and jam-packed schedule, the Bruins are left to play their final six games in nine days, including back-to-back games on the season’s final two days. All of this schedule juggling coincided with a push for the division crown, all while trying to act as human beings and process the last week’s events.
There were touching moments all week long, as the Bruins organization did a top-notch job of putting together moving ceremonies, which culminated with a tear-inducing national anthem Wednesday night. Just trying to get back to normal helped a grieving community, but the Bruins wanted to give their passionate fans more.
“The last two games it was emotional day — everybody’s thrown off whack,” defenseman Andrew Ference said. “We played really well, but we lost, and it was frustrating. Those games, the guys wanted people to leave the rink with an extra positive feeling. We played better than we played in the previous month and still lose. It’s one thing, we say all the time — you can be proud of the way you play and still lose. That’s how sports goes, but it is extra frustrating. [Sunday] was nice to end with a positive note and get the win and get the points.”
The many fans who hung around for Sunday’s postgame ceremony may not even remember the two points, either. That’s because the Bruins held their annual “Shirts Off Our Backs” ceremony. Instead of giving away their game-worn sweaters to season ticket holders as they have in the past, the Bruins presented the jerseys to the real heroes of the last week — the heroic first responders. Heroes from the FBI, the Watertown Police, the State Police and many more were given the chance to walk away from the Garden with a Bruins sweater. More importantly, it gave the Bruins themselves a chance to thanks those courageous men and women for all they did this past week and continue to do.
“That was great,” Bergeron said. “It was a special moment. We feel lucky to actually have a chance to shake their hands and talk to them. Not everyone has a chance to do that. We feel very lucky to do that. It’s a great moment and a great gesture from the Bruins to do that.”
The Bruins’ lasting legacy for this season is unlikely to have much to do with what happens on the ice. Instead, they’ll likely be remembered as one of the teams that helped a city get back to its feet. But for one day, at least, the B’s couldn’t help but feel happy and relieved to also give their fans a win they could feel good about, too.