Mark Your Bruins Calendar 2020 Update: Prague, Czech Republic

(Photo Credit: NHL)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

The Boston Bruins are going global. Again.

The NHL recently announced its 2020 Global Series and the B’s are international headliners for the third time in the last decade. The Black N’ Gold will open the ’20-’21 season on the road in Prague, Czech Republic facing off against the Nashville Predators at O2 Arena.

The B’s most recently opened abroad in 2018-’19 playing the Calgary Flames as part of the NHL China Games, an experience I wrote about for the Black N’ Gold Hockey Blog last Fall.

It was an experience highly regarded by both players and management, much the same way Bruins’ veterans Zdeno Chara and David Krejci remember opening the season in Prague for the first time back in 2010 for the NHL Premiere Series. Krejci shared his thoughts about this trip in a team press release touting its return to familiar territory:

“Opening the season in Prague and Northern Ireland back in 2010 was a very special experience to share with my family, friends and teammates,” said Krejci. “It was the start of a year I’ll always remember. Growing up in Czech, it was my dream to play in the NHL so to be able to play in more NHL games in Europe means a lot to me personally. I think it’s great the League continues to grow the game and bring hockey to different countries all over the world.”

Later in that same release, the B’s forward with the hottest release in the league right now (15G, 15A – 30PTS) shared what playing in Prague means to him since he wasn’t apart of the 2010 trip. Here’s what David Pastrnak had to say about the Global Series against the Preds:

“I was very excited to learn that the Boston Bruins would be heading back to my home country to play in the 2020 NHL Global Series in Prague,” said Pastrnak. “I remember driving to O2 Arena as a kid to go see the Bruins play the Coyotes back in 2010 for the NHL Premiere games. The passionate fans and atmosphere were something I’ll never forget – I can’t wait to feel that energy again from the ice in Prague and Mannheim.”

The presser also notes the Bruins and Predators will complete their training camps in Europe and will each play in an exhibition match as part of the Global Series Challenge. As Pastrnak mentioned, the B’s will report to Mannheim, Germany and play an exhibition game against Adler Mannheim at SAP Arena.

Image result for bruins prague(Photo Credit: Stanley Cup of Chowder)

As you can see from the near-decade old photo above, the B’s are no strangers to Prague. Current players on the Bruins roster who grew up in the Czech Republic include forwards David Krejci and David Pastrnak, as the B’s press release notes.

Krejci was born in Sternberk and played junior hockey for HC Kladno. He has represented his home country in international play on several occasions, including the Winter Olympic Games in 2010 and 2014, and was awarded the Golden Hockey Stick as the top hockey player from the Czech Republic in 2013. Pastrnak was born in Havirov and played junior hockey with AZ Havirov. He has represented the Czech Republic in international play on several occasions and has been awarded the Golden Hockey Stick as the top hockey player from the Czech Republic each of the last three years in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

For more information on the upcoming B’s season, stay tuned to the BN’G Hockey Podcast & Prospect’s Podcast!

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Boston Bruins: The Goal Is To Rebuild On The Fly

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By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

The Boston Bruins have been one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for over a decade. Notably, Boston won their sixth Stanley Cup in the 2010-2011 season followed by a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in both 2013 and 2019. During this stretch of success, the organization has seen the same core of players rule the competition.

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask were apart of each one of those successful seasons, but the remainder of the Bruins team has been altered, changed, and re-vamped with the emergence of the young players across the National Hockey League.

Today, the Bruins have star players that are staples in their lineup. David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen are all on the starting roster night in and night out, wearing the Spoked-B proudly. Don’t get them wrong, though. These young players are not here because the Bruins are at the bottom of the standings, in fact, it is quite evidently the opposite. The Boston Bruins are defending Eastern Conference Champions.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (WEEI.com)

In the National Hockey League, there are multiple ways that a franchise can build their team for success. The Free Agency period always has serviceable players that can bring some talent to a roster and bring them to a more-successful season. The idea of trading is there, but it is sometimes difficult to convince another team to trade their top players without sacrificing one of your top assets in return. You could also be the Vegas Golden Knights who became a Stanley Cup-contending team from the expansion draft – but that is out of the question for everyone but Seattle now.

Without a doubt in my mind, the best option for teams to build a roster that contends for the Stanley Cup falls on the NHL Entry Draft. The best of the best young players around the world in a seven-round draft where all 31 NHL teams can select the players they feel will make their team better. The issue with this method is the waiting period for most rookies.

