EVERETT — It’s not quite the holiday season yet, but it certainly felt like it on Monday.
Every member of the Boston Bruins was on hand for the team’s annual Holiday Toy Shopping at Target in Everett, kicking off an annual event that each player looks forward to at the end of the year.
“We’re going to have a toy delivery closer to Christmas in December, so right now, we’re just kind of shopping,” said Patrice Bergeron, who spearheaded the event for the sixth consecutive year. “Kids sent us wish lists of things that they want — toys and games and whatnot — so we’re trying to fulfill those wish lists and make sure that we do it well.
“We’ll have the chance to actually go and meet the kids that actually ask us for those gifts, so it’s really special, and the guys are nice enough to all be here today.”
Next month, each member of the Bruins will be on hand to deliver the gifts to over 600 children at Boston-area hospitals who will be unable to spend the holidays at home. Ray Bourque started the event when he was a member of the Bruins, and it has been perpetuated ever since.
“I think giving back to the community is something that the Bruins have always preached,” Bergeron said. “I think as players, it’s always easy to do, and something that you have to do. Like I said, the guys have been nice enough to all participate. So it’s just great for younger guys to realize what it means to be a Bruin, but also for us just to have a chance to give back and have fun with it.”
Both Brett Connolly and Jimmy Hayes are participating in the annual event for the first time since being acquired by the Bruins earlier in the year.
“It’s been great being a part of the Bruins, and how involved they are in the community, especially the role they take with the younger kids in the city,” Hayes said. “Really, putting a smile on any little kid’s face is what it’s all about, so it’s been a lot of fun to be able to do that.”
Connolly, who was acquired by Boston at last year’s trade deadline, added, “We’re here for a good cause, and we’re always happy to do good things for the kids. It’s a great event, and we’re having some fun with it, and we’re going to try and get these kids some good toys.”
Connolly’s list included children in the 1-5 age range, and accordingly, he filled his shopping cart with dolls, bears and Legos. Hayes kept in mind the gifts he enjoyed receiving as a child and shopped accordingly.
“That’s why all my Nerf toys are coming in big time, here,” he said. “That’s what I keep leaning toward.
“I’ve got some nice Bruins gear for some teenage boys, sweatshirts for the girls, and I’ve got some Barbies, some dolls… Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head is always a big hit.”
Brad Marchand, who has looked forward to this event in each of the five years he has been able to participate, abided by a similar tactic.
“I always like to go for things that I like and I enjoy,” he said, “so Ninja Turtles are always a big hit in my cart, and a couple of my favorite movies.
“It’s a lot of fun. I think it’s something that we all enjoy doing each year; it just brings a lot of joy and makes a lot of kids happy, and we have a great time doing it.”
Hayes also made sure to include some toys that could help out the kids in school.
“My little niece at home — I know she loves the puzzles, so we’ve got the puzzles in there, too, so all those young kids are nice and smart,” he said.
All of the toys purchased on Monday will be stored and delivered free of charge by Gentle Giant Moving Company.
“It’s for a great cause,” Connolly said, “and we’re having a lot of fun with it today.”