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Banner at TD Garden will be fans' reward

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  October 5, 2011 08:55 AM

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cam.jpg"It's pretty incredible. Winning the Cup in Vancouver was amazing, but when you actually have the ring it's pretty special."
- Bruins president Cam Neely, upon receiving his championship ring last night

The rings belong to them, of course, and they are to be worn forever or stored in a safe deposit box, to be hawked on e-bay or passed down as an heirloom, or to be put on display as a most worthy centerpiece. But the banner? The banner belongs to you.

In 2011, with regard to hockey in Boston, it was truly a banner year.

Don't look now, but the Bruins roofed it.

Precisely 113 days after their stirring 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins will return to the TD Garden ice tomorrow night for the opener of their 2011-12 season. The building has never really had a night quite like it. For the first time since the final days of 1972, the Bruins will raise a banner to the rafters that says something far more meaningful than "Adams Divisions Champions," and the simple truth now is that they will have hoisted as many banners to the rafters in this building as the Celtics have.

In this newer Garden, at least for now, there is no need for fillers or fluff or needless laundry. The Bruins are equals. They belong. They rule.

“It’s obviously very exciting,” Bruins captain and defenseman Zdeno Chara told reporters during their annual media day yesterday. “I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere and it’s going to be very emotional. We’re all looking forward to it.”

So should you.

For all of the memories from last year's extraordinary Stanley Cup run, for all of the great experiences that our teams provide us, is there really a more spine-tingling moment in all of sports than the raising of the banner? Go to YouTube and search for the banner ceremony, in pretty much any city, in pretty much any sport. They all feel the same. The music blares. The crowd cheers. Time all but stops as the memories are all tucked into a safe, eternal place for everyone to see.

The banners never come down, folks. They never go away. They stay there forever, long after a succession of players has come and gone, long after buildings are torn down and rebuilt, long after your children or grandchildren or great grandchildren have inherited the seats that you also inherited.

And this year, the Stanley Cup banner belongs to you. It goes into the Garden rafters with so many others, from No. 4 to No. 33 to the Celtics of the '60s and '80s to the Bruins of the '70s. And the banner stays.

Beyond the nostalgia, of course, there is a reason we do this. It gives us closure. Sometimes funerals are meant to be the celebration of a full, productive life. The Bruins of 2010-11 have been deconstructed forever, Michael Ryder having skated off to Dallas and Mark Recchi having retired and even Tomas Kaberle having gone to Carolina. That precise group will never play together again. And so tomorrow we give them all one final acknowledgment, one farewell salute before the puck gets dropped and the season begins anew.

We acknowledge, one last time, the sacrifices of Nathan Horton and Marc Savard, the workmanlike approach of Patrice Bergeron, the relentlessness of Brad Marchand and the craftsmanship of David Krejci, the leadership of Zdena Chara, the fortitude of Dennis Seidenberg, the persistence of Chris Kelly and the speed of Rich Peverley, the unselfishness of Daniel Paille and the toughness of Shawn Thornton.

And we acknowledge, without exception, the pure brilliance, stubbornness and contagious will of goaltender Tim Thomas.

Pump those tires, brother.

Where the Bruins go from here, of course, remains anybody's guess, and we would be wise to remember where the Bruins were precisely a year ago at this time. The Bruins were coming off one of the great postseason collapses in NHL history, their guts and commitment questioned as certainly as those of another team in town are being questioned now. In the world of professional sports, the difference between winning and losing can often be the simplest motivation or the slightest bounce of a puck - or both - and we should all be reminded that a championship mix requires the most delicate balance.

“You get a taste of winning and it’s a pretty good taste,” Neely said. “We’ve got a good bunch of guys with great character. We’re still a young team that’s not tired of winning yet.”

Time will tell, of course.

In the interim, the 2010-11 Bruins will be elevated to their rightful place tomorrow night.

And that is something that can never, ever be taken away.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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