- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Triumph has become the norm in this championship city. Sadly, it has endured more than its share of tragedy, too.
For the second time in less than a year, the Boston Bruins find themselves playing a game in the midst of a shaken city. Less than 24 hours after a pair of Boston firefighters -- Michael R. Kennedy and Edward J. Walsh Jr. -- lost their lives Wednesday in a nine-alarm blaze in the Back Bay, the Bruins will host the Chicago Blackhawks.
A sporting event can’t erase what happened, or even compare to Wednesday’s tragedy, but the Bruins will do whatever they can to help. As they prepare to host the defending Stanley Cup champions Thursday night at TD Garden, the victims and their families are in everyone’s thoughts.
“We’re a group here that really rallies around this city and we’re going to try and make this city feel as good as we can with our play and let them know our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien.
Julien was watching Wednesday’s events on television as they were unfolding nearby on Beacon Street.
“It’s sad to see those kinds of things happen, especially when people are trying to save other people's lives,” Julien said. “We all know that when they take those jobs on there’s that risk and it really touches this city. This city is pretty sensitive when it comes to that stuff and very supportive of all those situations.”
Julien said players arrived at work Thursday morning and were talking about the tragedy prior to the team’s skate.
"Certainly a sad tragedy to have happen,” Julien said. “My heart goes out to the families. You’re trying to put yourself in their shoes and see how they have to react to that kind of news, and if it happened to you how would you react, so it’s not a fun thing to be a part of.
Ever since 9/11, sports teams, first-responders and all branches of the military have come together, supporting each other in any way possible. It’s become customary for sports teams to recognize military members during games. The Bruins have their “Spoked-B Salute” at every home game. Players on both benches and fans honor that person with a standing ovation.
It’s been nearly a year since the Boston Marathon bombings. The Bruins were scheduled to play that night, April 15, but their game against the Ottawa Senators was postponed. Two nights later, the Bruins hosted the Buffalo Sabres in the first sporting event in the city after the bombings. It was a special night at the Garden, as the Bruins honored all involved.
On Wednesday, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton held his annual “Cuts for a Cause” event and did not learn about the fallen firefighters until he arrived home later in the night.
“It’s obviously very tragic,” he said. “It’s a job that I don’t think they’re compensated enough. You go to work not knowing if you’ll be able to come home at night and that’s a whole other level. Our thoughts go out to the families. It’s awful. It’s really awful.”
13dJoe McDonald and Kyle Brasseur