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Bruins fans salute their champions

Screaming fans dressed in the black and gold of the Boston Bruins smiled, waved and stood on trees and bus shelters as they watched the NHL champions -- and the Stanley Cup, of course -- roll through city streets on a balmy, breezy day.

And the players they adore gave it right back.

Tim Thomas beamed. Zdeno Chara pumped his fists. Patrice Bergeron signaled to the massive crowd to shout even louder.

Then, as the nearly two-hour "rolling rally" celebration of the Bruins' first title in 39 years neared its end early Saturday afternoon, Andrew Ference raised one finger, then two, then three, orchestrating a familiar chant.

"Let's Go Bruins!" the fans responded. "Let's Go Bruins!"

But there's no need for the Bruins to go any further.

They've already arrived.

The long journey began in Vermont in late September with two days of training camp and ended in Vancouver with a 4-0 victory Wednesday night in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals.

In between, the Bruins started the season with two games in Prague against the Phoenix Coyotes -- losing then winning on a shutout by Thomas -- and grew into a team determined enough to win three of its four postseason series in seven games and good enough to knock off the Canucks, the NHL's best team in the regular season.

The Bruins' trip to their sixth championship got a big boost from their fans, who stuck by them all the way to Saturday's celebration on a sunny day with temperatures reaching the low 80s. Crowds were so deep on the sidewalks that many fans might not have been able to see the players.

Police announced nine arrests of people "charged with, among other things, Public Drinking and Disorderly Conduct." Police commissioner Edward Davis said, "exemplary fan behavior was on full display throughout the day."

Team president Cam Neely, one of the greatest forwards in club history but never a champion, said, "It's finally our time. How amazing is this?"

Chara, the captain, told the fans, "We couldn't have done it without you," and shared a conversation he had with Neely.

"I promised him when we win a Cup I will hand it to him. So here we go. Come on, Cam," he said as Neely stepped forward, smiled and took the trophy.

"We all love each other," said first-line forward Nathan Horton, sidelined for the series with a severe concussion early in Game Three. "We all care about each other. We all play for each other. That's the way it's been all year and that's why we won the Cup."

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