Looking at the Bruins, players like Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, and Anders Bjork have been in the system for a couple years now – yet none of them are secured positions on the team due to their position already being filled by someone with either more experience or more success. In other drafts, the Bruins have had struggles with their selections, to the point where they fail to play a single regular season game with the franchise before being shipped off or let go when their contract expires.

In many cases around the league, the waiting period is not of concern for management. As long as one day, they can have a competitive roster once again, it’ll all be okay again. That idea is great and all – if you want to risk losing ticket sales, profits, and a fanbase in general. The Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, and others are prime examples of this fact alone.

Circling things back to Boston, the owners and fellow management personnel are not willing to sacrifice the years of money and profit that comes from a successful franchise to have a full-on “rebuild” when those veterans and core pieces begin to retire and move on from their hockey careers. Boston has shown over the past decade and continue to show into the 2019-2020 campaign that they are at the top of the NHL at performing a method of getting better on the fly commonly called – “retooling”.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Sportsnet.ca)

When retooling a franchise, there is one main factor that must stay consistent – competitiveness. Without the idea of competing for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one could argue that it is more of a rebuild. In order to complete this retooling, you must have a group of veterans to lead another group of young, upcoming players who are taking their opportunities and thriving. Looking at the 2011 Stanley Cup win over the Vancouver Canucks, not much has changed regarding the landscape of the roster.

In 2010-2011, the Bruins had an average age of 28.3 and had ten players above the age of 30, (Michael Ryder, Chris Kelly, Andrew Ference, Tomas Kaberle, Shawn Thornton, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Shane Hindy, Tim Thomas, and Mark Recchi). In 2019-2020, the Bruins have an average age of 28.9 and have eight players above the age of 30, (Brad Marchand, Steven Kampfer, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Jaroslav Halak, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, and Zdeno Chara).

In 2010-11, the Bruins had younger players producing on their roster such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, and so on. Today, those once-young players are now entering the later stages of their prime or have moved on from the franchise altogether in the event of trade or free-agency, but with the emergence of David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman, Danton Heinen, Connor Clifton, and so on, the youth is still vibrant as ever – keeping the cycle fresh.

It does not stop there, either. This season, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, the Providence Bruins, have one of their best rosters of the last few seasons. As of October 15th, the Baby Bruins have a record of 3-1-0 – tied for second in the AHL league standings. Forward Anders Bjork has been the top player so far for the P-Bruins, scoring three goals and two assists for five points in the opening four games, showcasing his skills that could be in the NHL sooner rather than later.

The lineup in Providence is filled with players that have caught the eye of management and fans alike, keeping people hopeful that the Boston Bruins can continue this success that they are seeing this season into future seasons for years to come – and they have every right to feel that way. In fact, they should. Only a few seasons ago, David Pastrnak was in Providence and on the fourth-line in Boston, now he is scoring four goals in a game and leading the team in goals.

Call it what you want – retooling, rebuilding on the fly, staying competitive – it’s all the same. The Boston Bruins are professionals at this by now. The idea puts pressure and expectations on young players, but with the guidance of the veterans that have been there before, it works. With a record of 5-1-0 to begin the 2019-2020 regular-season, the Bruins are proving that.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 149 that we recorded on 10-11-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Boston Bruins: A Stanley Cup “Runner Up” History

Image result for bruins blues handshake line(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

When you look up and see the half-dozen Stanley Cup banners hanging high above the TD Garden ice, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride, admiration and accomplishment for the Boston Bruins. “An Original Six got six,” as my late grandfather belovedly bellowed after watching Zdeno Chara celebrate like a champion in 2011.

Image result for td garden banners bruins(Photo Credit: TD Garden)

But, there are some other banners that, if you pay them close attention, aren’t really as celebratory, or dare I say champion, as they seem. That’s because they reflect all the times the B’s have fallen short of hockey’s ultimate quest.

Some are marked by the Prince of Wales Trophy designation (for winning the Eastern Conference)… others the old Adams Division… even a few for the woefully unreliable Presidents’ Trophy acknowledgement.

What they all share in common is a familiar heartbreak for hockey fans in the Hub. One that began in 1927 at the hands of the original Ottawa Senators and was most recently relived courtesy of the cutthroat St. Louis Blues this past June of 2019.

In the 92 years in between, there were twelve other occasions where the B’s — from Brown N’ Gold to Black N’ Gold (with some honey and/or yellow mustards thrown in for forgettable measure) — played runners-up to the Cup.

That’s a lackluster record of six and fourteen. Or, typed out in a style that’s hard to miss, 6 – 14. That’s right, only 6 Ws compared to 14 Ls, all when competing for Lord Stanley’s coveted silver chalice.

