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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Bruins recall marathon attacks, aftermath

By Joe McDonald

BOSTON -- In the moments before the horrific events at the finish line of last year's Boston Marathon, all was quiet inside the TD Garden.

Earlier in the day, the Boston Bruins held their normal game-day skate as they prepared to host the Ottawa Senators. In the afternoon, the players were home taking their normal game-day naps. The hallway outside the Bruins' locker room was dark. The arena was, too. All of the televisions in the press room were off.

Only a few miles away, at 2:49 p.m., two bombs went off on Boylston Street.

Rene Rancourt
At Boston's first major sporting event after the marathon bombings, Rene Rancourt started out singing the anthem solo but soon lowered his microphone as the crowd took over.
Within moments of the blasts, the news reached the Garden. The televisions in the press room were switched on and people stood around, watching in disbelief. The images were surreal.

Less than an hour later, Bruins players began to arrive for work. They had heard about the terrorist attacks and many of the players wondered if their game against the Senators would be postponed. Not knowing whether the game would be played, the Bruins tried to go about their normal pregame routines.

It didn't take long, however, for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the city of Boston, the NHL and the Bruins to decide to postpone the game. The players left the Garden and returned home to their families.

Bruins forward Brad Marchand remained at home all day because he was dealing with a concussion.

"I was taking a nap and my girlfriend came in and told me that some bombs went off. I really couldn't believe it," he said. "I really didn't know what to do. You go in shock and everything's a blur. Obviously, with how tragic things were and how upsetting, you feel helpless and you want to be able to do something. It was just a very, very sad moment."

Two days later, as the manhunt for the bombing suspects continued, the Bruins were the first pro team to play a game in the city.

It was an emotional pregame atmosphere as the Bruins and their fans honored those affected by the tragedy. Rene Rancourt sang a national anthem that he later said he would never forget. The Boston icon stood nervously on the ice, with the Boston Fire Color Guard by his side. As the 17,565 fans in attendance stood, watched and listened, Rancourt began to sing.

Only a few words into the national anthem, Rancourt motioned to the crowd to join in. The atmosphere was electric as Rancourt stepped aside and let the crowd sign the rest of the anthem in unison. The Bruins eventually lost to the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in a shootout.

The Bruins subsequently had another game postponed on Friday, the day the city was shut down while the manhunt for the bombing suspects was developing. Current Bruins forward Jarome Iginla was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins and remembers what it was like to be in the team hotel, watching the events unfold.

"It was very sad and a scary time," Iginla said. "It puts things into perspective when you're preparing for a game and it's cancelled, and it's obviously on the back burner because there are so many more important things than hockey and how fortunate we are to get to play it. It put things into perspective."

After one suspect was killed and the other captured late Friday night in Watertown, Mass., the decision was made to play the game on Saturday. During pregame warm-ups, players on both the Bruins and visiting Penguins wore "Boston Strong" T-shirts and hats that honored the state police as well as the Boston and Watertown police departments.

"We all recognize the fact that emotionally for a lot of the fans and people that enjoy sports, we can help a little bit with the healing," Bruins coach Claude Julien said recently. "We also understand there's not much you can do except lend your support and have your thoughts and prayers to the direct families. For the people around the whole situation, you just try to do the best you can with the ability you have. ... We represent the city as a hockey team and if you play well, it certainly helps the healing a little bit. But at the same time we know the importance of it all and that's what the guys think of the most."

A year later, the images remain fresh in the players' minds.

"I'm not from here, a lot of guys aren't and after everything that happened this city is like a big family now and you see how close everyone is," Marchand said. "Everywhere you go it seems someone's been touched by it. I think everyone has grown from everything that happened. It was very tragic but has brought everyone a lot closer.

"With how the Red Sox won last year, and we had a long run it seemed like everyone was able to lift each other up and find strength to carry on. It just shows why Boston is such an incredible city."

The Bruins held practice Tuesday morning at TD Garden as they prepare to host the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Only a few miles away, the city remembered what happened exactly one year ago.

"It's got some good and it's got some bad, obviously," Julien said. "It's sad what happened, but for us, I look at how this city just came together and how everybody helped each other and did everything they could to help one another and that's what sticks in my mind."