BOSTON -- When the defending Stanley Cup champions stepped onto the ice at TD Garden for their first practice of 2011-12 today, a crowd of close to 1,000 people greeted them with rowdy cheers.
Practices today and tomorrow are open and free to the public.
Although the group that took the ice at the stroke of 10 this morning was only half of Boston's training camp roster, no one was disappointed. By far the biggest cheers were for goaltender Tim Thomas, whose Vezina, Conn Smythe, Stanley Cup wins of a season ago have put him in a position to achieve that type of reaction pretty much anywhere he goes in New England.
Among those in the first group of skaters was Nathan Horton, who was on the ice in an official capacity for the first time since Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Horton is symptom-free after the concussion he suffered that night in June. After the team's physicals and conditioning tests Friday, head coach Claude Julien confirmed the star forward had the green light for full practices.
"As we speak right now, everything seems as though it's a go," Julien said. There's been no red flags yet, and we don't expect any."