Emerging from a moment of silence with a deafening cheer, fans at Wednesday night's Bruins game paid tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing with a stirring national anthem and a thunderous chant of "U.S.A.!"
The sold-out crowd at the first major sporting event in the city since Monday's attack lined up for metal-detecting wands and random car inspections to get into the TD Garden. Once inside, they watched a somber video with scenes from the marathon that ended with the words, "We are Boston, We are Strong."
The players on the ice for the opening faceoff banged their sticks in the traditional hockey salute, drifting back off the blue lines so that they, too, could see the video. The Boston Fire Department Honor Guard brought out the U.S. flag to honor the first responders who rushed to the aid of the three killed and more than 170 injured by the twin bombs at the marathon finish line.
Longtime Boston Garden troubadour Rene Rancourt took his place for the "Star-Spangled Banner." But he sang only the first few lines, allowing the crowd to carry the tune while he pumped his fist to keep time.
"It's a great day. It's a great day for a lot of people," said Bruins forward Jay Pandolfo, who went to Boston University. "There's no reason for this to happen. You never thought something like this could happen, especially in the city of Boston. Stuff like this doesn't cross your mind."
Cars were searched inside and out before entering the arena's underground garage in the morning, with guards using a mirror on a pole to check the undercarriage. Sports writers, usually subject to only the most cursory inspection, were waved with a metal-detecting wand when passing through security for the Bruins' morning skate.
"It brings back memories you don't want," said Pandolfo, who was with the New Jersey Devils during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "It's something you don't want to think about. You want to go ahead with your life. You don't want to live in fear."
All of the Bruins players said they feel safe at the arena and walking around the city, commending authorities for the added security since the bombing. Any anxiety, Julien said, needs to be directed toward the game.
"It's a different feeling, but you're battling with your inner strength to not let it get the best of you," he said. "The best thing we can do is to make things better for the people of Boston. Sports is a great way to pull people together. Just going out there making the city proud of their team, and that's what we're going to do."