(Photo: Alan Sullivan)

Tuesday night’s game found the Boston Bruins hosting the Los Angeles Kings on an historic night. It was 50 years ago that the NHL doubled in size from the Original Six, and so it marked the birth of the Los Angeles Kings in addition to teams in Toronto, Oakland (California), Minnesota, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In honor of this momentous event, the Kings came out in throwback jerseys of yellow and purple. While that was a sight to see, for those who had come to the game, the more important moment was the return of Milan Lucic in his first game since being traded this past summer.

While the announcer gave the Kings starting lineup, of which Lucic was to play along with line mates Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the crowd immediately and in unison let out a loud “LOOOOOOOCH!” As the puck dropped on that first period, the Bruins faithful were chanting “Let’s go Looch.”

During the second TV timeout, a montage of some of Lucic’s highlights as a member of the Black and Gold was played on the Jumbotron and the response from the crowd was a standing ovation and so much cheering that it wasn’t possible to guess what song had been chosen to accompany the images and video. It was clear that Lucic was moved by the response from the fans.

“It was pretty cool – pretty cool that I got to experience that. Like I talked about this morning, a lot of special things happened to me here in Boston, from the management, to the coaches, to all my teammates that I had here over the last eight years,” he expressed. “Especially the fans, they really helped me to become the player and the person that I’ve become today. So to have that moment in that second TV timeout there was really special and it was definitely a pretty cool feeling.”

While the Bruins have been recognizing the return of those players who have been let go in the last couple of years, the response to Lucic’s return was perhaps the biggest if not at least as big as that of Shawn Thornton’s first game back as a Florida Panther. His current coach, Darryl Sutter wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of love for Lucic.

“I think it was special and unique, and, you know, he’s a Boston-type player, so the fans love him,” Sutter told the media. “And, he won a championship here. It doesn’t matter where that type of player is, that fits in with the crowd, is always well respected, always.”

As the game continued—every bit in favor of the Kings—and the Bruins fans realized that their home team would lose in colossal fashion, they turned their attention back to Lucic. When he tipped in the Kings’ 7th goal of the game, the applause was loud and their love clear. Perhaps what was most special was that just as the goal and assists were announced, the crowd—without missing a beat—gave Lucic one last “Woooo!”

In the end it was a night of love for Lucic, who, after the final horn signaled the end of a blowout game for the Kings and the three stars of the game had been declared, came out for one last lap around the Garden ice. With his stick high, he recognized the fans and they gave him one last ovation and waved good-bye.

“I just remembered being back in Calgary when Iggy [Jarome Iginla] did it, so felt like doing it,” he said. “So like I said, now I can finally – as much as I was looking forward to this game – I’m glad it’s finally over so I can kind of stop thinking about it and just focus on the rest of the road trip and all those type of things.”

Lucic’s locker room interview:

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.

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