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Heroes in the Stands

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- Ask someone who their heroes are, and they’ll likely list off famous historical figures, movie stars, musicians, athletes, or maybe a family member; you’ll probably even hear a few Bruins names tossed around. But Tuesday night, the Bruins honored some of their own heroes: men and women of the United States military.

“Over the years, we’ve made some good friends that serve either currently or have in the past,” said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, one of the leading B's voices behind TD Garden’s Military Appreciation Night. “It’s humbling to see what they do for the country. It doesn’t matter what your politics are or anything like that -- it’s real courage and real commitment to your country to go through that and to do what they do for us.”

As part of Military Appreciation Night, presented by the Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire Army National Guards, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg each purchased and donated $5,000 worth of tickets -- $25,000 in total -- for local military members and their families.

“I know that, personally, they give stories to us about how much hockey means to them….Coming to the games when they’re in town is a huge thing, so it’s a cool thing -- it’s a good opportunity for us,” Ference said. “The least we can do is provide them with entertainment, provide them with the camaraderie they get from the games.”

From a standing ovation for all military members in attendance during a TV timeout to Zamboni rides during intermissions, the night was all about the troops.

“I’m not American, but I’ve been living in this country for the last 10 years, so there’s no better way for us to show our appreciation than giving them tickets to the game [so they can] enjoy themselves for a few hours,” said Seidenberg.

Before the game, Voices of Freedom, the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 125th Army Band, performed the National Anthem as the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s Honor Guard presented the flag.

“These are guys that put their lives on the line every day for us to be able to do what we’re doing here. We could never say thank you enough to those people,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “They’re always going to have our support.”

During the second intermission, a select group of nine soldiers -- honor graduates of the Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire National Guards’ Advance Individual Training -- were recognized in an on-ice ceremony.

“It’s pretty special that we get to be able to do this,” Horton said. “With how much they do for everyone, it’s nice to be able to help them out and to bring them to the game.”

It was also a night to remember those still serving overseas. Fans had a chance to honor their loved ones by submitting pictures for a tribute video, shown during the second intermission.

 “They’re way tougher than us. We’re playing a game, they’re not playing a game at all -- they’re playing for their lives, more or less,” Boychuk said. “We appreciate everything they do for us.”
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