BOSTON, MA — As he stood below where his number 9 hangs in the rafters, the legendary Johhny Bucyk was holding different equipment than usual on the rink-level of TD Garden.
Bucyk, a pair of serving tongs in hand, helped dish out hundreds of pounds of Thanksgiving turkey. And although the former Bruin may be more familiar with gripping a hockey stick and dishing out pucks, for the Hockey Hall of Famer and the rest of the B's alumni and staff that participated in Tuesday’s event, the task was very important.
That's because, for the 17th consecutive year, the TD Garden put on its annual "Table of Friends" Thanksgiving-style meal for hundreds of guests from shelters throughout Boston.
"It’s really nice to feed all the people that are here, and to see the smiles on their faces," Bucyk said. "I get a kick out of how many remember me playing; I didn’t think they’d be old enough.
"It’s a good day," Buyck continued. "It’s nice of the Bruins to support this and do such an excellent job."
As hundreds filed on to the arena floor to be fed, there were many, many hockey faces to be seen.
Along with Bucyk were other Bruins alumni, including Rick Middleton, Bob Sweeney, Don Sweeney and Cam Neely.
Bruins staff members in attendance included Doug Houda, John Whitesides, Don DelNegro and Matt Falconer, and, according to the Black & Gold in attendance, the day fit right in with hockey and Boston Bruins culture.
"We’re just so fortunate to be able to work for the Bruins, and it’s such an honor to be able to give back to the people that need a little bit more, especially around the holidays," said Whitesides, the team’s strength and conditioning coach. "It is a hockey thing. It’s a hockey thing right to the culture.
"We all like to work hard and give back."
There was plenty to give, as food was continuously bussed out to the servers during the two-hour meal. Many patrons walked in with wide smiles as they were met by not only a traditional holiday feast, but three lines stacked with eager servers.
"It honestly shouldn’t take a holiday to look forward to helping people out, but in a time like this, if people need a little bit of help, you should step forward, and we’re all eager to do that," said Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney. "It’s been 17 years this has been going on, and it’s an important part of what the Bruins do."
Falconer, an assistant equipment manager with the team, stood within a stones throw of the locker room he’s frequented, and behind a tray of meatballs.
"I’ve been working around this locker room for 10 years now," he said. "[Giving back] is a huge part. It’s great to be out here today, and everybody deserves to have a great Thanksgiving.
“It’s fun to be here, and I’m glad we can give back."
It was clear that for all those volunteers in attendance, the day carried great importance. Bob Sweeney, the Boston Bruins Foundation Executive Director, who brings his vibrant personality to many community events, was as animated as ever as he stood ready with his spatula.
"This is one of the best events that you look forward to every year, the start of the Thanskgiving season," he said. "To help out, I think today we’ll probably feed over 800 people, on behalf of Garden Neighborhood Charities, the Garden, the Bruins, it’s a great event that I think everyone looks forward to participating in.
"It’s an unfortunate thing that we have to feed the homeless, but we’re happy to help out."