“Hey, congratulations, my honored opponent,” Milan Lucic says to Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens. “You guys played great. You deserved to win this game, this series. Good luck in all you do the rest of the way.”
“Thanks,” Pacioretty replies with a pleasant smile. “You’ve been wonderful adversaries, wonderful hosts.”
“I just hope you got to see everything you wanted to see while you were in Boston,” Lucic continues. “Did you get over to the Museum of Fine Arts for that exhibition of quilts? Some amazing stuff. Quilts! American craft on display! How about the Boston Pops? The new season has started. Did you get there? You can’t beat that Keith Lockhart. I left some tickets at the box office for any of you guys who wanted to go.”
“The Pops were terrific!” Pacioretty says. “Thanks again. A bunch of us were out of our seats clapping to those John Philip Sousa marches. Luckily we didn’t get tired out, you rascal!”
(We follow Mr. Lucic, the feisty 25-year-old winger of the Boston Bruins as he shakes hands with the entire Canadiens roster after the visiting Habs defeated the Bruins, 3-1, on Wednesday night in a winner-take-all seventh game to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is part of hockey tradition, this line of handshakes between the victor and the vanquished. Mr. Lucic, who plays the game of hockey with a fire and passion, not to mention a stick that can find vulnerable parts of an opponent’s body at any moment, is the perfect player to follow during this grand ritual.)
“Nice work,” he says to P.K. Subban, the Canadiens defenseman. “Where’d you get that slap shot? You terrorized us every time you were on the ice.”
“Ah, I’m just trying,” Subban replies. “And thanks again for setting us up at those Italian restaurants in the North End. The food was excellent. I went for the fettuccine alfredo. Gave me a portion that would have fed a family of six, but I ate every bit. You really didn’t have to send over all that wine.”
“Did you get to the Common on Sunday afternoon for that Make Way For Ducklings parade?” Lucic says to Mike Weaver, maybe the most fearless of those fearless, diving Canadiens defensemen. “Isn’t that something? It’s an annual Mother’s Day attraction. Did you go on the Swan Boats or was the line too long?”
“Did it all,” Weaver shouts. “Jack. Kack. Lack. Mack. Nack. Oack. Pack. And Quack. Would I lie to you?”
(The amazing part of this ritual is how the players on the two teams can battle each other in such a physical game and, boom, just like that, switch back to a more civilized demeanor when the final horn sounds. They still can be limping, bleeding from high sticks and low sticks, from some infraction during the action, but can chat with the perpetrators as if nothing happened. Everyone on each side can become a gentleman again.
(As we follow Mr. Lucic down the line, we see this again and again. Once the helmets and gloves are removed, the players have a vulnerability. They are back to normal, day-to-day life. Pleasantries are exchanged. Inanities are shared. Mr. Lucic can joke with Brendan Gallagher, an old friend. He can introduce himself to Nathan Beaulieu, the Canadiens’ late-arriving rookie defenseman. He can talk politics with Andrei Markov, the Russian defenseman. It is all a grand cocktail party.)
“Thanks for sending me to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre when we were up in Montreal,” Lucic says to veteran Canadiens forward Daniel Briere. “I found great peace there, staring up at all the crutches, thinking about all the miracles. I lit a couple of candles.”
“Well, thank you for sending me to the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, when we came to Boston,” Briere replies. “What a place. The Mapparium alone was amazing. I’ll tell you the truth, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mary Baker Eddy and the life she lived. Even during the game.”
“Bet you’re glad you wound up in Montreal,” Lucic says to Thomas Vanek, a consistent Canadiens pest during the series. “Buffalo to the Islanders to this team. You sure had an upgrade.”
“The best part was being able to play in this series against you guys,” Vanek replies. “Thanks for the tickets to the New England Aquarium. I loved it when the guy went into the big tank to feed the fish. Made me think about talking to the media after some of these games.”
“You must have felt right at home at the Garden,” Lucic says to Brian Gionta, the Canadiens captain, who attended Boston College. “Must have been like playing against BU in the Beanpot.”
“Was that you whistling ‘For Boston’ during one of those faceoffs?” Gionta says. “You dog.”
(A controversy somehow has arisen in the days since this game was played and this line of handshakes took place. Mr. Lucic has been criticized for alleged comments to Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin, two Canadiens stalwarts during the series. Weise, for one, has inferred that Mr. Lucic said something like, “I’m going to bad-word kill you next year.” Mr. Lucic has not denied this, but cited a hazy code that what is said on the ice stays on the ice. He refuses to apologize.
(Alas, we missed his words with both of these Montreal players, our attention diverted momentarily by some significant weeping and cursing at the heavens that took place among assorted Bruins fans in the TD Garden stands. We can only report what we see. Or imagine.)
“Love that Celine Dion,” Lucic says to Carey Price, the Canadiens goaltender. “Love that Cirque du Soleil.”
“Love that Aerosmith,” Price says in return. “Love that . . . Freedom Trail.”
“Love you, my friend.”
All is well. Mr. Lucic is a prince among men. Just the way everyone apparently wanted him to be.