Champs, but still blue-collar Bruins

BOSTON -- One of the biggest things I'll take away from Saturday's Bruins victory parade is that these players seem so much like you and me: Regular guys.

Seeing footage of captain Zdeno Chara riding his bike into the Garden before the parade and watching him leave the same way, weaving through black-and-gold-clad fans patting him on the back, it struck me that this was a uniquely Bruins phenomenon.

Can you envision the marquee stars of the other teams in town -- say Tom Brady, Kevin Garnett or even David Ortiz -- doing something like that after a victory celebration?

But there was Chara, pedaling through the crowd, followed soon after by assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, who strolled out of the Garden and walked down the street, presumably on his way to the North End, where many Bruins players live.

The Cup has been here just a few days and already we’re hearing stories of Bruins players taking it out in the streets and restaurants of the North End, an occurrence I imagine will be repeated throughout the summer. After all, each player gets his day with hockey’s holy grail.

How this Bruins team comports itself reminds me of a story I read in Sports Illustrated before the Stanley Cup finals began about old time hockey in Boston, by sportswriting legend Leigh Montville. It was a portrait of the Bruins having always represented blue-collar Boston, a tradition that carries over to this team.

It began with an anecdote about Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk enjoying a meal at Pizzeria Regina in the North End shortly after the Bruins beat the Lightning in Game 7 to reach the Cup finals. Here’s the excerpt:

"I gave them a booth in the back,” Richie Zapata, manager of the restaurant, reported. “They ordered a large pepperoni with peppers and mushrooms. I gave them some extra slices. Took care of it. They were nice. Signed some metal pizza plates for the waitresses. Just nice. Nobody bothered them."

So when the two Bruins and their girlfriends finished their meal at the original Pizzeria Regina -- not one of the other Pizzeria Regina locations around the area, the original, with the familiar red-and-white-checked tablecloths, with the smart-mouth waitresses, with the waiting line that goes out the door most of the time and down the stairs straight onto Thacher Street, when they stood up, well, everyone else in the restaurant also stood up. And started clapping. Just like that.

Here’s hoping a Stanley Cup doesn’t change anything about these blue-collar, Average Joe Bruins.