BOSTON – The beautiful, timeless thing about sports, whether it involves the Boston Bruins or not, is that oftentimes it transcends what’s literally happening on the ice, the field or the court. More than the game, it tells us all about what we were all going through at the time as some sort of time capsule.
A sporting event at the right place and time can create an unmistakable feeling that something special, even communal, is unfolding even as the actual game is being played for all to see.
It was that way with the Boston Bruins in 2013 when they returned to the ice to play the Buffalo Sabres in an emotional, cathartic game following the awful Boston Marathon bombings, and it was that way on Saturday when 17,4000 rowdy Bruins fans finally returned to TD Garden after being barred for the last 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sure, the Bruins continued playing last year’s postseason in an empty Toronto arena as part of a protective bubble and they played to partial crowds at TD Garden for the second half of this year’s regular season.
But Saturday night felt different. It felt like a triumphant and jubilant return to the way life used to be for all of us. It felt like the city of Boston was open for business again.
“They were into it, they were loud, they were passionate,” said Charlie McAvoy, of the fans returning to see him score the game-winning goal for the Boston Bruins. “They were everything that makes Bruins fans so special.”
Even better, it all had a happy ending for the Black and Gold on Saturday night, of course, with the Bruins winning a 5-2 decision over the Isles in Game 1 and David Pastrnak notching a hat trick that saw hundreds of hats rain down from the stands. Certainly, in the actual game breakdown, it looks like the Isles are overmatched after allowing the Perfection Line to amass three goals, six points and a whopping 23 shot attempts in a dominant opening performance for the Boston Bruins.
THE HATS ARE RAINING DOWN AT TD GARDEN. DAVID PASTRNAK SCORES HIS THIRD OF THE GAME AND THE BRUINS TAKE A 4-2 LEAD IN THE FORD F150 FINAL FIVE pic.twitter.com/ElFb4r93HJ
— Bruins Diehards (@BruinsDiehards) May 30, 2021
It was fitting that David Pastrnak, the high-energy game-breaker that thrives most on the passionate crowd and the adulation from the fans, came electrically alive for his biggest moment of this postseason with the fans back in full force.
“That was obviously a lot of fun having the fans back. You could definitely feel the energy already this morning. We were all excited,” said Pastrnak. “It was definitely a different game with the fans. It’s a different sport with them in the building. It warms your heart and kind of reminds you of why you play this sport.
“It was awesome to have them back and they were our 7th Player all night. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s nice to see the hats, especially when it’s your team that scores the hat trick. Hopefully they keep being loud and we’ll keep getting some wins for them.”
The Bruins fans were loud and animated right out of the gate during pregame warm-ups while lustily booing the two-beer limit at TD Garden announced on the jumbotron, and then they made a massive, towel-waving commotion when the Bruins and Islanders came onto the ice to warm up. They pushed out the first “We Want the Cup” chant in the second period and turned TD Garden into one giant “Goodbye COVID-19” party for the entire city of Boston.
It wasn’t just the highly entertaining playoff game either.
It was the lines of Bruins fans flooding Causeway Street and lined up down the sidewalks and around the block to get into The Harp prior to the 8 pm puck drop. It was the Boston Bruins dressed up as Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior raring to go with the rest of the Black and Gold Faithful for this second round series.
It was a reminder of what life was like prior to the global pandemic that wrecked the economy, took hundreds of thousands of lives, shuttered everybody inside their homes and made us all feel like we were living in a Contagion nightmare for the last year-and-a-half. And a confirmation of what normal life is returning to as we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 depths with vaccines introduced, infection numbers dropping and people ready to resume all of their day-to-day activities.
“The energy, the atmosphere, was everything you expected and more. To say that we’ve missed [the fans] is an understatement,” said Bergeron. “You appreciate it even more when the fans are taken away from the game for quite some time and you have to play without them. It’s still competitive, but it’s not the same. Not the same energy and the same atmosphere. It was a special night. Good to have them and good to have the win.
“It seemed like it meant a lot to all of us. For the fans it was a year of ups and downs, more downs than not, craziness and hearthache. You could tell that everybody was just trying to enjoy themselves and have a good time.”
There will be future heartaches and other craziness in all our individual lives, of course.
There may even be other global pandemics (shudder at the thought) in the future that force us to get reacquainted with once-foreign terms like social distancing and quarantine. But Saturday night was about a resounding playoff win for a Boston Bruins hockey club that appears to be in the middle of something special, and about a statement to the city of Boston that normal life as we know it is returning after the most challenging year of all of our respective lives.
The City of Boston deserved a raucous celebration for all we’ve endured over the last 15 months, and boy did the Boston Bruins ever give it to us on Saturday night.