Back to hockey.
If you haven't yet seen the Boston crowd drown out and take over for Rene Rancourt on the national anthem, please do so now. It's every bit as stirring as Oiler fans singing "O Canada" through Edmonton's 2006 finals run, or even Irish fans belting out "Fields of Athenry" at Euro 2012. The closest equivalent would have to be the 1991 NHL All-Star game, days after the start of the first Gulf War, as Chicago fans stomped and cheered their way through the entire "Star-Spangled Banner."
It's back to hockey, but last night's Bruins game was only barely about what happened on the ice.
“It’s not your normal game,” said Jeff Slater of Norwell. “This is more than hockey tonight. The hockey game is somewhat secondary to 18,000 people who are saying, ‘We’re not afraid of who did this. We stand united.’ If 9/11 never happened, maybe I’d feel differently. But we’ve seen the healing power of sports. We have seen what our teams can do for our community.”
These are platitudes, of course, but that doesn't mean they aren't true. When Daniel Paille one-timed a pass from Chris Kelly past Ryan Miller 5:45 into the game, no one in that arena was thinking about the marathon bombings, if just for a second of jubilation. At its most useless, sport is a distraction. At its most vital, sport is a distraction.
The Bruins would lose this one in absolutely heartbreaking fashion. As the Sabres pulled their goalie and the final seconds counted down, the crowd erupted in a modified chant. Not "let's go Bruins," but "let's go Boston." In the middle of that perfect scene, a Buffalo goal. The Sabres would go on to win the shootout. But the one point clinched a playoff spot for the Boston, and the promise of more anthems, more distracting goals to come.
During pregame warmups, Buffalo captain Drew Stafford Thomas Vanek skated over to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara with an idea. What if, he proposed, at the end of the game, no matter who won, both teams gathered at center ice and saluted the crowd and the city? And that's exactly what happened:
Brad Marchand had this to say about the salute:
“We just wanted to say thanks. We want them to know we’re thinking of everyone. They’re in our thoughts and prayers.”
Just like the Red Sox game Tuesday night, this one had a theme, and a uniform to go with it: