Last night's Sabres-Bruins game at TD Garden was the "first massive public gathering in Boston" since Monday's marathon bombings, and it was "a proud return for Boston fans," according to Kevin Paul Dupont of the BOSTON GLOBE. The sellout crowd of 17,565 "streamed into the building beginning at 6 p.m., the start of an expanded 90-minute window that allowed security guards to process everyone through the wickets." The evening "fast developed as one part hockey game and equal part city statement of patriotism and pride." The large videoboard over center ice "began to flip through still photographs of Monday's unspeakable torment." Anthem singer Rene Rancourt stepped out "to his well-worn turf just beyond the Zamboni entrance" to begin singing. But by the words, "What so proudly we hailed," Rancourt "turned silent ... instead adopting maestro duties, out there now only to lead the proud, strong voices in the stands" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/18). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sara Germano noted over the course of the game, "cheers of 'We are Boston' and 'USA! USA!' filled TD Garden" (WSJ.com, 4/17). FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi writes last night was "part vigil, part public adoration for the Marathon runners and first responders, part jamboree to spite the faceless agents of all the pain" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/18).
EMOTIONS RUN HIGH IN RETURN: ESPN BOSTON's Joe McDonald wrote the pregame ceremony "was amazing," as words "really can't describe the emotion of 17,565 in attendance singing the national anthem." During the ceremony, a "hologram of the blue and yellow 'Boston Strong' ribbon appeared on the ice." The chants of "We are Boston" and "USA" sent an "emotional ripple through the Garden that will never be forgotten by anyone in attendance, including the players from both teams" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 4/17). SI.com's S.L. Price writes Boston last night "outdid even itself." There was the "stunning moment, unforced yet overwhelming," when Rancourt "stopped singing for the first time anyone could remember; the organ died, and Rancourt then conducted 17,565 Bostonians ... as they bellowed, 'The Star-Spangled Banner'" (SI.com, 4/18). NBC's Mike Emrick said before the playing of the National Anthem, “There is some emotion here just that is waiting to burst out” ("Sabres-Bruins," NBC Sports Network, 4/17). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, "If a hockey game in and of itself doesn't heal the wounds suffered by this city, this nation, it does provide a place for a community to gather and feel something of normalcy" (ESPN.com, 4/17). In Boston, Shira Springer notes while some fans "expressed hesitancy about attending, it was a loud, enthusiastic crowd primed for an emotional night." The game was in "such high demand that prices on the secondary ticket market skyrocketed." Two hours before puck drop, a "standing-room ticket in the AT&T Sports Deck was going for $175, a Row 14 balcony seat for $185, and, on the most expensive end of the scale, a loge seat at center ice was listed for $595" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/18).
SALUTE TO THE CITY: In Boston, Stephen Harris notes after the game concluded, both teams "gathered at center ice and raised their sticks in salute to the fans." The idea was suggested by Sabres LW Thomas Vanek to Bruins D Zdeno Chara during a "brief meeting at center-ice during the pregame warmup." Bruins LW Brad Marchand said, "We just wanted to say thanks. We want them to know we're thinking of everyone. They're in our thoughts and prayers" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/18). NBC's Emrick said, “Fierce opposition during the game, a unity of purpose that they saw in the whole prelude to the night again at the end.” NBC's Keith Jones: “I love the ending of the game. After the shootout win, both teams staying on the ice. … A very touching moment." It "really summed up the game and the emotions that went into it." Sabres C Steve Ott said, "We were all playing for Boston tonight" (“Sabres-Bruins,” NBC Sports Network, 4/17). FOXSPORTS.com's Morosi writes it was a "classy and elegant way to end the night, a mere two miles and two days removed from fear and chaos." Sabres RW Brian Flynn: "We're two teams going at it, but the most important thing is our country's safety. It was good to show that we respect each other, even though we're playing in an intense game like that" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/18).
INCREASED SECURITY MEASURES: In Buffalo, John Vogl notes the "game-day atmosphere certainly seemed normal along Canal Street, the food and entertainment strip outside the arena." Patios were "full of Bruins fans" and bar stools were "occupied by fans of both teams." But at the doors of the arena, "heightened security was visible." Clusters of Boston police officers "gathered outside." Inside the doors, fans "passed by arena security guards and armed military police before handing over their tickets" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/18). NBC's Jimmy Roberts said the security surrounding the game “feels like an Olympics." Roberts: “Here at the arena, things are clearly different as well. Bomb-sniffing dogs and military personnel all over the place. The trash receptacles have all been removed surrounding the Garden here. And it doesn’t matter what kind of credential you have, you don’t just come and go in and out of the building. You have to go through a metal detector and have your bag searched” ("NHL Live," NBC Sports Network, 4/17). ESPN's Steve Levy noted before the game that people were saying that they expected security "to be as tight here at TD Garden as it has been since the 2004 Democratic National Convention.” There were “metal detector wands waving up and down members of the media entering the building prior to the morning skate today," something that "never happens.” Police dogs were “barking in the building” and cars were “being searched inside and out as they enter(ed) the garage that is beneath TD Garden” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 4/17).
BRUINS STEP UP: Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs pledged to donate $100,000 on behalf of the entire organization to the recently established The One Fund Boston. The TD Garden, NHL and NHLPA also will be making a donation in the amount of $50,000 each to show their support, making the combined total of all parties $250,000 (Bruins). YAHOO SPORTS' Les Carpenter notes the Bruins invited 80 of Boston's first responders to last night's game, "gave them tickets and put a spotlight on them toward the end of the second period." The sellout crowd "stood and roared" when they were acknowledged (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/18).
CELTICS DOING THEIR PART: In Boston, Mark Murphy notes the Celtics "realize they are carrying a torch more than ever for their city," but the "total meaning of that representation simply hasn't set in yet." Celtics G Courtney Lee said, "I'm sure our team will do something to get out and help the community. Lots of people will turn toward sports, and we can give them something to cheer about" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/18). The Celtics last night in their game against the Raptors honored victims of the bombings by "adorning their jerseys with a black stripe" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/17).