And for some oddly annoying and historically humdrum reason, they seam to happen in spurts of two, all within a few short years of each other (or in modern-day terminology — during the same winning window). “Two” wit:

BOSTON BRUINS – STANLEY CUP LOSER STREAKS:

1927 & 1930 / Ottawa & Montreal

1943 & 1946 / Detroit & Montreal

*1957 & 1958 / Montreal & Montreal

*1977 & 1978 / Montreal & Montreal

1988 & 1990 / Edmonton & Edmonton

2013 & 2019 / Chicago & St. Louis

*Also lost in 1953 (Montreal) and 1974 (Philadelphia)

As you can see from above, even the outlier losing years were awfully close to the runners-up sequencing. Even hockey insiders like “Joey Mac” from The Athletic Boston have a hard time not noticing these unfortunate oh-so-close-to-glory trends.

Speaking of things not to glorify (a certain similar-sounding serendipitous song from St. Louis being one of them), McDonald’s article also points out the uphill battle the B’s now face in order to bounce back from a Stanley Cup-losing season.

As he mentions, no team in the modern-day NHL — a term we all keep going back to for six original reasons — has ever won the year after they’ve lost in a Game 7 final. Not even powerhouse teams of their respective eras like the Blackhawks, Devils & Red Wings.

Call it a hangover… call it depression… call it flat out not being as good (or as lucky) the following season, but history sure doesn’t seem to line up on the side of the B’s lineup in 2019-2020. But, maybe that’s exactly what the doctor ordered for Boston.

Maybe that’s exactly the kind of motivation this very talented team needs to get over the Cup hump one more time in the Chara/Bergeron Era. I know the aforementioned Mr. McDonald thinks so, and he isn’t even old and on the farm yet.

And considering the Bruins have one of the best farm systems in all of hockey, to steal a term made popular by their crosstown cohorts the Boston Red Sox, there’s a lot to be excited about both now and for future Cup runs in Boston.

Yet, if the Bruins really want their “Cup to runneth over”, especially during an upcoming season filled with plenty of historical harbingers and unsatisfactory stats as outlined above, then what they’ll need more than ever is the ability to forget — something history has made hard to do.

Thankfully (and regrettably at the same time) it’s history everyone wearing the spoked-B, or any “B” for that matter since 1927, has grown accustomed to — from Eddie Shore to Bobby Orr. From Cameron Neely to Donny Sweeney. From Uncle Milt to Tuukka’s guilt. The B’s know losing, especially in heartbreaking ways, whether we want to admit it or not.

So, how’s this for a banner statement: maybe NOT looking up to the TD Garden rafters this year will be what’s best for the B’s. Then, they can truly “look forward” to what every runner-up has ever wanted: an immediate next shot at the Cup!

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 147 that we recorded on 9-30-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

 

Jeremy Jacobs Transfers Ownership Of Bruins To His Children

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(Photo: NHL.com)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Longtime owner of the Bruins Jeremy Jacobs has informed Kevin Paul Dupont(@GlobeKPD) of the Boston Globe that he is giving control of the organization to his children. Jacobs, who will turn 80 years old in January, informed the Globe that all six of his children Jerry Jr., Lou, Charlie, Lisann, Lynn, and Katie, will officially step in.

Charlie, the youngest of the six children, has been involved with the Bruins and Delaware North since 2000, and was named CEO of Delaware North’s Boston holdings (the Bruins, TD Garden, NESN, and the Boston Bruins Foundation) in 2015. He has served as the Bruins’ Alternate Governor to the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors since 2000.

Jacobs told the Globe that he had been planning this passing of the torch for a while before finally putting it into motion this year under the expectation that the team will continue to be owned and operated under the Jacobs name.

“I have given it to my kids,” Jacobs told Dupont. “They are paying me some of the proceeds that come out of this. It happened this year. This was done on the basis that the longevity is going to continue in the hands of the Jacobs children and the next generation will have it.”

Jacobs, chairman of Delaware North and owner of the Bruins for 44 years, purchased the team for a mere $10 million (by today’s standards) in 1975. Since, under his control, the Bruins brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston in 2011, and made six other trips to the Stanley Cup Final (1977, 1978, 1988, 1990, 2013, and 2019). The billionaire was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017 under the builder category.

 

Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask Cracks NHL Network’s Top 10 Goalies List

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( Photo Credit: USA Today )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

Every summer, the NHL Network narrows down the best players from throughout the league at each position. As part of the series, producers, hosts, and analysts prepared a top-10 list of the current best goaltenders in the National Hockey League and revealed it Sunday night. Tuukka Rask made the top ten list again and made a significant move up from his position last year. 

