BOSTON — The Stanley Cup glistened in the morning sun, the nearly 35-pound symbol of NHL supremacy raised high over the head of 255-pound Zdeno Chara.
Then, the 6-foot-9 captain of the champion Boston Bruins lowered it to his knees. He patiently answered reporters' questions after a night of little sleep and much joy on a flight from one side of North America to the other from the disappointed city of Vancouver to the title town of Boston.
For the defenseman and his gritty teammates, the first club to win three seven-game series in one postseason, the heavy lifting was over.
The celebration was on.
"We are pretty OK with that weight," Chara said Thursday, the Cup in his grasp just as it was when he was the first to hoist it after the Bruins' 4-0 win in Game 7 over the Canucks less than 12 hours earlier.
He walked over to some of the 500 fans who had gathered outside TD Garden, where the Bruins were 3-0 in the series, outscoring the Canucks 17-3. He let some of them touch the coveted trophy that hadn't been in Bruins hands in 39 years.
"It's unbelievable. It's very exciting for the whole city, for us, for the whole organization. It's a very special day," said Chara, one of the NHL's top defenseman but never a champion in his previous 12 NHL seasons. "We're very honored to be here. We're so happy."
They won with Brad Marchand, a rookie pest, and Patrice Bergeron, who missed most of the 2007-08 season with a concussion. Each had two goals in the clincher.
First-line right wing Nathan Horton was on the ice to hold the Cup but hadn't played after sustaining a severe concussion on a late hit by defenseman Aaron Rome just 5:07 into Game 3. The Bruins did have midseason pickups Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, playoff scoring leader David Krejci, and, of course, feisty, focused goalie Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe winner as the playoff MVP.
"We went out there on a mission, came back champions," Marchand said. "We proved we were the best team in the world."
They did it with team depth and determination.
"We're blue collar, not flashy," hard-hitting right wing Shawn Thornton said. "We work hard. We take pride in that."
The Bruins hadn't won the title since 1972 and that team's name was erroneously engraved on the Cup as the BQSTQN BRUINS. This year, Thomas provided the Os as in the number of goals he allowed in two of the last four games against the Canucks.
The game matched the highest preliminary television rating for a Game 7 on record.
The NBC telecast earned a 5.7 overnight rating and 10 share. That ties the 2003 Game 7 between Anaheim and New Jersey.
It was up 14 percent from the most recent Game 7 in 2009, featuring two popular U.S. teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
The 5.7 is the second-best Stanley Cup overnight rating in 37 years, behind only last year's Chicago-Philadelphia Game 6, which drew a 5.8/10. It's the highest for a game involving a Canadian team in 38 years.
The game earned a 43.4/64 in Boston, the best for a hockey game since records began being kept for the market in 1991. That's higher than any game in the Celtics' last two NBA finals appearance.