BOSTON - Boston police reported several arrests but few serious incidents as Bruins fans revelled in the team's first Stanley Cup championship in nearly four decades. Precautions taken Wednesday allowed the city to avoid the violence and destruction that have plagued past sports celebrations.
Cheers erupted from fans who packed bars and restaurants to watch the Bruins defeat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Wednesday in the seventh and deciding game of the series. Many had not been born when Boston last won the Cup in 1972.
"I'm a diehard Bruins fan and I wanted to be in Boston for it," said Colleen Liffers, 22, of Newburyport, Mass. "This is so unbelievable."
Liffers and her friends left the nightclub Howl at the Moon after the game ended. Like many fans, they headed directly for the TD Garden, the home of the Bruins. There they planned to continue celebrating although the team was thousands of miles away in Vancouver.
But they were met by hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear. Streets were closed to traffic and barricades were set up.
Video from a television station showed fans surrounding and rocking a bus that was carrying some police units to the scene. State police said some unruly fans pulled down street signs, and some climbed on parked cars.
Yet it appeared that police were able to act on lessons learned from recent Boston sports titles. Raucous celebrations after big wins by the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics in the past seven years have resulted in three deaths and widespread vandalism.
"It's fair to say that the vast majority of fans celebrated responsibly, and officers have done an excellent job of keeping order," Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the Boston police, said early Thursday.
Driscoll said there were no immediate reports of injuries. She said police would not have an exact count on arrests until later in the day.
In Vancouver, disappointed fans set some cars on fire and tipped over others after their team's loss.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told WFXT-TV that he was unaware of any major damage or looting.
Barricades surrounded a statue depicting one of the most iconic moments in Bruins history—Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the goal that won the Stanley Cup in 1970. Authorities did not want exuberant fans climbing on the statue.
Bars were asked to take in or secure outdoor furniture, black out windows to prevent crowds from gathering outside to watch the TVs inside, and not admit any customers after the end of the game's second period. This didn't deter fans, though. Many bars near the TD Garden were at capacity even before the start of the game and some fans were turned away.
"This is the best city in the world. It's the best sports city in the world," said 53-year-old Bob Hay, an East Boston resident who watched the game at Sports Grill Boston near the TD Garden. "I'm very proud to be a Boston sports fan."
Hay, who was a boy the last time the Bruins were on top in the hockey world, bought a Tim Thomas T-shirt on Wednesday. He wanted to honour the remarkable performance by the Boston goalie, who was named the series MVP after allowing only eight goals in seven games and posting two shutouts.
The Bruins and their fans had waited their turn as the Patriots won three Super Bowls, the Red Sox two World Series titles and the Celtics an NBA title in the last decade.
The last Stanley Cup championship was won by the team nicknamed the "Big Bad Bruins," featuring greats like Orr, Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson. Boston was known as a "hockey town" back then, and the team was arguably more popular than even the revered Red Sox.
But the love affair waned over the years as the team's fortunes sagged, and the Bruins struggled to keep pace with the city's more successful sports franchises.
Fans are confident the return of the Stanley Cup to will bring the Bruins—and hockey—back to the forefront of the city's sports culture.
Menino said city officials would meet Thursday to discussplans for a parade. No date was set.
AP writer Mark Pratt and photojournalist Elise Amendola in Boston contributed to this report.