Last year, Rask was named to the top-10 goalies list at number-eight while this year the Bruins netminder cracked the list and came in at number five. Rask was one ahead of Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at number six and one behind rival Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price who came in at number four. Jordan Binnington who out-dueled Tuukka Rask in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals made the list at number eight. Rask posted a 27-13-5 record in 46 games played in the 2018-2019 campaign with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage along with four shutouts.

The Bruins had a strong goaltending tandem this season and Bruce Cassidy wanted a rather equal workload for both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak as he felt they could use a more rested Rask for the playoffs and boy did that pay off for the Black ’N Gold. Tuukka Rask had one of the best goaltending performances in the playoffs this season and was one of the biggest reasons why the Bruins were able to make it to game seven of the Cup Finals. In the 2019 playoffs, Rask recorded a 15-9 record with a 2.02 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. 

Throughout the whole playoffs, Rask was strong for the Bruins but there were a few performances in particular in which Rask absolutely stole the show. In the opening-round series against Toronto, the teams met again at TD Garden for a deciding game seven. Rask turned away 32 Toronto shots en route to a 5-1 victory and another second-round appearance for the B’s. In round two against the Columbus Blue Jackets, two of the best goaltenders went head to head as Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky battled all series long. In game six in Columbus, Rask had one of his best games of the playoffs as he shut the door on the Blue Jackets’ season with a 39-save shut out to blank the Blue Jackets and propel the Bruins into the Conference Finals. In another series-clinching game in the Conference Finals against the Hurricanes, Rask again stood tall with a 24-save shut out for the B’s and sent them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Rask also became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history after a Super Bowl Sunday shutout over the Washington Capitals. This was Rask’s 253rd win with the Bruins and passed Tiny Thompson who played for the Bruins from 1928-1939 and racked up a 252-153-63 record.

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Other notables who made the list are division rivals down in Florida with Sergei Bobrovsky of the Panthers coming in at number two and Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay who came in as the best goaltender right now.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel!  We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel! 

Former Bruin Bill Guerin Hired As General Manager in Minnesota

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PHOTO CREDITS: (ANDREW WALLACE / REUTERS)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

Yesterday, August 21st, news circled the hockey universe that four-time Stanley Cup Champion, Bill Guerin was officially hired by the Minnesota Wild to be the team’s fourth General Manager in franchise history.

The Wild missed the playoffs for the first time after six consecutive playoff appearances and finished dead-last in the NHL’s Central Division standings. The poor conclusion to the 2018-19 season led to the firing of General Manager Paul Fenton, who had been the team’s GM since May 21st, 2018. From July 30th to August 21st, the Wild were in the hunt for a new General Manager, they now have one.

Coming into the role is Bill Guerin, a two-time Stanley Cup Champion as a player and a two-time Stanley Cup Champion as apart of the Pittsburgh Penguins management team that won back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017. Not known extensively for his management roles to date, Guerin will sound familiar to most fans due to his 18-year NHL career that began in the 1991-92 season.

Over the course of his career, Guerin played for eight different NHL clubs, spending the majority of the time with the New Jersey Devils, the team that drafted him fifth overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. The 48-year-old has connections to not only the Boston Bruins but the state of Massachusetts as well. In fact, it was in Worchester, Massachusetts where Guerin was born and was raised in Wilbraham, Massachusetts – roughly 80 miles west of Boston.

After spending eight years in New Jersey, the same place where he won the first of four Stanley Cups (1995), Guerin was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in January of 1998. Guerin played 211 regular-season games with the Oilers before once again being shipped out, this time going to Boston.

Bill Guerin’s time in Boston was short-lived, playing in only 142 games for the Bruins, putting up 69-60-129 totals in that span including a 41-goal season in 2001-2002. Guerin’s successful personal season that year also helped the Bruins too as the team made the postseason after missing out in each of the previous two seasons. However, the B’s lost in six games to the rival Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, but Guerin did his part, scoring four goals and two assists for six points in as many games.

On July 3rd, 2002, Guerin left Boston to sign a five-year, $31,209,886 contract with the Dallas Stars. Following his time with the Stars, Guerin played with the St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, and New York Islanders before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in March of 2009. As many may know, the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Detroit Red Wings that year, securing Guerin’s second Cup.

