As all of Boston went into lockdown during Friday’s manhunt for the remaining bombing suspect, the city’s pro sports franchises followed suit. Baseball’s Red Sox and hockey’s Bruins postponed their games and told players and other employees “to stay home and stay safe.” On Saturday, the morning after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended, the clubs returned to action with hopes of helping the city to heal.
“This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston,” said first baseman/designated hitter David Ortiz during a pregame speech to the 35,152 assembled at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon. “We want to thank you Mayor [Tom] Menino, Gov. [Deval] Patrick, the whole police department for the great job they did this past week. This is our [expletive deleted] city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
The Red Sox went on to defeat the Kansas City Royals 4-3 on an eighth inning home run by Daniel Nava. The clutch homer coming just minutes after Neil Diamond made a surprise appearance to sing the Fenway favorite “Sweet Caroline” between innings.
Ortiz, a 10-year Boston veteran, apologized for offending some with his profanity, noting his emotions were running extremely high: “It just came out, man. It just came out.”
Across town at the TD Garden, players for the Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins arrived at the arena wearing “Boston Strong” T-shirts. The shirts were also sold to fans, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to OneFund, a nonprofit organization founded to help victims of last Monday’s bombing.
“Clearly we were all watching for days, and being here yesterday and being in the hotel, being inside certainly became a part of the situation and part of what the city of Boston was going through,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “Although we weren’t a part of it, the celebration outside as a city and as a people last night, [we] just feel like it’s a great opportunity to play a game today with the city of Boston and not just against the Bruins but with the city and with the Bruins.”
Prior the 3-2 Bruins victory, the teams and fans participated in a moment of silence and Rene Rancourt sang the national anthem, eventually lowering the microphone and allowing the crowd to sing the final verses themselves. At the close of the song, the arena broke out in chants of “USA, USA, USA.”
The Boston Celtics, opening their playoff series in New York against the Knicks, wore “Boston Stands as One” patches on their uniforms.
“It’s going to be tough, because I don’t think the city really had anything like this happen before,” said Celtics player Jeff Green. “Whatever we can do, whatever I can do, I’m willing to help, because it’s a tough thing to get through.”
The Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics have each pledged $100,000 in donations to OneFund, as has the Kraft family, owners of the NFL’s New England Patriots based in nearby Foxsborough. Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork announced that all donations made to his foundation between Saturday and the end of April will be donated to victims of the bombings. The Bruins and Red Sox also collected donations from fans Saturday, and the teams will auction off jerseys worn by players that day with the proceeds going to OneFund.
In addition to financial assistance, Boston teams are stepping up to offer emotional support to their wounded city.
“The one thing I sense from our team is we have the ability to maybe help people heal and find some reason to smile again by representing our city properly,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “To me, this is a time when you’re proud to be associated with a professional team.”