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January 16, 2013 | 10:25pm ET
Bruins happy to be back
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com

BOSTON, MA -- The doors opened at high noon on Sunday and fans entered Boston's TD Garden in droves.

This was the day they had waited so long for and now they were about to finally see their favorite team and players take the ice for the first time this season.

The first trickle of players, call-ups from the American Hockey League, stepped on the ice and were welcomed by a smattering of applause... then the big guns began to come down the tunnel and onto the ice.

As Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron made their way onto the frozen sheet, the crowd's applause and cheers grew louder, hitting a crescendo when Nathan Horton, out for all but 46 games in 2011-12 due to a concussion, took his first strides of the 2013 season. Sustained cheering also met captain Zdeno Chara when he joined his teammates.

NHL hockey was back and in particular, it was back in Boston, a city that takes its sports very seriously. If you don't win in Beantown, you will quickly learn that you had better find a way and in a hurry. The Bruins that won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11 is the same team, except for two positions, in 2013. The city, actually the entire region of New England, loves this club and it was sorely missed during the lockout.

Asked if he noticed the crowd's enthusiasm, head coach Claude Julien said he had and was thankful for the turnout.

"It was actually great to see. It was exciting to see them in the stands," he said. "You know, a good number of people came out to watch us and to see the loyalty of the fans here in Boston is tremendous. It doesn't go unnoticed. I think our players realize that too.

"At the end of practice I was telling them about our upcoming schedule tomorrow and what we were going to do, and when it was all said and done, they took the initiative to say 'let's thank our fans here for their support and their patience.'

"You've heard many people say they're the best fans in the league, and they love a certain type of team, and we try to deliver that type of team to them and because of that they have some loyalty."

As Julien said, the players could not help but notice, and Chara stepped off the ice and retrieved a microphone to thank the fans at the end of the workout.

"On behalf of the whole team, I just want to thank all of you for coming out to watch the practice today and we can't wait to play for you guys. Thank you very much," Chara said to a loud ovation from the appreciative crowd.

Bergeron noticed the crowd's welcome the moment he stepped on the ice.

"For sure, it's great to see them here at the practice," he said. "Obviously, it's been a long time, a long time, and we're happy that they're here supporting us today. We know it's been frustrating for them and we're excited to be ready for Saturday (season opener versus the New York Rangers) and share that with them."

Horton, who has waited the longest for the lockout to come to an end due to a season ending concussion last year, is happy to have the Spoked B back on his chest and is eager to please those who bleed black and gold.

"It's definitely a good feeling to be back," the native of Welland, Ontario said. "It'll be great to play in front of our fans again. It's hard to describe the feeling you get. The fans are so great and you just want to do good for them and you want to work as hard as you can and have a good year."

The love affair between the Bruins and the city's sports fans has been in existence since 1924 and throughout those 88 years.

Nothing, be it the Great Depression, a World War or simply not qualifying for the playoffs, has come between them and on Jan. 13, 2013, it was very evident that the 2012-13 NHL lockout could not damage this marriage.

The Bruins are very happy to be back in Boston and their fans are very happy to have home.

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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