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A Cup win with its roots in Buffalo

The photograph already was sitting Tuesday in the offices of Delaware North Cos., in downtown Buffalo. Jeremy Jacobs and his sons are locked arm in arm, grinning ear to ear, while standing on the ice in Rogers Arena after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. A week later, their joy remained as difficult to describe as their expressions.

They were stunned.

You can only imagine.

Their experience over the past 36 years since Jacobs purchased the Bruins can be found in a series of snapshots saved to memory. The latest was owner Jeremy Jacobs and son Charlie, principal of the Bruins, with the Cup as their duck boat snaked through the streets of Boston during the parade last weekend.

"One giant goose bump," said Jerry Jacobs Jr., who rode behind his brother and father with another brother, Lou. "It went on and on and on. I've never seen a million people. The crowds were so thick. It was an incredibly emotional thing. Lou and I were in one boat. In front of us were Charlie and Dad with [Zdeno] Chara and the Cup. What an image."

You see players every year attempt to describe their emotions after winning hockey's grand prize only to come away speechless. It extends to ownership and management, too. The Jacobs family spent decades searching for the right formula before it all came together this year in the playoffs, which included three Game Seven victories.

And when it finally happened with a 4-0 win over the Canucks, before the fires and the chaos in Vancouver, they weren't quite sure it was real. The Jacobs family has lived in Buffalo for generations and built an empire with Delaware North. Jeremy Sr., is known simply as "The Chairman" in these parts while running the company.

For all their success in business, with Buffalo comes an inherent sense of inevitable failure in sports.

It explains why they refused to leave their suite when the Bruins had a 3-0 lead in Game Seven late in the third period. Only when they added another goal, when it was obvious their lead was insurmountable with the clock ticking toward 0:00, did they make their way down to the dressing room and the celebration that awaited them.

"It's something you wish for as the years go by but for whatever combination of reasons you don't put together," Jeremy Sr. said. "Once it happens, it's a feeling that is in some ways indescribable. We had a tremendous fan base that's just been awesome in Boston. You want to perform for them. When you do, the gratification is immeasurable.

"From a family standpoint, it has been so rewarding. All of my children showed up at the games with their spouses and children. It was very much a family experience and one I would recommend to everyone."

Jerry and Lou Jacobs, both of whom serve as alternate governors for the Bruins, took mental pictures that will last a lifetime. President Cam Neely, one of the most popular players in franchise history, stood stunned in the dressing room. General Manager Peter Chiarelli was inches from the Cup, unable to see through champagne-covered glasses.

"It was surreal," Lou said.

You can only imagine.

Their grandfather, Delaware North founder Louis Jacobs, owned the Buffalo Bisons hockey team in the 1940s and won the Calder Cup before selling the team to Irwin Pastor. Louis Jacobs owned the Bisons baseball team when they played at Offermann Stadium before selling. He also owned the NBA Cincinnati Royals with Oscar Robertson before transferring the team to his sons, who sold the franchise after their father died.

Obviously, ownership was nothing new when Jeremy Jacobs bought the Bruins in 1975 for $5 million in a $10 million deal that included Boston Garden. They were Sabres fans at the time. Jerry was 13 years old and remembers when the Aud Club opened. They had seats at center ice and were swept up by the French Connection like everyone else in Buffalo.

"Dad came home one day and said he bought the Bruins," Jerry said. "We thought he was kidding. Shortly after that, Bobby Orr came to the house for dinner. It was the '70s, the tight pants, the bell-bottomed pants, the whole nine yards. All the women were around, peeking around the corner and checking out Bobby Orr."

You can only imagine.

Jeremy Jacobs took his share of grief from Bruins fans who for years viewed him as a cheap, absentee owner from Buffalo. In truth, he knew all these years that smart decisions were the answer to a successful franchise, not more money. Charlie came aboard daily operations a few years ago and helped build a strong management team.

Father and sons were back at work Tuesday. Jeremy and Charlie were attending NHL meetings in New York while Jerry and Lou had returned to Delaware North. They weren't saying as much, but they knew the Stanley Cup confirmed that their father was right all along. It was a matter of time before they celebrated with him.

Together, they joined players Kevyn Adams, Todd Marchant, Brooks Orpik and Patrick Kane among people with strong Buffalo ties to win the Stanley Cup since the lockout. The plan calls for the Jacobses to bring the Cup home sometime next week and celebrate with their friends and family in Buffalo.

A week later, they were still trying to make sense of it all.

"We're trying to be humble about it," Jerry said. "We do our high fives in Boston and keep our hands in our pockets in Buffalo."

You can only imagine.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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