Thomas Vanek talked to Boston captain Zdeno Chara about saluting the crowd. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres planned postgame salute to honor Boston fans

AMHERST – The Buffalo Sabres first talked about a postgame salute beside the Boston Bruins for fans inside the TD Garden prior to Wednesday’s emotional game, the first major sporting event in the city since Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings killed three people and injured 180.

Sabres assistant captains Steve Ott, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek spoke with trainer Tim Macre and equipment manager Rip Simonick about a special tribute for the more than 17,000 fans in attendance.

Vanek then spoke to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara at center ice during warm-ups.

Following the Sabres’ 3-2 shootout win, both teams skated back out on the ice and raised their sticks as the crowd cheered one final time.

The iconic moment will likely live in Boston and hockey lore forever.

“As we talked about it, we didn’t really think about, I guess, the publicity it’s getting for us,” Vanek said this afternoon following the Sabres’ short practice inside the Northtown Center. “It’s just to appreciate the people that came. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Even for us, it’s a few hours away from something.”

Ott called Wednesday’s game “probably the most emotional game I’ve ever been a part of for so many reasons.”

Prior to the contest, the Bruins played a stirring video tribute to the victims, the community and first responders. Then anthem signer Rene Rancourt stopped singing and turned the microphone over to the crowd.

It was another moment for the ages.

“It was unbelievable. It was cool,” Vanek said about the fans singing together. “It was one of those moments you’re happy you’re a part of it. The atmosphere was electric.”

Ott said it was “hard” getting through the anthem.

“You’re welted up from the ceremony right away,” he said. “I think every single guy has been watching a news network for the last couple days.”

Ott said “we were all playing for Boston last night.”

“To be able to live through that in that game was absolutely surreal,” he said.

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