BOSTON, MA - The Bruins weren't born and bred in Boston. They come from different cities, and different countries, from far away, and from a few states over. But the second they put on the Spoked-B, they know what it stands for, and who they represent.
Captain Zdeno Chara didn't get to call Boston home until he first slipped on the Black & Gold. Now, he can't imagine being anywhere else.
On the morning of April 15, 2014, the Boston Globe published a front page that featured nearly 200 Bostonians representing the city, and its year of hurt and healing following the tragic events at the Boston Marathon - survivors, police, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, nurses, runners, political figures, store owners, and members of the Red Sox and Bruins.
Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron went to the Marathon's finish line on Boylston Street a week prior, to join with other proud members of the community for the powerful photo.
"I'm not born and raised in Boston, but I feel like I'm part of the city. I've been here long enough to feel part of it," said Chara. "And I'm always going to call myself a Bostonian."
"It's just one of those things that feels like it is home, and once you establish yourself in the city, you try to respect the city and what it represents. I'm very humbled to say that this is obviously also one of my homes, and I'm very honored and proud to be in that picture."
On Tuesday, the Bruins gathered at TD Garden for their first practice after the regular season, in preparation for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and their first round series against Detroit. But the events of last April were naturally on their minds. Eventually, the calendar would again turn to April 15, and the memories - both of pain, and strength, in the city - would return.
Of course, they are memories we all wish we didn't have.
When Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien was asked to reflect back on that day, and what comes to his mind one year later, he acknowledged the anniversary, and both the bad and good memories he has. He opts to remember the latter more often.
"I look at how the city just came together and how everybody helped each other and did everything they could to help one another, so that’s what kind of sticks in my mind," said Julien. "Some of it isn’t great memories but some of it - certainly the way the city came together - is what I’m trying to remember the most."
It seems odd to use the term "proud" around the tragic events, but that's what is most remembered, how the city and beyond bonded together with a shared pride for Boston. "Boston Strong" was the phrase that formed, and now remains for infinity.
"I think we all recognize that is was a very sad day, and it touched a lot of people, not just in Boston, but around the world," said Chara. "And we tried to respond and play our best."
"I think it's great how the city regrouped and how people reacted, and everything went back to normal. For sure, a lot of people are still being affected, but I think that's just a great sign, how people can unite, and be strong."
In the aftermath, the Bruins' game two days later against the Buffalo Sabres had happened to be the first professional sporting event in the city. It was emotional, to see the community come together in such a way, join in singing the national anthem through tears, and have each other to lean on for support.
Everything going on away from the sport was way more important, but the night somehow made those in attendance, and those who watched, forget about everything else, if only for a few hours.
"I think we all recognize the fact that emotionally, for a lot of the fans and people who enjoy sports, we can help a little bit with the healing," Julien has said. "We also understand that there's not much you can do, except lend your support and direct thoughts and prayers to the families, but for the people that surround the whole situation, you just try to do the best you can with the ability you have, and the ability is we represent the city as a hockey team, or baseball, football, and if you play well, if you win those kinds of games, it certainly helps the healing a little bit."
"But at the same time, we know where the importance of it all is and I think that's the thing the guys think about."
The Bruins, just like every other Bostonian, were hurting with the city. They were going to be resilient and heal with them, too.
"It was a sad day but amazingly the city responded unbelievably and not just hockey fans, but the whole city," said David Krejci. "I love it here, people are great, they’re respectful…you know, I love it, and I hope we can make another run for the city."