BOSTON — The Boston Bruins are making their celebratory trip through city streets with hundreds of thousands of fans crowding sidewalks to see them — and the Stanley Cup — in a rolling rally honoring the NHL champions.
The team and its precious prize set out from TD Garden on a balmy, breezy Saturday in 18 colorful duck boats, tourist vehicles designed to travel on land and water. The passengers are the players who excelled on ice.
Captain Zdeno Chara raised the Cup over his head and passed it to playoff MVP Tim Thomas, who kept it aloft and later smiled and waved to the fans.
The Bruins won their first championship in 39 years and sixth in their history when they beat the Canucks 4-0 in Game 7 in Vancouver on Wednesday night.
“It’s awesome to be sharing it with everybody. This is the day you really look forward to,” Thomas said about 20 minutes into the trip to Copley Square, a route of about three miles from the arena where the Bruins were 3-0 against the Canucks in the finals.
The rally is becoming a familiar sight in the city that is home to seven champions in 10 seasons — three for the New England Patriots, two for the Red Sox and one each for the Celtics and Bruins.
Claude Julien, the unassuming coach of the newest winners, thanked coaches Bill Belichick of the Patriots and Doc Rivers of the Celtics and manager Terry Francona of the Red Sox for the support they gave even before he joined their championship group.
And now, he said at a 15-minute speaking program before the duckboats started rolling, “you really feel like you belong. So, thanks to them.”
The crowd even cheered for Jeremy Jacobs, the Buffalo, N.Y.-based owner stigmatized for years with a stingy reputation that may or may not have been deserved.
“I just want to say, ‘Lord Stanley, 39 years, welcome home,'” he told fans from a stage set up in the large parking lot beside the Garden. “The wait is over. The Cup is yours. Let’s celebrate.”
Fans began lining the route hours before the rally began, some holding signs that said, “believe Bostonbruins.” Once it started, chants of “We got the Cup. We got the Cup” rose from several locations.
The fans came from near and far.
“I’m a Bruins fan,” said Robert Legault, 47, explaining his decision to come from his home in Ottawa. “I think of Bobby Orr when I was a kid. I was watching Bobby.”
Justin Gray, 25, of Portland, Maine, carried one of many handmade Stanley Cup imitations.
“I built it on Tuesday,” he said. “I had a vision.”
Many in the crowd wore Bruins garb of all sorts from simple T-shirts to expensive replica jerseys. Gold confetti streamed from buildings. A huge black-and-gold flag with the words “2011 Stanley Cup champions” fluttered across from City Hall.
Thomas, one of the few Bruins still sporting a playoff beard, spoke to the fans outside the Garden briefly before the rally. He held the Cup above his head the entire time.
“You guys wanted it. We got it and we want to share it with you today,” he said. “Let’s have some fun.”