Saturday, March 8, 2014
Howard Ulman, The Associated Press
BOSTON — The Stanley Cup glistened in the morning sun, the nearly 35-pound symbol of NHL supremacy raised high over the head of 255-pound Zdeno Chara.
Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference gives a thumbs-up to fans upon the team's return to Boston today.
Then, the captain of the champion Boston Bruins lowered it to his knees. He patiently answered reporters' questions after a night of little sleep and much joy on a flight from one side of North America to the other – from the disappointed city of Vancouver to the title town of Boston.
For the 6-foot-9 defenseman and his gritty teammates, the first club to win three seven-game series in a single postseason, the heavy lifting was over.
The celebration was on.
"We are pretty OK with that weight," Chara said today, the Cup in his grasp just as it was when he was the first to hoist it after the Bruins' 4-0 win in Game 7 over the Canucks less than 12 hours earlier.
He walked over to some of the about 500 fans who had gathered outside TD Garden, where the Bruins were 3-0 in the series, outscoring the Canucks 17-3. He let some of them touch the coveted trophy that hadn't been in Bruins hands in 39 years.
"It's unbelievable. It's very exciting for the whole city, for us, for the whole organization. It's a very special day," said Chara, one of the NHL's top defenseman but never a champion in his previous 12 NHL seasons. "We're very honored to be here. We're so happy."
They won with Brad Marchand, a rookie pest, and Patrice Bergeron, who missed most of the 2007-08 season with a concussion. Each had two goals in the clincher.
First-line right wing Nathan Horton was on the ice to hold the Cup but hadn't played after sustaining a severe concussion on a late hit by defenseman Aaron Rome just 5:07 into Game 3. The Bruins did have midseason pickups Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, playoff scoring leader David Krejci, and, of course, feisty, focused goalie Tim Thomas.
"We went out there on a mission, came back champions," Marchand said. "We proved we were the best team in the world."
They did it with team depth and determination.
"We're blue collar, not flashy," hard-hitting right wing Shawn Thornton said. "We work hard. We take pride in that."
The Bruins hadn't won the title since 1972 and that team's name was erroneously engraved on the Cup as the BQSTQN BRUINS. This year, Thomas provided the Os — as in the number of goals he allowed in two of the last four games against the Canucks.
He gave up just eight goals in the seven games to the highest-scoring team in the regular season — the same number Vancouver's Roberto Luongo allowed in Game 3 alone.
"After the game, I was kind of in shock. I still am to some extent," the normally unshakable Thomas said after stepping down from one of the two buses that took the team on the short ride from Logan International Airport, where the plane landed at about 8:30 a.m.
"We're tired from the series," Thomas said. "It took everything we had to win this. I'm sure it will sink in some time, but it hasn't completely yet. You get here, you see the fans, it's starting to sink in a little."
There will be many more fans lining the streets at a parade scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Boston's seventh in the past decade following championship celebrations for the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics.
But their place in history as the sixth Bruins team to take the title and the third Original Six club to win the Cup in the last four seasons wasn't the first thing on their minds as they flew home.
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