Black and gold all over

Vast crowd basks in the aura of champions

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By Michael Levenson and Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / June 19, 2011

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Sirens wailed, air horns blasted, and the sky filled with confetti yesterday, as hundreds of thousands of raucous, roaring fans who had waited 39 years for this moment celebrated the return of the Stanley Cup to Boston with a giant, joyous rally for the city’s latest champions.

The deafening throngs — a boulevard of Bruins’ black and yellow — packed in dozens deep along the parade route, filled nearby balconies, and watched from rooftops. They chanted “We got the cup!’’ as the victors rolled from the TD Garden, past Boston Common, to Copley Square.

Fans wore fake beards in honor of the Bruins’ playoff facial hair, lofted their own Stanley Cups made of buckets and duct tape, and painted spoked B’s on cheeks, chests, and fingernails.

The euphoric outpouring marked the return of the Bruins to hockey glory and the city’s emergence as “Titletown’’ — the only city to win championships in all four major sports within a 10-year span. Once inevitably described as long-suffering or cursed, Boston was back.

“This is so exciting,’’ said Mary McDade, a 49-year-old artist who snapped a photo with her cellphone as the coveted cup, held aloft by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, passed her on Staniford Street. “I didn’t know there were this many people in Boston, but we do love our Bruins.’’

Though victory parades are by now a familiar ritual in the city, yesterday’s was filled with spontaneous moments.

Patrice Bergeron received at least three marriage proposals. Brad Marchand rapped along to Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.’’ Chara marched with the Stanley Cup along the street, allowing a lucky few to run their fingers along the gleaming trophy. Before the parade even started, Chara arrived at the Garden on a bicycle, just a regular Joe at the top of his sport.

Tim Thomas, meanwhile, solidified his transformation from journeyman goalie to local legend, waving calmly to ecstatic crowds and brandishing the Conn Smythe Trophy he earned as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

“Thank you for your hard work,’’ Matt Westling, a 27-year-old from Lexington, shouted as Thomas rolled past him on a duck boat. “We appreciate it so much.’’ Moments later, Westling hugged his friends, near tears. “Amazing,’’ he said.

Police, who estimated Friday that 1 million people would attend the rally, did not provide a crowd estimate, and would not compare the multitudes to those who turned out for the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots’ rallies. But many of the fans who attended those celebrations said this one felt like the biggest yet.

Some diehards had staked out spots on Friday afternoon, and the commuter rail had a record 120,000 inbound riders, nearly double the 67,000 who ride on a typical weekday. Some commuters said they gave up because of delayed or crowded trains. Police made nine arrests, mostly for public drinking and disorderly conduct; the crowds were remarkably peaceful, if not exactly subdued.

Fans shouted “Loooooooch’’— for Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who tipped his cap in appreciation. They chanted, “Let’s go Bruins!’’ on packed Green Line trolleys. And they filled the air with the honking of vuvuzelas, the plastic horns that have migrated from international soccer stadiums. The noise was so loud that one little boy covered his ears to shut out the din.

Roaming through the crowds was a fan in a brown bear suit with a yellow polka-dot bowtie. Nine-year-old Tanner Holt of Seabrook, N.H., wore an upside down Stanley Cup on his head, and a T-shirt that declared, “I’ve waited my whole life’’ for the cup.

Everyone had a favorite player, an idol they wanted to cheer.

Matt Brown, a 17-year-old Norwood High School student who has been in a wheelchair since January 2010, when he crashed headlong into the glass during a hockey game, was near the Garden, hoping to catch a glimpse of Bergeron.

A Bergeron jersey, which the Bruins sent him after his injury, hangs above his bed. Watching the team’s improbable march to victory, Brown said, has inspired him to recover from his injuries, which include two fractured vertebrae.

“The more they win, the harder I go at physical therapy,’’ he said.

When Bruins forward Nathan Horton was injured in the Finals, Brown sent him and another injured Bruin, Marc Savard, e-mails encouraging them not to give up hope. “Just keep fighting,’’ he wrote. “Be patient. We’re here for you.’’

Also waiting outside the Garden was Normand Leveille, a former Bruin whose career ended when he suffered a brain aneurysm during a 1982 game in Vancouver. Leveille and his wife, Denise, drove six hours from Montreal to be at the parade.

“It’s a lot for him,’’ Denise Leveille said, adding: “I can’t speak. I cry too much.’’

Then she threw her arms around her husband and said, “I just love him so much.’’ Normand, who has trouble speaking because of his injury, leaned on his cane and smiled.

The Bruins seemed as eager to salute the fans, as the faithful were to honor them. Several players delivered tributes at a pre-parade rally outside the Garden.

“You guys have been waiting 39 years for this,’’ Bergeron said, brandishing the cup. “But it’s here. And I hope it’s here again, and again.’’

“We played together, we drank together, we lost together, and we never wavered,’’ forward Mark Recchi said. “But the one thing we really did together: we won. One more thing: Thanks for the patience for the last 39 years. The next one will come a lot quicker.’’

Martin Finucane, Akilah Johnson, and Andrew Ryan, of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Laura Nelson, Martine Powers, Ben Wolford, and Vivian Yee contributed to this report.

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