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Stranded Bruins give four Ontario hockey fans the trip of a lifetime

Hockey fans, from left, Scott Leinster, Lauren Grenier, Darren Boast and Alex Rigas on their way to Game 7 in Boston on Monday.

Four employees of a Mississauga restaurant that opened its doors to the Boston Bruins following their Sunday night playoff loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs received the tip of their lifetime.

After agreeing to stay open late to accommodate the hungry National Hockey League club the Bruins arranged to give four tickets to staff members for Monday night's Game 7 showdown against the Leafs in Boston at TD Garden.

"Oh my God it's unreal," Lauren Grenier, 28, said earlier today during a telephone conversation from the car she and three colleagues were travelling in, heading toward Boston. "I still can't believe it.

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"And the fact that most of us in the restaurant were Leafs fans, and they still gave us the tickets, is even more amazing."

The story began to unfold late in Sunday's game, a 2-1 Toronto victory at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto that evened the opening-round playoff series at three games apiece, when the Bruins learned that a malfunction with their charter airplane would require that the team remain in Toronto overnight.

After learning that their flight had been cancelled, the Bruins managed to book accommodations at the Westin Bristol Place Hotel near Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

As the team was leaving the ACC, they were looking for a restaurant to serve the players and staff a late-night meal. A call was placed to the Canyon Creek Chophouse near the airport shortly before 11 p.m.

"I had literally closed the till for my bartender and we were closing in five minutes and I get this phone call," Grenier, the restaurant's service manager, said. "And they're like, hey, there's about 50 of us coming down to your restaurant, it's the Boston Bruins. And I'm like, sure it is. I didn't believe them because we're always playing pranks on each other here at work late at night."

Cagily, Grenier said if they arrived within the next 10 minutes or so the restaurant would try to accommodate them.

"I was just going with it," she said, still not believing she was speaking with the Bruins.

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Ten minutes later a big bus pulled into the parking lot and the Bruins started filing through the doors.

"And then it was just chaos," Grenier said. "We just started hammering out the food for them. It was just so awkward. We had all the music off, but we had the TV on, I think with the Detroit game. And they were all sitting there and it was so quiet because they had lost.

"But they ate so much food – steaks, chicken, pasta and salad. Some of them were a little picky and wanted personal things off the menus. We tried to do whatever we could for them."

The restaurant was not properly staffed to accommodate a party that numbered close to 50 late on a Sunday night. A call went out to a nearby Jack Astor's, which is owned by the same company, to provide additional servers and cooks.

"They were super accommodating for us," said Bruins forward Chris Kelly on Monday. "I'm sure they got called last-minute and 30 or 40 big men come in with big appetites and asked to be served. That was awesome of them to go out of their way. I'm sure they were, if not closed, pretty close to closing. I'm sure the staff, the last thing they want to see is 30 guys coming in five minutes before they were supposed to go home.

"That was really nice of them."

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Close to 1 a.m., when things were winding down – about the time the Leafs were landing in Boston - Grenier said she happened to mention off-hand to one of the Bruins executives who was travelling with the team – she wasn't sure who – how great it would be to be able to attend Game 7.

"Somebody in the party said, well how many tickets do you want?"

Grenier said four and, at 4:30 this morning she and Canyon Creek general manager Alex Rigas, server Darren Boast and bartender Scott Leinster crammed themselves into a car to begin the roughly 10-hour journey to Boston.

"Three of us will be wearing Leafs jerseys," Grenier said. "Darren is a Boston fan."

Around 1 a.m., properly fed, the Bruins got back in their bus and returned to their hotel.

"The Canyon Creek staff did an amazing job with almost no notice, and made our team a great meal," Matthew Chmura, vice-president of communications and content with the Boston Bruins, said in an e-mail.

The Bruins were scheduled to depart Toronto at 9 a.m. Monday to make the 75-minute flight. In about eight hours they would be on the ice, playing for their hockey lives.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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