On December 6th, 2010, Bill Guerin officially announced his retirement from the National Hockey League, ending his career with 1263 career NHL games under his belt. Guerin finished his playing career with 429-427-856 numbers. In addition to his NHL career, Guerin was a three-time Olympian for the United States ice hockey team, winning the silver medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Guerin was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

Now, Bill Guerin turns to a new chapter in his hockey career, becoming a General Manager for the first time. Not wasting any time with his new role in Minnesota, Guerin signed RFA forward Joel Eriksson-Ek to a two-year contract worth an average of $1,487,500 per season. With his knowledge of winning as not only a player but as an assistant GM in Pittsburgh, he will bring value to the front office for the Minnesota Wild. All in all, having roots in Boston.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 141 that we recorded on 8-18-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel! 

Bruins O’Ree Being Lobbied For Medal

(Photo Credits: The Great Black Heroes)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to those that “have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.” Only eight athletes have ever received that honor, and this year if the NHL has its way, former Bruins player Willie O’Ree will be bestowed the award. It’s been reported that several NHL execs flew into Washington to help garner support in getting O’Ree the consideration.

NHL lobbies for Willie O'Ree to get Congressional Gold Medal(Photo Credits: Getty Images)

Along with the NHL, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) has been lobbying for O’Ree to be considered for the Medal. Scott introduced the legislation to get the former NHLer the recognition. The Senator met with O’Ree recently on Capital Hill and spoke very highly of the “Jackie Robinson of Ice Hockey”:

You were the grandson of slaves from South Carolina…I would like to put the icing on the cake from my perspective that this country continues to evolve in the right direction.

That in a time and date when there’s so much incivility, so much division and polarization, the one thing you represent today is what you represented in 1958, is that in this country, all things are possible…Thank you for being a trailblazer in a sport that I would imagine, even today people are unaware of the significant role that you played in opening the door.”

The high honor comes on the heels  after O’Ree was inducted into the NHL Hall Of Fame for breaking the color barrier in 1958 when he suited up for the Boston Bruins. As chronicled earlier this year, O’Ree has been a prominent figure in the Ice Hockey Community  where he has worked hard to bring the sport to minority and undeserved children. In 1996, O’Ree became the NHL’s first-ever Diversity Ambassador and helped develop the Hockey is for Everyone youth organization.

O’Ree was playing with the Quebec Senior Hockey League with the Quebec Aces when he was called by the Bruins to replace an injured player. Little did he realize that he would be crossing the color-lines when he played the against the Montreal Canadiens on January 18th, 1958.  

“To me, I didn’t know I was breaking the color barrier until the next morning when I read it in the paper.”

(Photo Credits: Postmedia Network)

And to add more to this significant moment, O’Ree lost 95 percent of his vision in his right eye due being hit in eye by a puck and had the Boston Bruins known this, there might have been a chance he never would’ve gotten the call:

“I didn’t let that stop me. Back then, they didn’t have physicals like the ones given today. I could still see out of my left eye. I wanted to play and I did what I had to do to compensate for the injury…Being a left-handed shot and playing left wing to compensate, I had to turn my head all the way around to the right and look over my right shoulder to pick the puck up.”

O’Ree has received many awards in his time including being inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, the recipient of the Lester Patrick Award (given annually for hockey service in the Unites States)  and was honored in 2008 with the naming of the Willie O’Ree Place at the Fredericton Arena in New Brunswick.

Little did he know the impact he would have for future black players in the NHL and the path he laid down.  In a touching tribute,  former Flyers now Devils player Wayne Simmonds wrote of the impact O’Ree had on him as a child and credits him with achieving his dreams of playing in the NHL:

“…none of it ever would’ve happened without Mr O’Ree opening the door-not just for me, but for every black hockey player with a dream…For every single kid who was ever told to ‘stick to basketball’, Willie was like the first man on the moon.”

And despite enduring the racial insults, threats and fights, O’Ree kept going:

“I’m not going to leave the league because there’s somebody there that feels that he wants to agitate me and get me out of the game”

(Photo Credits: Stephen MacGillivray / The Canadian Press)

The young 83-year-old NHL legend has a good chance at winning one of the highest honors given to a civilian and O’Ree could be none the happier:

“It would rank right at the top, the highest award probably that I’ve ever get as far as my lifetime. I’m thrilled and if it happens, I’d be very honored to come back and receive this award.”

Bruins Captain Chara A Testament To Longevity

Boston Bruins v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Four

(Photo credit: NHLI via Getty Images)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

With the recent announcement that Pittsburgh Penguin Matt Cullen has retired, 42-year-old Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara became the oldest active player in the National Hockey League. Chara will be 43 by the time his one-year contract is up following the 2019-2020 season, but Bruins fans know Chara is far from the typical middle-aged man. A lot has changed, in the world and in professional hockey, during his lifetime.

