BOSTON — Jake DeBrusk is sitting at his locker with his head in his hands. The Bruins lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Blues about 20 minutes ago, but DeBrusk still has his skates on and he’s fully dressed in his black and gold uniform. The 22-year-old hasn’t moved for 10 minutes, except for his shoulders, which shake slightly as he cries. Next to him, Charlie Coyle angrily sniffles and rips tape off his calves. He takes off his skates, slamming them onto the floor one by one. Zdeno Chara is also undressing nearby. The Bruins’ captain played the last three games of the Stanley Cup Final with a broken jaw and a whole lot of resolve. His eyes are completely red. He chokes back more tears as he hugs one of the Bruins’ team photographers.
“I don’t think anything’s gonna make us feel better right now,” says Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, who isn’t crying but looks like he might. “It sucks for all of us.”
This was the Bruins first-ever Stanley Cup Game 7 at home, and the first Game 7 since the Bruins beat Vancouver in 2011. The Canadian city burned after the loss; angry Canucks fans flipped cars over and lit fires across the city. Reporters were stuck in Rogers Arena until the early hours of the morning when it finally became safe to go outside.
But tonight Boston isn’t burning. It’s not even smoldering. Or smoking. There are no sparks; it just all feels a little dystopian. Helicopters thump overhead and lights from the heavy police detail outside TD Garden bathe Canal Street in blue, like a TV screen seen through a window. A policewoman tells me no one’s given her or her colleagues any trouble. It’s been quiet. Fans cleared out quickly.
Sadness will do that.
This wasn’t a close game lost in a blaze of anger due to a terrible call or a nasty hit. The Blues just straight up won and the Bruins just straight up lost, thanks to two early St. Louis goals from Ryan O'Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo. The Bruins never figured out a way to answer, despite taking about a million shots right at the center of Blues goalie Jordan Binnington’s chest. The Blues held the 2–0 lead until the third period, when they scored twice more. Boston got on the board thanks to a goal from Matt Grzelcyk. But if you’re reading this, you know it was too late.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this for the Bruins and their fans. Tickets for Wednesday’s game were the most expensive in the city’s history, because this could’ve been a historic moment. A win would’ve given Boston it’s 13th championship in two decades and made Boston the first city since Detroit in 1935–36 to win three titles in one year.
Most people outside of New England were very much rooting against those possibilities. And understandably so! I’ve written before that being a Boston sports fan over the past 20 years is like being a trust fund baby. Sports aren’t supposed to go your way all the time, as most of Boston’s runs have. They’re supposed to mean walking around in a daze in the days after your team loses a game or—god forbid—a championship, wondering why that player did that stupid thing, or why that coach made that idiotic call, or why it all didn’t just work. They’re supposed to mean saying, “There’s always next year.”
Those of us who root for Boston haven’t experienced that too much recently (though we certainly are now). If we have, it’s been offset by the glorious euphoria that comes with a massive win, just like this one is—the Red Sox and the Patriots are still reigning champions.
That success, however, hasn’t translated to complacency. The energy of the city before Game 7 underscored how much these teams mean. You’d think fans this used to winning wouldn’t get so nervous for games, but every Boston die-hard I know either didn’t sleep the night before, felt like they were going to throw up all day, or had plans to watch the game by themselves in a dark room because they were afraid of how they’d act in public. But because this is Boston, there was also a healthy mix of hope stirred into the existential dread that comes with a Game 7, one of the most heightened emotional viewing experiences in all of sports.
After four goals, however, TD Garden deflated like a football in 2015 (sorry). The crowd tried to keep the energy up, despite not getting much to work with from the team. It could only do so much, though, and the only time this place really came alive after the first period was when the jumbotron showed Patriots highlights and then panned to Patriots players Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, and team owner Bob Kraft in the stands. There was also a surge of energy after Grzelcyk’s goal, I suppose, but that was more of a show of good faith than anything.
This is what you all wanted to see, right? The air get sucked out of the building? Boston lose? This spoiled city get what it deserves? Well, here you go. Sad Bruins players, sad Bruins fans. You got it. As one of the latter, I’m pretty bummed. But hey, maybe this is healthy. I can’t speak for others, but I’d forgotten, to some extent, how painful it is to lose like this. Even typing that out is deeply obnoxious. It was definitely time to bring me back down to earth. That doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.
Look, sports are silly. Winning, losing—none of it really matters. But teams tie you to home and to the people you love. And while (as Rask so eloquently put it) losing sucks, it does still make you feel something. It still creates solidarity. Sometimes more so—there are few things that bring people closer together than complaining.
A few fans are complaining as I walk down Canal Street after the game. It was as packed as a frat house over capacity—and about as soaked in beer—a few hours ago. People had gathered around the NBC Sports desk where commentators Patrick Sharp and Jeremy Roenick were broadcasting ahead of the game. Men were yelling at Sharp about how handsome he is (“You’re beautiful, Patrick! I love your jaw line!”) and telling Roenick he’s their father (“Jeremy, you’re my real dad!”). They were cracking up. Even Sharp had trouble hiding his smile.
But the stages have all been broken down now. Not many people are left to laugh, nor do they have much to laugh about. A man carrying a blue IKEA bag full of hats waves his wares. They say BRUINS STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS 2019.
“Stocks are way down,” he yells. “Come get your five dollar hats!”
“Those aren’t in hot demand bro,” someone yells back.
The seller approaches a policeman, who stops to buy a hat. Wishful thinking, perhaps. Or a reminder of one more piece of history that could’ve been made in a town that’s already full of it. But hey, there’s always next year.