There was a lot Bruin' on Landsdowne Street on Friday, June 22nd, as more than two hundred fans gathered at Tequila Rain, within the Jillian's complex, to take in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at the Boston Bruins latest Draft Party.
Fans came from everywhere, from Taunton, Massachusetts to Thunder Bay, Ontario to bear witness (pun intended) to the induction of the latest member of the Black & Gold family, chat with special guests including Tim Thomas
and Mark Mowers, and hobnob with NESN's own Hazel Mae.
In front of giant projection screens carrying satellite coverage of the draft, as well as footage of past and present Bruins, fans discussed all things Boston pux. And, after an absence of two or three months, listening to that good hockey banter was just as refreshing as a cold beverage.
There's no doubt that New England hockey fans are passionate, and those in attendance proved that statement true once again as they voraciously consumed any and all news from Ohio and discussed Bruins prospects at Providence and the current team.
Many made strong statements on their disparate choices for the B's first-round pick, but were unconcerned about equivocating -- everyone had the Bruins best interests in mind, after all.
“You know you're in good company here,” said Keith from Tyngsboro, as he dug into the appetizer spread. “You know if you want to talk Bruins, people here will know what you're talking about.”
And, per usual, some had a very particular style in mind for any future member of the Black & Gold.
“That's what we like, right there!” said one fan as footage rolled of former Bruin pugilist John Wensink challenging the entire Minnesota North Stars bench.
Even fans of other NHL teams (Heaven forbid) who just came to watch the draft, enjoyed the inherent hockey vibe of the evening.
“Hockey fans just like to meet other hockey fans,” explained Greg from Allston, who grew up supporting Boston's Eastern Conference rivals, the New Jersey Devils.
|Wayne Gretzky picks Kyle Turris, of Canada, for the Phoenix Coyotes during the first round of the NHL draft Friday, June 22, 2007, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) |
But, no matter which team they supported, as Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky strode to the podium to announce the third pick, fans in Columbus showered him with a lengthy round of applause.
Those back in the Hub didn't miss a beat, and also clapped for "The Great One" with gusto.
However, the buzz in the air was much thicker as the B's got ready to make their first round selection and as Boston GM Peter Chiarelli reached the podium at Columbus' Nationwide Arena, a hush fell over the packed room in the Fens.
After thanking the fans in Columbus, and offering congratulations to the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks, Chiarelli stole the show by reaching out to those at home.
“I'd like to thank our fans at the Draft Party in Boston,” he announced in Columbus, as fans in Boston returned the salute with a loud cheer.
It was “the best part of the evening,” according to Keith from Tyngsboro.
“I had no idea that was gonna happen. I thought that was a real classy move.”
The Black & Gold's Mowers echoed that sentiment.
“I was definitely not expecting that,” said the amiable B's forward. “It was a nice touch by Peter.”
|Cam Neely |
The cheering got even louder as Chiarelli introduced legend Cam Neely (a native of Vancouver, British Columbia), who shortly thereafter proudly welcomed Zach Hamill
(another native of Vancouver) to the organization.
With the big question of the night finally answered, Bruins fans continued to party and enjoyed drinks and appetizers while they got to know other Black & Gold fanatics, who, clad in Boston jerseys of various eras, raved about the team’s newest duds.
“They're absolutely, fabulously, phenomenal,” said Kait from Chelmsford.
“I think they did a great job of blending the old and the new,” said Aly, from Hyde Park, who was discussing the current team sitting with friends Tracy, from Somerset, and Jaci, from Cambridge.
Meanwhile, "Timmy" Thomas and his wife, Melissa, grabbed a bite to eat. Many fans were eager to approach the affable netminder, but some were a little shy to approach.
Thomas, a true “regular guy,” said that some were “probably a little shyer than they needed to be.”
“The fans have been real nice,” added the ever-smiling Thomas. “I (enjoy) them coming over to talk to me.”
Likewise, Mowers seemed right at home signing autographs and discussing the local hockey scene with fans. He blended in with the crowd, talking pucks while sporting a broad smile. Later, the two players got a big hand as Hazel Mae introduced them to the crowd. They then spoke with Hazel, discussing the draft, their new boss (Claude Julien), and their various summer plans.
The trio also raffled off several items, including autographed jerseys from captain Zdeno Chara
, Patrice Bergeron
, and of course, Thomas.
One other item was called the “Mark Mowers Autograph Collection" and when it came time to announce the winner of the unusually named prize, Mae questioned the two Bruins on what the winner would receive.
“See, they didn't have any more jerseys in the Pro Shop -- they were all sold out,” Thomas deadpanned.
|Mark Mowers |
“Ya, instead it's all my clothes,” retorted Mowers with a smile.
The prize was actually a hat, stick and shirt signed by the former UNH forward.
Like all of the contest winners, the recipient of a Thomas autographed jersey, Patrick, from Westford was psyched to show off his prize.
“It doesn't get any better than this!” he said, adding that he was just thrilled to meet the Bruins netminder.
Some fans, like Derek, from Worcester, readily discussed their devotion to the Bruins.
An Air Force vet stationed in North Dakota named Derek explains that he special-orders NESN to get his fix of the sports scene back home.
“I watch the Bruins, I watch the Red Sox, and I watch NESN every morning, for SportsDesk,” he said.
Derek lives in a territory dominated by fans of the Minnesota Wild, but that doesn't faze him a bit.
“I don't care," he said with a laugh. "I walk around in my Zdeno Chara
jersey or my Bobby Orr jersey."
Mowers was impressed with all of the fans he met, saying the turnout for the event was excellent.
“People were really into it,” he said. “Now, thinking back, I should expect that.
"You've got a lot of diehard Bruins fans out there.
"And it's great to see," he said.