BOSTON (CBS) — In sports, the old saying goes that there is no such thing as a moral victory, that there are only winners and losers and nothing in between. Yet, if you’ve followed anything the Boston Bruins have done in the past few months, you know that such a belief is simply not true.
The Bruins came up a few goals short of winning the Stanley Cup, their season ending in jaw-dropping fashion on their home ice earlier this week. The Chicago Blackhawks were just a little bit better than the Bruins, who were, technically, losers.
But it’s not that simple, and in this case every single member of the Boston Bruins organization — from the top-line forward all the way to the PR intern — has plenty to feel good about as the summer begins.
Though it seems like forever ago, the bombings at the Boston Marathon took place just 10 weeks before Game 6 of the Cup Final on Monday night. As a city, we’ve recovered. While nothing can ever undo what took place that day on Boylston Street, and while the losses of life and injuries endured will never be forgotten, we are — for the most part — healed. For that, we owe thanks to the police, bomb squads, FBI, doctors, EMTs and so many others who became heroes in a moment’s notice on April 15. And we also owe some thanks to the Boston Bruins organization.
It can be easy to forget now, but that week, the last thing anyone in Boston wanted to do was gather in a large crowd. We knew so little about what had happened, who was responsible and most frightening of all, if other attacks were planned. Yet just two days after the bombing, after Marathon Monday’s game had been postponed, more than 17,000 fans had had enough of being scared, and they flocked to the TD Garden to enjoy something they love.
When they got there, the watched a brief yet stirring tribute video to the events of the previous few days, and then they all joined together to sing the national anthem. When the Bruins took the ice three days later, after another postponement during the manhunt that ended in the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Watertown, a relieved group of fans once again filled the Garden and once again displayed a strength and unity during another moving pregame ceremony that culminated in the crowd once again singing the national anthem after Rene Rancourt lowered his microphone.
The Bruins, along with the NHL and TD Garden, then donated $250,000 to the One Fund. The team also sold Boston Strong T-shirts with Bruins logos, with proceeds going to the charity. And near the end of the regular season, the Bruins invited onto the ice first responders and others involved with helping after the bombings, and the players handed over their jerseys.
All of the acts just set the stage for what the Bruins would do in the postseason for the city, the victims and the heroes.
In recent years, the Bruins brought back franchise legends to wave the team flag as the honorary banner captain prior to home games, but this year, the honor took on a “Boston Strong” theme. When the postseason began, the Bruins could not have known how many home games they’d be hosting. It could have been as few as two, and it could have been as many as 16. As it turned out, they hosted 12 games, and they ended up honoring 26 people prior to the games throughout the playoffs.
In the first round against Toronto, the Bruins welcomed bomb technicians Todd Brown, Sean Tierney, Eric Gahagan and Arian Thibodeau for Game 1. For Game 2, the team welcomed Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the bombing but helped identify the suspects. At Game 5, the man who helped save Bauman’s life, Carlos Arredondo, waved the flag, and for Game 7, injured Bruins fan Jarrod Clowery took the ice to inspire the crowd.
In the second round against New York, the Bruins welcomed Adrianne Haslet-Davis, J.P. Norden and Paul Norden, all of whom were injured in the bombings, as well as Massachusetts State Police Officer Chris Dumont, who helped save the life of Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue.
Donohue himself was there to wave the flag in Game 3 of the conference finals against Pittsburgh, and in a heart-breaking but touching scene before Game 4, William and Patricia Campbell served as banner captains. The two lost their daughter but put their incredible strength on display just by their ability to stand on the ice that night.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins invited Rob Rogers, Jenn Rogers and Jennifer Lemmerman — the siblings of MIT Police officer Sean Collier, who was killed the night before Tsarnaev was captured — for Game 3. For Game 4, Marc Fucarile, the final patient to be released from Mass. General Hospital, waved the banner.
And in the final home game of the year, the Bruins welcomed back Bauman and Arredondo, as well as Jim Plourde and Alector Tavares of the Boston Fire Department, Captain Jeanne Stewart and Officer Kevin O’Neil of the Massachusetts State Police, Officers Sean Rooney and Dave Hansford of the Boston Police Department, and Officer Joseph Reynolds and Sgt. John MacClellan of the Watertown Police Department.
It was fitting that in the final pregame ceremony of the year, there was Jeff Bauman rising to stand on his prosthetic legs while holding the hand of Arredondo, a final reminder of how far they’ve come in just two short months.
Each ceremony was moving in its own way, and each was appreciated by everyone in attendance. The mere presence of some of the victims and the heroes allowed the city to show its support and unity, and it helped — if even a little bit — people to move on.
And for that, the Bruins deserve a round of applause. The marathon bombings were a reminder that our fascination with sports is not necessarily important in the grand scheme of life, but in some cases, sports are the best avenue we have to deal with real life problems. The outcomes of the games don’t matter much, but the fact that the Bruins were able to keep on winning and therefore keep on honoring those who truly represent the meaning of “Boston Strong” created a powerful experience. In the wake of the attack, the Bruins had to do something for the city, but what they chose to do went far above and beyond what could have ever been expected.
This week, the Bruins released a video thanking the fans and the city for an unforgettable season, and it’s only fair to return the favor.