Local Bruins fans get the shirt off their backs – Lowell Sun
BOSTON – Patrice Bergeron would do just about anything for his fans, even if it meant giving the shirt off his back.
David Babineau found that out firsthand Tuesday night at TD Garden. The Billerica resident was one of 26 lucky fans selected at random to receive an autographed game-worn jersey following the Black and Gold’s 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers, during Fan Appreciation Night, April 26.
“It was awesome,” said Babineau, 52. “I’ve been a long time Patrice Bergeron fan. My three kids grew up playing Billerica Youth Hockey. That’s the guy I want my kids to really emulate.”
A season ticket holder, Babineau’s seat number was posted on the jumbotron during a break in the action. He was handed a numbered envelope and instructed to gather at ice level with the other fans selected for the special postgame ceremony at the conclusion of the contest.
The B’s fans, some season ticket holders, others chosen at random, would then open the envelope one-by-one revealing the name of the player whose jersey they would receive.
“I got the last number,” said Babineau. “I had no idea it was going to be Patrice, it just kind of worked out that way.”
The Bruins captain was as gracious as ever, skating over to Babineau to personally hand him his No. 37 jersey, which he then autographed.
“It was an honor,” said Babineau. “I was kind of hoping for Marc McLaughlin in a weird way, a Billerica boy, but to get my kids favorite player was awesome. I’ve met Patrice a few times before, but it’s pretty cool getting the shirt off his back.”
Babineau is already planning where to put the mother of all Black and Gold souvenirs.
“I have a man cave with Cam Neely and a few other Bruins players on the wall,” said Babineau. “This is going up framed and matted along with the picture of us on the ice. That’s going to be front and center in the man cave.”
Traditionally an up close and personal affair, this season’s shirts off their back ceremony started somewhat cautiously, given the recent pandemic. The first dozen players, such as Bruins forward Craig Smith, signed his jersey before handing it off to a team staffer. The staffer then delivered the sweater to Colin Cleary of Burlington at the Zamboni entrance.
Bruins forward Erik Haula threw caution to the wind, however, skating over to Bedford’s Stephanie Kezima presenting her with his No. 56 jersey, as well as his stick, much to the delight of the crowd of 17,850 in attendance.
“That was very, very cool,” said Kezima, 15. “I definitely was not expecting that, I can tell you that.”
Kezima was one of the fans chosen at random as she entered the arena. She was approached by a member of the Bruins staff, and asked a variety of questions.
“They asked us who our favorite players were, then asked if we’d be interested in getting the jersey off their backs,” she said. “We were very surprised, and obviously we said yes, why wouldn’t we?”
Having Haula skate over to personally hand her his jersey, as well as his stick was just the icing on the cake.
“I was definitely not expecting him to come over to us, because no other players were coming over at that point,” said Kezima. “I’m also very happy about getting the stick too. I wasn’t expecting that. I’m just extremely grateful.”
Out of all the 26 Bruins fans selected, Nicholas Andries picked up the biggest assist on the night. The Leominster native stepped in for his friend, Jennifer Metrick of Revere, to accept defenseman Brandon Carlo’s No. 25 jersey.
“It was awesome,” said Andries, 40. “This was my first time ever doing something like this. It was cool. And it was very cool that it was Carlo.”
Andries quickly stepped into action after he noticed Metrick’s season ticket posted on the TD Garden jumbotron as one of the recipients. Metrick was home sick, unable to attend the game.
“It’s actually my friend’s seat,” he said. “I happened to know her seat number. So when I saw it, I texted her and got in touch with the people in Section 15. They told me to come down here and get it for her.”
For all three Bruins fans, Tuesday’s ceremony was just another reason to get pumped up for the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin next week.
Based off the team’s brilliant performance against Florida, they like the Bruins chances.
“It’s hard to argue with this team right now,” said Babineau. “They’re one of the best teams in the league and beat the best team in hockey in the Florida Panthers. I’m excited for the playoffs and pretty pumped.”
“They look good, but it’s going to be a tough run.” said Andries. “Every team is loaded, so it must be a full 60 every night. No passengers.”
Count Kezima among those who believe.
“Go Bruins,” she said.