BOSTON - The city of Boston has just begun the healing process and Bruins coach Claude Julien hoped his team could help it make another small step forward Wednesday night.
"The one thing that I sense from our team is that we have the ability to maybe help people heal and find some reason to smile again, by giving them that, by representing our city properly," said Julien. "To me, this is a time where you are proud to be associated with a professional team, even the NHL and all professional sports. When you look at the support this city has had from rivals, that are giving us support at this time, it's amazing. We have an opportunity here to make our city proud. I think we're all in for it and hopefully we can do that for this city right now."
According to espn.com, the Bruins held an emotional pregame ceremony to honor the victims of Monday's marathon bombings. Once the Bruins took to the ice, the 17,565 fans in attendance gave the city's hockey team a standing ovation.
TD Garden became silent as a "Boston Strong"-themed video played on the video board, accompanied by the song "Home" by Phillip Phillips, honoring the first responders with a montage of pictures.
The video concluded with a written message: "We are Boston. We are Strong. Boston strong."
Then, surrounded by the Boston Fire Color Guard, local icon Rene Rancourt began to sing the national anthem. Only a few words in, he motioned to the fans to start singing. The noise was incredible.
Below: Video of Wednesday night's stirring rendition of the National Anthem before the Sabres-Bruins game:
Bruins forward Brad Marchand also raffled off his own TD Garden suite for the team's first home playoff game, with all proceeds to benefit the Richard family of Dorchester, whose 8-year-old son, Martin, died in Monday's bombings.
"Our whole team saw the photos of Martin at our game from last Thursday and learned that he and his family are big fans of ours," Marchand said. "This is just one small gesture, which I hope can help the Richard family during this incredibly sad time for them. What they are going through is unimaginable and we will try to assist them in any way we can."
Security was tightened in and around North Station, a major train and subway stop next to TD Garden, as well as the Garden itself prior to the game. In the morning, vehicles entering the North Station garage were examined, using mirrors to look underneath them. In the afternoon, building personnel were removing the recycle and trash bins from Causeway Street and around TD Garden. Bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in to inspect the building.
Julien said his perspective has really changed in recent years. Earlier this year, he and members of the team went to visit those affected by the Newtown, Conn., shooting spree at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"I just don't want to look at the marathon as the sole reason; there's other things that have happened in this country, in this day and age, that really makes you reflect on a lot of things," said Julien. "But this is the closest, obviously ... you feel that this is your home, this is what you represent as a professional organization. The first thing you do is you want to help out; you want to do the best you can. We did that for Newtown.
"I'll tell you what, there wasn't a better feeling than going there and then trying to spread some joy and put smiles on some people's faces. Our goal is to do the same thing here with this city and everyone that was involved in this tragedy. We've got a good group of guys here that we're fortunate to have on our team that care a lot about what's happened. There's no doubt that it's affected us individually, personally. We certainly would like to be a group that can do something that can really help this city get through it."