Boston Bruins return with Stanley Cup

BOSTON -- The Stanley Cup glistened in the morning sun, the nearly 35-pound symbol of NHL supremacy raised high over the head of 255-pound Zdeno Chara.

Then, the captain of the champion Boston Bruins lowered it to his knees. He patiently answered reporters' questions after a night of little sleep and much joy on a flight from one side of North America to the other -- from the disappointed city of Vancouver to the title town of Boston.

For the 6-foot-9 defenseman and his gritty teammates, the first club to win three seven-game series in a single postseason, the heavy lifting was over.

The celebration was on.

"We are pretty OK with that weight," Chara said Thursday, the Cup in his grasp, just as it was when he was the first to hoist it after the Bruins' 4-0 win in Game 7 over the Vancouver Canucks less than 12 hours earlier.

He walked over to some of the about 500 fans who had gathered outside TD Garden, where the Bruins were 3-0 in the series, outscoring the Canucks 17-3. He let some of them touch the coveted trophy that hadn't been in Bruins hands in 39 years.

"It's unbelievable. It's very exciting for the whole city, for us, for the whole organization. It's a very special day," said Chara, one of the NHL's top defensemen but never a champion in 12 previous NHL seasons. "We're very honored to be here. We're so happy."

They won with Brad Marchand, a rookie pest, and Patrice Bergeron, who missed most of the 2007-08 season with a concussion. Each had two goals in the clincher.

First-line right wing Nathan Horton was on the ice to hold the Cup but hadn't played after sustaining a severe concussion on a late hit by defenseman Aaron Rome just 5:07 into Game 3.

"We went out there on a mission, came back champions," Marchand said. "We proved we were the best team in the world."

They did it with team depth and determination.

"We're blue collar, not flashy," hard-hitting right wing Shawn Thornton said. "We work hard. We take pride in that."

The Bruins hadn't won the title since 1972, and that team's name was erroneously engraved on the Cup as the BQSTQN BRUINS. This year, a feisty, focused goalie, Tim Thomas, provided the O's -- as in the number of goals he allowed in two of the last four games against the Canucks.

He gave up just eight goals in the seven games to the highest-scoring team in the regular season -- the same number Vancouver's Roberto Luongo allowed in Game 3 alone.

"After the game, I was kind of in shock. I still am to some extent," the normally unshakable Thomas said after stepping down from one of the two buses that took the team on the short ride from Logan International Airport, where the plane landed at about 8:30 a.m. ET.

"We're tired from the series," Thomas said. "It took everything we had to win this. I'm sure it will sink in some time, but it hasn't completely yet. You get here, you see the fans, it's starting to sink in a little."

There will be many more fans lining the streets at a parade scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Saturday. For the city, the Bruins' triumph completes the championship quartet. Each of the four major pro teams has won titles in the past seven seasons -- the Patriots in the 2005 Super Bowl, the Red Sox in 2007, the Celtics in 2008 and now, the Bruins.

The Red Sox are even ceding the spotlight to the new champions. At the request of Boston mayor Thomas Menino, they are moving Saturday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park from 1:10 p.m. ET to 7:10 p.m. ET.

That will help ease the traffic congestion, and allow fans to attend or watch both events. The Red Sox also are planning a pregame ceremony to honor the Bruins.

Their place in history as the sixth Bruins team to take the title -- and the third Original Six club to win the Cup in the past four seasons -- wasn't the first thing on their minds as they flew home.

"It wasn't quiet, that's for sure," said coach Claude Julien, pumping his fist as he left the bus and flashing a wide smile rarely seen in public. "They deserve to celebrate. And it's their Cup and it's Boston's Cup and, as far as I'm concerned, they could do whatever they want."

Motorists honked horns as they drove by. Fans took pictures by the statue of Bobby Orr in full flight after his Cup-winning, overtime goal in 1972.

Emotions overflowed for another fan, Tom Collins.

"It sank in when I got home. I actually started crying," said Collins, 44, of Quincy, who said he was the man who put a Bruins jersey on a statue of President John Adams in the city just south of Boston.

Another Adams, Charles F., was the first president of the Bruins, from 1924 to 1936. The current president, Cam Neely, was drafted in 1983 by Vancouver and traded in 1986 to Boston, where he scored 50 goals three times, and dished out punishing hits -- but never captured the Cup.

On Thursday, Neely was one of the first off his bus, followed by general manager Peter Chiarelli and Julien, before the players -- some wearing their white championship hats and still sporting their playoff beards -- set foot in the Garden parking lot.

"We got it done," Julien said. "We brought it back to Boston and this is where it belongs."

The Cup itself had an eventful trip, being passed around by the players.

"We didn't need a passport" for it, Marchand joked. "We didn't need to buckle it in. It was pretty cool."

Despite another 2,500-mile flight -- the Bruins' sixth of the series -- Thomas wasn't complaining.

"It was great," he said. "Most of our plane rides during the season we're getting ready for the upcoming game. This five-hour flight wasn't the case. We had the Stanley Cup on the flight with us. We could truly relax and enjoy the accomplishment that we did."

The silver symbol of the NHL champions will make many more journeys. Each player gets to keep it for at least one day. Thomas plans to take it to Flint, Mich., the blue-collar town about 70 miles northwest of Detroit where he was born. He'll show it to family and friends he hasn't seen in a while.

"I've been busy," he said, "trying to accomplish some goals."

He already has the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the postseason, and could add his second Vezina Trophy, which goes to the NHL's best goalie, at the league awards ceremony Wednesday.

But before the players start touring with their hard-earned hardware, they had more immediate needs.

"I need a nap," Thornton said, "I haven't slept."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.