BostonBruins.com - For Andrew Busler, the Bruins are a way of life.
His passion for the Black & Gold began as a child when he would sit in front of the TV and watch Fred Cusick and Derek Sanderson broadcast the Bruins on Channel 38. Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, Craig Janney, and Andy Moog were among his heroes.
In fact, it's his fondness of Neely that led him to, perhaps, the most important moment of his life.
"My wife [Daniella] and I bonded over the fact that we were both wearing Neely jerseys at a bar and just saw each other and started talking," Busler recalled. "The funny thing is, it wasn't even a game day. I just happened to be wearing it and she was too, and we bonded over hockey. We were both hockey players growing up, both bonded over the Bruins. We have all these amazing stories of growing up with the Bruins."
And now, Busler is making sure his daughter, Rowan, will have her own Bruins memories to cherish.
The Buslers wasted no time introducing Rowan to the Black & Gold experience. In December 2018, just two months after she was born, they were planning on attending a Season Ticket Holder event at a hotel in Boston's Seaport to mark the upcoming Winter Classic between the Bruins and Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium.
At first, they were hesitant about bringing a newborn along, but they were assured by their ticket rep that it was not a problem.
"We wanted to get a picture of my wife and I holding our baby with as many players as we could," said Busler.
Their plans were quickly scrapped. It was the players, it turns out, who wanted to be holding Rowan for the photos.
"The longest line when we got there was [Brad] Marchand and [Zdeno] Chara," said Busler. "We finally got up there and Marchand was like, 'Did you guys come from the hospital?' And then Chara asked to hold her, and we were like, 'Oh yeah, sure.' He wouldn't give her back for a couple minutes. He was like, 'We can take more pictures.'"
The trend continued as the afternoon progressed, as the likes of Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak, and Tuukka Rask took turns holding Rowan.
"Tuukka asked to hold her as well and he had the biggest smile on his face. He said, 'I have daughters, two little girls'…my wife and I were beside ourselves," said Busler. "People can't believe that we have all of these pictures of the Bruins holding our daughter. Tuukka and Chara were so excited and beaming to be holding her."
Rowan, whose first Bruins game actually came on Long Island during a 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders in March 2019, already has her fair share of Bruins attire - and, of course, a pair of skates.
"My daughter got a bunch of Bruins stuff for our baby shower - jerseys, skates…somebody already joked about when is she gonna be on skates," Busler said of Rowan, who is now 2 years old. "She knows what hockey is and she knows who some of the players are when she sees them."
Busler became a Season Ticket Holder about five years ago when he was living in the North End and has continued to attend games even after moving to Durham, Maine - just outside of Portland - for work. That special bond between the players and fans is one of the biggest reasons that the Buslers have continued to make the roughly two-hour trek to TD Garden.
"[Hockey players] seem more humble and appreciative of the fans. They're always so approachable. It's not just a photo op when you go to these events, they'll talk to you a little bit, they'll ask you questions. They're open," said Busler. "I think just being a hockey player in general gives you a sense of humbleness that most pro sports don't because of what it takes to get there and the grind of getting to that level.
"I think the players and the fans have that mutual appreciation for each other. Especially the Bruins. I was just showing my wife a picture of me as a kid at the Bruins Wives Carnival [held for years at Boston Garden]…shooting tennis balls on Andy Moog and then a picture with Bob Sweeney who was operating a dunk tank. They're just so available."
All these years later, Busler can't wait for his daughter to share in similar experiences.
"It's huge. We go out of our way to get her in those situations, meeting players," said Busler. "For me as a kid with Cam Neely and Craig Janney and Andy Moog and Ray Bourque…for her, it will be Pasta, Marchand, who knows who else as she gets older and carries those stories on to her kids eventually. I think the Bruins, like a lot of Boston sports, is a generational fan base."