Bruins, Sabres pay classy tribute to Boston fans in wake of marathon bomb attack

It's often said that sports journalists are a cynical bunch, and for the most part it's true.

At the very least, we try not to grow too emotionally attached to events, because there are so many things that can move us.

On Wednesday night, though, I watched a small gesture that left a big impression.

You probably know by now that the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres played the first professional sporting event in Boston since the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

It was a great game. Both teams gave all they had through 60 minutes of regulation, five minutes of overtime and a shootout. In the end, the Sabres had just a bit more left in the tank than the Bruins, and came out on top.

The result didn't matter too much, though, even though it helped Buffalo keep up its pursuit of a playoff berth. Both teams acknowledged that giving the fans a night of entertainment was the first priority.

When the shootout ended, both teams went back to their benches. I figured they would just head to their respective locker rooms form there. But they didn't.

Instead, both full squads skated on to the ice and raised their sticks together to salute the crowd.

That got me. 

I'm not from Boston or Buffalo. I'm not a fan of either team. But I was awestruck by this. It may have seemed small, and it may have been small. It didn't seem that way in the moment, though.

Lots of people are talking this morning about how Bruins fans join Rene Rancourt in singing the national anthem before the game. That was very moving, but this was moving in a particular way. It seemed more spontaneous, and somehow more personal.

Maybe it's because we don't expect professional athletes to make such a gesture anymore.

It's true that hockey players have a better reputation in that way than football, basketball and baseball players. Hockey is, after all, a sport where teams make a point of lining up en masse to shake hands after every playoff series.

This was just a regular season game, though. It had special significance, to be sure, but it was one of 720 contests across the NHL's lockout-shortened campaign.

It was a reminder that the athletes who play the sports we love are still human. For as much as we criticize them, there are still some who understand their greater role in society.

And it was a reminder that those of us who are privileged to make a living chronicling the lives of those athletes are humans too. We also take our fair share of criticism, and rightly so. But it is good to have moments in our lives that remind us of our relative place in the world – within our profession and beyond.

Wednesday night provided one such moment. I hope we don't forget it.