For the first time in over a calendar year, the Boston Bruins will host a true home game at TD Garden.
Sure, the official record recognizes the Bruins as having played 11 home games in 2021, and with Boston holding a 7-3-1 record over that 11-game sample. But the passionate and often drunken screams of B’s fans have been replaced by canned recordings that, while a valiant effort to make things feel ‘normal,’ have made it anything but. Honestly, those recordings have made it feel like we’re in a simulation (and maybe we are), especially when the crowd noise extends beyond the final horn and is then suddenly cut off, reminding you that you are in fact extremely alone. (This got dark. Even for me.)
But that changes on Thursday, with TD Garden reopening to fans at 12 percent capacity, which will see about 2,100 seats filled, which is more than enough to bring a smile to the face of the Black and Gold’s captain.
“I mean, probably the best news of the week is that we get to play [Thursday] in front of our fans,” Patrice Bergeron said following Wednesday’s practice. “Looking forward to that. Obviously, it’s been a while.”
It’s been 383 days, to be exact, with the Bruins last playing in front of a Boston crowd back on Mar. 7, 2020. That game actually featured one of the 2019-20 season’s most electric crowds, too, as the Bruins and Lightning battled with both sticks and fists in a late-season clash for Atlantic Division supremacy.
The Bruins have also gotten a taste of what it’s like to feel a crowd’s energy in recent weeks, with the Bruins’ recent visits to Madison Square Garden, PPG Paints Arena, and KeyBank Center all coming with fans back in the stands.
Now it’s their turn to feed off that emotion.
“We’ve played a lot of road games,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy remarked. “The comforts of home, hopefully, are good to us. Get some fans in the building, that’ll give you energy. I think players are kind of pining for that now.
“It’s been a long time without fans and to create your own energy. I think that’s helped the games that the buildings I’ve been in recently where there’s fans. It just seems like even though there’s not that many [fans in the building], it’s just a different atmosphere. It’s getting back to the to the old normal, so to speak.”
The ‘old normal’ is honestly all any of us want at this point. Seriously, there’s about a 90 percent chance I’d sit in 93-south traffic with a huge smile on my face if it meant I could ditch the mask and go sit inside a crowded restaurant. I’d buy you all a dessert from Bova’s if it meant we were able to simply walk around without any concerns about catching the latest plague. Anyway, we’re veering off course, but that’s OK ’cause things are starting to get back to the ‘old normal’ Thursday.
The Bruins, for what it’s worth, are hoping that this is just the first of many steps towards a full reopening. Much of that is dependent on the vaccine distribution and its effectiveness once the rollout progresses to its next stages, but B’s president Cam Neely entered the season with hopes of a full building come summertime.
In the now, however, the Bruins will take what they can get with the finish line in sight.
“We’re happy that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bergeron.