BOSTON — Lightning fans, according to The Bear, are geriatric front-runners who enjoy shuffleboard.
The sentiments — such as "Lightning fans, which Tampa player is your grandson?" — were on signs outside TD Garden and in the arena restrooms.
And though Bruins spokesman Matt Chmura said it is all in fun and "nobody should take it personally," the campaign, developed by the Bruins marketing department and starring The Bear, a cantankerous pseudo voice of the fans, struck some Lightning fans as less than sportsmanlike.
It created so much backlash — especially after Tampa Bay radio personality Cowhead (real name Mike Calta) of 102.5-FM urged listeners to call the Bruins marketing department in protest — the team on Wednesday removed the offending signs.
"In a swift and strong attack we showed the Bruins organization that not only do we exist, but we are ready to fight for our team," Calta e-mailed the St. Petersburg Times. "We moved in like Seal Team 6 and shut them down in a way that other teams they attacked have never been able to do."
"I don't know how you can't take it personally," said Chad Schnarr, co-founder of BoltProspects.com, a website dedicated to Tampa Bay's minor-league and junior players.
"When you take on the fans, you're going right to them. I don't think you can just laugh it off when it's directed at you. Some understand it's a joke, but …"
Chmura said you have to put the signs in the context of a hotly contested conference final. The Bruins have hung such signs during playoff series since 2009, he said.
For this season's East semifinal with the Flyers, they came up with: "Black and Gold runs through Boston's veins. In Philly, it's just cholesterol." For last season's matchup with the Flyers: "Never, ever date a Flyers fan, even if she shaves her mustache."
Perhaps it is all The Bear's fault. "The Bear is supposed to be a fun vision of how the Bruins fans think," Chmura said. "It's just a fun-loving character that tries to embody Bruins fans and their spirit."
But the slogans must be approved by the team's higher-ups. "Certainly," Chmura said, "these things are vetted through our organization."
Things such as "The Loch Ness Monster. Big Foot. Lightning fans" — which insinuate Tampa Bay fans are tough to spot.
"For the most part, everyone was kind of looking at the Bruins without any animosity toward them, but after that thing came out, it was definitely bulletin board material," Schnarr said. "If they wanted to draw some hatred from the Tampa Bay fan base they certainly succeeded."
As for the Lightning, spokesman Bill Wickett said, "We have no comment."
Maybe we should ask ThunderBug.