When Chara was born on March 18, 1977, the Berlin Wall was still standing. In fact, what we know as Germany today was still divided into two separate countries, East Germany and West Germany. His place of birth is listed as Trenčín, Czechoslovakia. Chara’s native country was not split into Slovakia, the country he now calls home, and the Czech Republic until just a few months before his 16th birthday.

His background alone has earned Chara, who is also the tallest player in the NHL at 6’9″, a place in the National Hockey League record books. According to Wikipedia, he was just the second European captain to win the Stanley Cup, achieving that honor when the Bruins won it all in 2011, and the first Cup champion to be born in and hone his hockey skills in a country within the Iron Curtain.

Off the ice, Zdeno Chara is well-educated and has a wide array of interests. He speaks seven languages, including his native Slovak, has earned a financial planning diploma, is licensed to sell real estate in Massachusetts and attended a course offered by Harvard Business School in 2018 entitled “The Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports.”

Chara’s motivational and insightful Instagram posts have made him a social media favorite among fans. During the hockey season especially, Chara gives followers a glimpse into his family life and his training regiment and frequently tells stories of his experiences and lessons learned.

The captain’s intense training sessions and plant-based diet, similar to the one followed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, are certainly two keys to his impressive longevity. Players of Chara’s size are becoming more and more rare as the NHL tide has turned toward smaller, faster, more-skilled players and away from the proverbial “goon” and power forward-types that were in ample supply earlier in his NHL career.

Of course, Chara recognizes that playing the game of hockey for as long as he has at the top professional level is not an easy feat. He acknowledged that fact with a rather tongue-in-cheek Instagram post soon after the news broke that he was now the oldest active player.

According to his player bio on bostonbruins.com, Chara was drafted by the New York Islanders with the 56th overall pick in the third round of the 1996 NHL Draft. He was later traded to the Ottawa Senators. He was signed as a free agent by the Bruins in 2006 and has served as the team’s captain ever since. Before breaking into the NHL, Chara played North American hockey with Prince George’s Western Hockey League team and with an Islanders American Hockey League affiliate in Kentucky.

Chara was awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2009. He has set plus/minus and hardest shot records along the way in his storied career and was named a first-team all star three times.

Even with all of the accolades, records and firsts Chara has racked up, he will likely always be best-remembered by Bruins teammates, coaches and fans for his leadership. This quality was on display throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fans will long remember Chara changing into his full uniform after missing the clinching game four of the Eastern Conference Finals with an injury to come out to participate in the handshake line and celebrate the Cup Finals berth with his teammates.

As special a show of leadership and sportsmanship that gesture was, it was outdone when Chara came to sit on the bench, reportedly against the advice of the team’s medical staff, after suffering a broken jaw during the fourth game of the Stanley Cup Finals. He later said he came out with no intention of playing, but as a show of support for his teammates. Incredibly, Chara did not miss a start in the series, wired jaw and all.

Chara is likely coming into one of, if not his final, season as a player in the National Hockey League. When he does hang up his skates for the final time, he will be closing the book on an amazing career that may well result in his number 33 being hoisted to the rafters.

The 2011 Boston Bruins: Where Are They Now?

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Photo: (Jeff Vinnick / NHL Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

No one will ever forget what the 2010-11 Boston Bruins did for the City of Boston, bringing the Stanley Cup back home for the first time in 39 years and keeping the city’s storied legacy alive. While roster turnover is certainly not unexpected, it is still amazing to see just how much the composition of the Bruins has changed in the eight years since June 15, 2011.

Currently, only six Bruins were on the roster in 2011: Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Steven Kampfer (who was technically a “Black Ace” during the Cup run). So, what ever happened to the others, the guys who have since left one way or another?

Tyler Seguin

Getting this one out of the way early; you all know the story. Seguin went on to play two more seasons for the Bruins after winning Lord Stanley as a rookie. However, after some growing pains and a disappointing 2013 season, he was traded to the Dallas Stars along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow, and Matt Fraser. Now 27 years-old, Seguin is still one of the key cogs for Dallas as the Stars’ top center.

Rich Peverley

One of the more important players for the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Peverley was shipped out with Seguin in the aforementioned deal above. The now 36-year-old would only play 62 games for the Stars before a scary incident on the bench in which he collapsed due to an irregular heartbeat during a game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets ended his season. The cardiac issue forced Peverley to hang up the skates, but he is still involved with the Stars as a player development coordinator.

