For the first time in nearly a calendar year, the Boston Bruins will be playing a hockey game at TD Garden on Thursday night.
The B’s will host the Philadelphia Flyers in the first of a two-game set that will conclude on Saturday night and look to get their offense going after a season-opening three-game road trip where they managed just three goals scored, and none of them at even-strength. But beyond what’s happened on the ice in the first few games this season, the Bruins are excited to simply be playing hockey on their home again.
Sure, there won’t be any fans and it’s going to continue to be strange playing in an empty building due to ongoing COVID-19 protocols. But it’s a whole lot better than playing in an isolated bubble as they did last summer in Toronto and exciting to be able to undertake the familiar routines when they’re in their home city.
The Bruins players went through a dress rehearsal practice at TD Garden on Wednesday where they skated through canned crowd noise while reacquainting themselves with the old building. There was a palpable energy on the ice as players were clearly excited about being back on their home ice, and they hope that translates over into the games, even without a packed house of loud and crazy Boston Bruins fans.
“Being back at the Garden and being back in Boston is always special to us,” said Patrice Bergeron, who last suited up for a game at the Garden on March 7, 2020 in a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. “We’d love to have the fans there. We know they’re watching and still supporting us from afar, and behind us. We always feel that love and support, and we’d love to have them. We miss them and can’t wait to have them back.”
“It’s always nice to be back at home. Just going to back whatever routine you have at home [is good]. Being back in our dressing room and at the Garden is a nice feeling. Obviously, it’s a lot different without the fans and it might not be the same advantage that it used to be, but we also want to take advantage of the familiarity.”
Can the Bruins really count on any home ice advantage beyond the last change on the ice, and knowing in advance what the music playlist is going to be throughout the game? Probably not when all things are considered, but there’s something to be said, given everything that’s going on in the world, for playing being at their best when they’re home with their families.
“I think the only advantage we have is being in our own homes. We haven’t been [at TD Garden] for a year,” said Brad Marchand. “Yesterday was the first time we’ve skated here in almost a year. With no fans there are no momentum swings other than what you can do [to create energy] within your own group.
“It’s a lot of fun [with fans]. You get to sit in front of 20,000 people every night and enjoy the momentum and [have] that experience. It’s going to get exciting to get it back. We’re going to get it back at some point. It does change things a little bit when there’s a big goal scored [without fans]. I don’t think you’re going to see as many comebacks when a team gets down because of the [absence of] momentum. But we’re fortunate to be playing, so we’re thankful regardless. We just can’t wait for the fans to get back.”
Surely Boston Bruins fans feel the same way with the hope that at least some ticket-paying fans will be allowed back in the TD Garden come playoff-time when things warm up in May, June or July.