BOSTON, MA — After spending two weeks competing for gold in Sochi last month, Olympians are doubtlessly used to standing in front of thousands of adoring fans.
But even still, there was nothing quite like donning a Black & Gold jersey in front of a sold-out crowd of B’s fans as Boston prepared to take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
Before watching the B’s score a big win over Florida, 10 New England-area Olympic medalists enjoyed a pregame reception at the Garden and had the opportunity to meet Bruins President Cam Neely and Boston Bruins Foundation Executive Director Bob Sweeney.
Best of all, they were honored at center ice for the ceremonial puck drop to the roar of the Boston faithful.
“It was outstanding,” said Team USA Women’s Hockey Captain Meghan Duggan, a native of Danvers and a self-professed lifelong Bruins fan. “Great atmosphere, great building. So proud to be from Boston. [Tonight] was one for the books, that’s for sure.”
When asked how it feels to finally return to his native Massachusetts with two bronze medals, bobsledder Steve Langton said that having the opportunity to drop the puck at a Bruins game was quite the way to be welcomed back.
“It’s fantastic, especially doing something like this,” he said. “I haven’t really had time to breathe over the last four years, so coming home, getting time to spend with my friends, my family, go to a Bruins game, stand at center ice — it’s been pretty cool.”
Among those honored were Duggan’s fellow Team USA Women’s Hockey silver medalists Kacey Bellamy (Westfield), Alex Carpenter (Boston College), Michelle Picard (Harvard University), Molly Schaus (Natick) and Kelli Stack (Boston College), as well as Snowboard Cross bronze medalist Alex Deibold (Manchester, VT) and Team Figure Skating bronze medalists Marissa Castelli (Cranston, RI) and Simon Shnapir (Sudbury).
While they waited to drop the puck during the pregame ceremony, the Olympians — with their medals in tow — were greeted by several members of the Black and Gold as they headed down the tunnel. Many of them offered up congratulations, words of support and even some high-fives.
“It’s awesome,” Duggan said. “Like I said, I’ve been a Bruins fan my whole life. Even the guys — you know, they’re coming out of the locker room and giving us high-fives, and these are, you know, players who I’ve been watching on TV for years and looked up to, and they’re outstanding hockey players to watch.”
“So all in all, a great day, great event.”