Mark Recchi

Recchi went out on top with three Cups to his name between Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Boston as his final professional game came in that Game Seven in Vancouver. Now 51, Recchi spent a year with the Stars as a consultant in 2013, before returning to the Penguins as a player development coach; he was later named director of player development. He is now an assistant coach to Mike Sullivan. Recchi also co-owns the Kamloops Blazers along with Jarome Iginla, Darryl Sidor, Shane Doan, and Stars owner Tom Galgardi.

Chris Kelly

A foot soldier for the Bruins, Kelly played five more seasons before both sides parted ways after he broke his femur. He signed with his former team, the Ottawa Senators and played one season for the club. After his second stint with the Sens, Kelly signed a professional tryout with the Edmonton Oilers, was not offered a deal, and joined the Belleville Senators, Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, on a PTO. Kelly represented Team Canada at the 2017 Spengler Cup, which they won, and rejoined Belleville before representing Canada as captain at the 2018 Winter Olympics. After the Olympics, the 38-year-old signed with the Anaheim Ducks for the remainder of the season. Now, he is with the Sens once again as a development coach.

Nathan Horton

One of the 2011 Cup run’s heroes, Horton opted to sign with Columbus after the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. Out until January of 2014 due to shoulder surgery, Horton only suited up in 36 games for the Blue Jackets before he was diagnosed with a degenerative back condition in the lumbar region in October 2014 that ended his season and his career, unofficially. On long-term injured reserve, he was traded to the Maple Leafs due to financial considerations for David Clarkson in 2015. The 33-year-old has yet to play a game for the Leafs and is not expected to play one, although he has taken his physical with the team before each season, failing it each time.

Milan Lucic

“Looch” was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in June of 2015 for Colin Miller, Martin Jones, and the 13th-overall pick (Jakob Zboril). In one season with LA, Lucic scored 20 goals and 55 points, which earned him a seven-year, $42-million deal with the Oilers in the summer of 2016.

Michael Ryder

The winger signed with Dallas in the summer of 2011 after his three-year stint with the Bruins ended with winning the Stanley Cup. During his second year in Dallas in 2013, Ryder was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, where he began his career. After his second run in Montreal, the now 39-year-old signed a two-year deal with the New Jersey Devils, where he finished his career.

Dennis Seidenberg

Seidenberg was bought out by the Bruins at the end of the 2016 campaign after age and tearing both his ACL and MCL in 2013 showed their effects. Now 37 years-old, the German signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders for the 2016-17 season, and signed another one-year deal for the 2017-18 run. A free agent for most of the 2018-19 season, Seidenberg signed with the Isles in February for the remainder of the 2019 season, but didn’t suit up in a game.

Tomas Kaberle

After arriving to Boston via trade at the deadline in 2011, Kaberle signed for three years with the Hurricanes in the 2011 offseason. In December of 2011, Kaberle was traded to the Habs. In 2013, the Czech native only appeared in 10 games for the Habs and was released via compliance buyout in the off-season. Kaberle signed with his hometown club, HC Kladano–he played there during the 2013 lockout–in September 2013. He was invited to training camp with the Devils in September 2014, but was released before a cup of tea with the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL; he returned to HC Kladano that season as well. In 2016, Kaberle officially retired.

Andrew Ference

In July 2013, Ference signed with the Oilers, his hometown team, and was named the franchise’s 14th captain. Six games into the 2015-16 campaign, Ference was placed on injured reserve after season-ending hip surgery. In 2016, he announced his retirement before officially retiring in the 2017 offseason once his contract ran out. In 2018, the NHL named Ference its first director of social impact, growth, and fan development; he focuses on grass-roots growth, community development efforts, engaging minority fans and players, and facilitating relations between players and the league.

Johnny Boychuk

Boychuk remained with the Bruins until September 2014 when he became one of the first cap casualties of the Peter Chiarelli era as he was dealt to the New York Islanders for two second-round draft picks–one in 2015 (Brandon Carlo) and the other in 2016 (Ryan Lindgren). The 35-year-old signed a seven-year extension with the Isles in March 2015.

Daniel Paille

After he and the Bruins parted ways in the 2015 offseason, Paille was invited to training camp with the Chicago Blackhawks before joining their AHL-affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs on a PTO. One-third of Boston’s storied “Merlot Line,” Paille signed with the New York Rangers in the 2015-16 season and finished that year bouncing between the Blueshirts and AHL Hartford. Before retiring in 2017, Paille spent one season with Brynas IF of the Swedish Hockey League.

Gregory Campbell

Another third of the “Merlot Line,” Campbell signed with Columbus as a free agent in 2015 after five seasons with the Bruins. “Soupy” was placed on unconditional waivers by the Blue Jackets in December 2016, but was unwilling to play in the organizations minor league system. He officially retired in July 2017.

