Will Boston Bruins fans make the New York Islanders fans regret that a raucous Nassau Coliseum crowd chanted ‘We Want Boston’ as time ran down in the Islanders’ 5-3, series-clinching win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the first round Wednesday?
Former Boston Bruins winger Mark Recchi thinks what’s expected to be a sellout crowd of 16,432, which amounts to 90 percent of the 18,258 full capacity at TD Garden, will be rocking as it did when he and the 2010-11 Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup a decade ago. In a phone interview with Boston Hockey Now on Friday night, Recchi said that watching the Islanders-Penguins first-round series and other series that had increased attendance at each arena, reminded him of just how important fans are to the game and specifically, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Honestly, nothing stands out but every game, there was something at some point, where the fans were so incredible about it,” Recchi – an Assistant Coach for the New Jersey Devils now – recalled of his hall of fame career and the role fans played. “It got ya back on track or maybe you were down and you had one big shift and all of a sudden the building’s going crazy; that’s such a good feeling man! So not having the fans for the most part, for the last year or so. …especially last year’s playoffs, and it’s unreal; you forget how passionate it is and how incredible it is, and it does drive you; it does help, there’s no question. I know on the Island, that’s a small building too, it gets loud in there, and Boston does too. It’s going to be loud in there too.”
After playing in front of no fans for just over a year, TD Garden was allowed to operate at 12 percent (2,191) of its full capacity of 18,258 fans on March 25. Then, starting on May 10, and for the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins have been allowed to play in front of 4,564 for 25 percent capacity. Recchi knows first hand what a just about packed TD Garden can mean for Boston Bruins players and when asked what moment during that magical Stanley Cup run a decade ago stood out the most, Recchi immediately went to Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
The Boston Bruins were trailing that series 2-0 after losing by a goal in each of the first two games in Vancouver. In the opening period, Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome drilled Bruins winger Nathan Horton with a late, open-ice hit that knocked Horton out cold and had him stretchered off the ice. Rome would eventually be suspended for four games but Recchi and the Boston Bruins immediately punished the Canucks on the scoreboard scoring five straight goals on their way to an 8-1 rout. While Horton’s overtime winner over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of the first round and his goal in the waning minutes of the 2011 Eastern Conference Final had the Garden rocking, Game 3 of the Cup Final still stands out as the loudest Recchi can recall not just as a Bruin but in his entire hall of fame career.
“I would say all of those but then the start of the Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3 in Boston, when we got back. …was f..king unreal!” Recchi said as he laughed and recalled that electric moment in Boston Bruins history. “Getting to the finals, that was unreal, it was incredible, but that first game [in Boston], Game 3, the first time in. …ya you’re talking 21 years, since they’ve been in the finals, and to me, I remember that moment, I just remember the start of it and it was. …that’s just one moment, I remember it like it was yesterday and it was incredible!”
When Recchi was informed of Td Garden almost being at full capacity now, he was excited because he knows not only will the normal passion of Bruins fans pour down onto the Garden ice but also the emotion of a fan base that hasn’t been able to connect as they did in Game 3 of the 2011 Cup Final since the Bruins lost to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
“Oh, that’s awesome! So it’s pretty much a full crowd; so that’s incredible,” an excited Recchi said. “People are going to be nuts because they’ve been sitting there and they haven’t been able to go to a lot of games, and they’re going to be even that much more passionate about it.”
As Recchi pointed out though, the Coliseum will be just as crazy when the Islanders return home to play the Bruins in Games 3 and 4.
“We actually played them back two years ago when I was in Pitt,” Recchi recalled. “That was a full building then and No.1, it’s right on top of ya, and it’s like whatever 13,000-14,000 people, and they just feel like they’re right on top of you, and even though it’s the same size ice, it just feels small and especially how tight they play as a team, so it’s gonna be a heck of a series, these two teams.”
Recchi’s absolutely right but this will also be a heck of a series between two great fan bases and now the Boston Bruins fans have a chance to be just as loud as, if not louder than, the Islanders fans were in Game 6 against the Penguins.