BOSTON -- For the first time in 39 years, the Boston Bruins raised a Stanley Cup banner to the rafters celebrating their Cup win this past June.
The packed house at TD Garden was rocking from start to finish during the ceremony that lasted approximately 30 minutes, culminating with Bruins players, coaches, management and alumni (including Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt) raising the 2011 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.
The festivities began with a video montage of the Bruins' Cup run on a 360-degree Kabuki screen under the HDX scoreboard and screen. During the video, fans passed a black Stanley Cup banner around the stands. Then, as the video ended, the Kabuki screen was lowered, revealing the new banner hanging from the HDX scoreboard as the crowd roared.
The banner was then lowered and waiting for it was Orr and a half-dozen of his former teammates, including Johnny Bucyk, Pie McKenzie, Ken Hodge and Derek Sanderson.
Schmidt, who won the Cup as a player in 1939 and '41 and was the general manager of the teams that won in '70 and '72, also was there. Ace Bailey, a two-time Cup winner who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, was represented by his son Todd.
With help from the current players, they clipped the banner onto the wires that would raise it to its permanent home. Captain Zdeno Chara and the rest of the 2010-11 team took turns raising it into the rafters.
"We as a team feel you guys won it with us," Chara told the crowd. "So you deserve it. You earned it. Enjoy it."
The building shook with cheers when the team was introduced and Chara led his teammates out with the Cup raised above his head. With the Bruins, and in uniform, were the retired Mark Recchi and Shane Hnidy. The players all had banner patches on their game jerseys and took turns hoisting the Cup and skating around as they did when they won it in Vancouver.
"I think that's one thing everyone wants to do, is lift it on the home ice," Brad Marchand said. "That was nice to do."
After the skate-around, owner Jeremy Jacobs, president Cam Neely and general manager Peter Chiarelli all spoke, with Neely and Jacobs both promising another Stanley Cup and Jacobs promising it to be won on home ice.
But the biggest cheer during the speeches came when Andrew Ference took the podium with the now-legendary jacket that he bought online late last season and that the Bruins handed out to the teammate they felt was the MVP of each game. Ference called on Recchi -- who wore the jacket after Game 7 in Vancouver -- and presented it to him for good, thanking him for teaching him and his teammates "how to be champions."
Recchi said he had no idea that was coming.
"Got me pretty choked up," he said. "To be on the ice with them and be in Boston with the crowd -- the reaction to us winning the Stanley Cup has been absolutely amazing. What this city has, how much they've embraced it and enjoyed it. It's a special time, and I was glad I was able to share it with Boston fans and be a part of it on the ice, too."
The ceremony was before the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers, which the Bruins lost, 2-1.
"(I was) doing my best to keep my mind on doing my job. It was emotional," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "When you see highlights of your players going around carrying the Cup, it's emotional. It was tough for me. I had to walk away for a while. (We) knew emotionally it was going to be a tough game."
The players seemed to be equally moved by a night they will never forget.
"Obviously we were all pretty happy to be able to lift that thing over our head on home ice," forward Shawn Thornton said. "I thought that was pretty cool that they thought to do that, I really did. Our fans were pretty intense and have been behind us the whole time I've been here, so for us to be able to do that in front of them I think is pretty special."
Goalie Tim Thomas said he didn't just have flashbacks to the Cup run, but rather was looking to the future.
"That was a special moment," Thomas said. "It was another one to add to the memory bank that you'll remember forever. While it was happening, I was picturing myself coming back and visiting for a game 30 years from now and looking at that banner and saying, 'We helped raise that banner.'"
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.