Adam McQuaid

After nine seasons with the Bruins, McQuaid was traded to the Rangers in September 2018 for Steven Kampfer, a 2019 fourth-rounder, and a conditional seventh-round pick. After 36 games with the Rangers, McQuaid was traded to the Blue Jackets at the deadline as a rental to bolster their depth for the playoffs; he’ll be a free agent this summer.

Shawn Thornton

After the 2013-14 season, the Bruins did not re-sign Thornton, who signed with the Florida Panthers for two years. After his contract ran out in 2016, the third member of the “Merlot Line” signed for one more year. Thornton retired at the end of the 2017 season and joined the Panthers’ front office in a business-related position.

Tim Thomas

A member of Boston hockey lore, Thomas’ 2011 run was one for the ages. After the Bruins were eliminated in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, Thomas announced that he would be taking a break from hockey, sitting out the 2013 season. In February 2013, Thomas was traded to the Islanders for a conditional second-rounder after the Bruins suspended him for not reporting to training camp; he sat out the remainder of his contract. In September 2014, the Panthers invited Thomas to training camp and he signed a one-year deal with the club; he was later traded dealt to Dallas where he finished his career.

“Sheriff” Shane Hnidy

Although his name does not appear on Lord Stanley, Hnidy received a ring and a day with the Cup. His three games in the 2011 campaign were his last in the NHL. Now, he is the color commentator on the Vegas Golden Knights television broadcasts alongside former radio play-by-play man for the Bruins, Dave Goucher.

Three Hometown Heroes Looking To Etch Permanent Place In Bruins History

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins

Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

By Carrie Salls | Look for me on Twitter @nittgrl73

If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year, Matt Grzelcyk, Chris Wagner and Charlie Coyle will be the first Massachusetts-born Bruins to have their names inscribed on the coveted hardware since Myles Lane did so in 1929.

Regardless of the outcome of this year’s Cup quest, the three current hometown heroes appear to have already cemented their spots in Boston sports lore. Charlestown, Mass.-native Grzelcyk has been a Bruin the longest of the three, having been drafted by Boston. Wagner, dubbed by teammates as “the Mayor of Walpole,” was signed by the Bruins as a free agent in the summer of 2018, and E. Weymouth’s Coyle was acquired just before the trade deadline in February in a deal that sent Bruins prospect, and another Boston native, Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild.

During the regular season, Wagner thrilled fans with his hard-nosed, tough play on a fourth-line that has come up big for the Bs time and again throughout the 2018-2019 campaign. He was rewarded for his efforts when the fans voted him as the recipient of the 7th Player Award at the end of the season.

Wagner was forced to leave game-three of the Eastern Conference Finals after suffering an apparent arm injury on a pivotal shot-block. He has yet to appear in a Cup finals game. His spot has been occupied by Noel Acciari, a native of Johnston, R.I.

During Wednesday’s game, Grzelcyk was hit from behind when retrieving a puck, sending his head into the boards, and he had to be helped off the ice by teammates. Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Thursday that Grzelcyk has been placed in concussion protocol and is officially listed as day-to-day.

Grzelcyk has been lauded by fans and the coaching staff for his toughness and strong performance throughout the playoff run. His best game was highlighted by two goals scored in a Mother’s Day matinee during the ECF.

Coyle has made his presence known on the ice since the playoffs began, as well. His primary contribution has come with healthy points production throughout the post-season.

Although more National Hockey League players still hale from Canada than any other country on the planet, statistics provided by quanthockey.com show that America is closing the nationality gap long-dominated by its neighbor to the north. A total of 435 active players on NHL rosters are Canadian, according to those statistics, followed by 286 Americans.

The Boston Bruins’ current roster is no exception to that trend, as 14 active players are Americans. In fact, only four members of the current Bruins squad are Canadian-born.

In addition, five members of the so-called “Black Aces,” a small group of prospects and players who spent the majority of the season playing for the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence and have been practicing with the NHL club during the deep playoff run, also were born in the United States. Among the Black Aces, Paul Carey, Trent Frederic, Lee Stempniak, Kyle Keyser, and Zane McIntyre were born in the United States.

In addition to Grzelcyk, Wagner, Coyle, and Acciari, U.S.-born Bruins who have appeared in 2019 playoff games include David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, Sean Kuraly, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore. Injured defenseman Kevan Miller, who played college hockey at the University of Vermont, is also American.

Miller and Acciari are not the only current Bruins to have played college hockey in New England. Coyle, Grzelcyk, and McAvoy all attended Boston University. Bruins assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo, and Joe Sacco also played at BU.