BOSTON -- This region has been endowed with one of the most historic organizations in professional hockey.
For 87 snowy seasons, the Boston Bruins have been a strong fabric in the New England hockey community and beyond. Part of the Original Six, the Bruins have won a total of six Stanley Cups, with the most recent being hoisted on June 15 in Vancouver.
Despite a slow start to the 2010-11 season, the fans never wandered from Causeway Street. In turn, the Bruins responded. With a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at TD Garden, the Bruins extended their point streak to 14 games and have a 13-0-1 record during that stretch.
The win also marked the 100th consecutive sellout on home ice.
The streak began on Dec. 5, 2009 -- against the Maple Leafs -- and it was the first time Phil Kessel returned to Boston after he was traded to Toronto. The last home game that was not a sellout was Dec. 2, 2009, when the Bruins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1.
"It's such a great feeling to be playing in front of a full arena," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "It's been a great feeling when you have the cheers and the whole city behind you. We saw that in the playoffs, and they always give us an extra boost. A lot of times, when they're that loud and that passionate, it almost feels like you have an extra guy on the ice. Hopefully we have another 100 ahead of us."
The past decade has been a golden era in professional sports in this city, with the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics all winning championships. In fact, the Red Sox own the major league record with 712 consecutive sellouts and counting, dating back to May 15, 2003. It's the second-longest sellout streak in U.S. professional sports history behind the NBA's Portland Trailblazers, who had 744 in a row from 1977 to 1995.
Popularity is at an all-time high for the Bruins.
Television ratings continue to soar. The Bruins struggled at the start of the season, dealing with the Stanley Cup hangover en route to a 3-7 start. But once they rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, the Bruins found their game and posted a historic November with a 12-0-1 record.
That success continued Saturday night in front of another sellout.
"As much as it's great for the organization, and as coaches and players you feel pretty good about it because it means you're giving people some hockey that excites them and they want to come out and watch us," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's nice to see. I know my first year here, my first game behind the bench, I looked around and there might have been six or eight thousand people. That wasn't something that you like seeing, so it's nice that we've turned it around and we're selling out. Hopefully that will continue for a long time."
This team is built for the future, and a winning tradition should continue. Boston is loaded with young talent, and general manager Peter Chiarelli continues to lock up those players to long-term contracts.
"We have a pretty good team, a young team, and we've got a good thing going here," said Bruins forward David Krejci, who signed a three-year contract extension last week.
Because of the team's youth, experience and success, there's still a strong possibility that Boston could repeat as champion. If that happens, the Bruins would be the first NHL organization to do so since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. With the extremely impressive five-week stretch the Bruins are enjoying, it sure seems that this team can defend its title.
"Sometimes, as a coach, you're also afraid you're going to peak too early," Julien said. "When things are going bad, it'll take a while to get yourself back on track. I feel differently about this because the feeling in the room is that we're not taking anything for granted. We're staying poised. We're not getting cocky. We're not getting complacent. We're still focused, and that's the part I like.
"We've seen other teams in the past and we've talked about the Red Wings and how they come back strong every year, and maybe we're a team heading in that direction."
Every Bruins team is different. There have been future Hall of Famers, superstars, cult heroes and fighters. But more importantly the Bruins identify with the hardworking, blue-collared type, and that's why fans, especially the past few seasons, can relate to the men who wear the black and gold sweaters.
Before coming to Boston, Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg had played for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers. It didn't take him long to realize he landed in a hockey hotbed unlike anywhere else he had played.
"It's been an absolute pleasure," Seidenberg said. "It's been a great experience. To play in a big hockey market like Boston and playing in front of fans who know their hockey and have fun coming to games to root us on is fun. Right now we're playing good hockey, and it's nice we can give them the wins at home and give them their money's worth."
It was fitting that the Bruins' 100th consecutive sellout ended with a victory as Boston's winning anthem, "Dirty Water," was blaring from the speakers at the Garden.
This team is historic. It's original. It's winning, and the fans around these parts are loving it.
"It's great," said alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. "It's something we've been aware of, and it's great to see, and it's exciting for us. To have fans like we do now, it's a lot of fun to be a part of it. Honestly, the fans have been great. The parade last year, it's something I'll never forget. It's a memory I'll cherish for the rest of my life. It's awesome to play in Boston and for these fans."
The Bruins continue to reward their fans, and in return, the fans are doing their part.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.