This year’s #BearTracks crew traversed five different cities in Ontario and Quebec: We started in Toronto, traveled to Hamilton, then to Barrie, then we crossed Ontario to Ottawa, ending in Montreal.
This year’s trip was particularly interesting because every player we visited has played fewer than one full season with the Bruins; two of them, in fact, have never even stepped on the ice in the Spoked-B.
This year’s #BearTracks gave fans a glimpse into players' lives off the ice and into their personalities, and now, when those players arrive for training camp, we all know exactly what they’re all about — and how excited they are to get started with the B’s.
Of course, three of the B's we checked in with are players Bruins fans are already at least somewhat familiar with. Two of them came over at last season’s trade deadline, and one of them has long been one of Boston’s most exciting and most popular prospects.
This year’s trip began in Toronto with a visit to winger Brett Connolly, who became a Bruin in the very early hours of the 2015 trade deadline. Connolly started off by giving us a tour of his crib in downtown Toronto, then took us on a tour of the scenic Bloor Street. The Campbell River, B.C., native told us why he has made Toronto his offseason home for the last four summers, and he proudly rocked a Red Sox hat — even in Blue Jays territory — while he did it.
Connolly only played a few games with Boston last season because of a fractured right index finger he sustained during his second practice with Boston, and he said that he is looking forward to starting over in 2015-16 with a clean slate.
“It’s a fresh start for me,” he said. “It’s a different organization, different coaches, different teammates, so it’s a big year. It’s a big year for the team, a big year for myself, so I’m excited to prove to a lot of people that I belong up in the lineup, and just want to do anything I can to help the team win.
“It’s obviously a big year for us going forward, here.”
The next stop of the trip brought us to a rink in Hamilton, ON., where we found new acquisition Zac Rinaldo training hard for his first season with the Bruins.
Rinaldo spent the entirety of his NHL career with Philadelphia and was acquired by Boston on June 29. Since then, his excitement about wearing the Spoked-B has only grown.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I’m not nervous; everyone’s asking if I’m nervous or if I’m worried about what people are going to think and stuff like that, but I’m not worried. I’m not nervous at all. I’m excited, more than anything.”
Throughout the trip, each player had the opportunity to ask questions to the teammate next up along the #BearTracks trail, and that gave Rinaldo the chance to pose a few questions to new teammate Matt Beleskey, who was waiting for the BostonBruins.com crew in Barrie, ON.
Rinaldo certainly had fun with that task.
Over the course of two days in Barrie, we got to know Beleskey, who signed with Boston the day free agency opened in July. The Bruins staff is excited to witness the physicality and intensity he can bring on the ice.
Off the ice, though, Beleskey insisted he’s just a normal guy who spends his summer fishing, golfing and, of course, training.
“In the summer, obviously, I like to take in a few rounds of golf, try and play and work on my golf game,” he said. “I like to fish, too — fish and golf — and pretty much, that’s it. Just hanging out with the family.”
And though he enjoys the time off during the offseason, right about now, he is itching to get back on the ice.
“I could end the summer right now and start camp tomorrow,” he said. “I’m ready to go. This is always the hardest part of the summer, when you’ve been training and you’re kind of sick of that. I just want to get out there and start playing.”
Beleskey also took us with him to Concept Movement, where he trains with physiotherapist Tom Swales all summer.
And of course, Beleskey introduced us to one of the newest (and one of the most popular) members of the Bruins family: Karl.
From Barrie, we took off for Ottawa, the home of fan favorite Ryan Spooner. Last year was a breakout year of sorts for Spooner, who made his mark during his second recall of the season. After joining the B’s for the last game of a five-game road swing in February, Spooner flourished. In 24 games with the Bruins beginning on February 22, the 23-year-old center tallied eight goals and 10 assists with a plus-four rating.
Finally, it seemed, he had blossomed — but he intends on making sure he continues to prove himself for a full season in 2015-16.
Like some of his teammates, Spooner was happy to let us tag along to one of his workouts, though his was a bit different from the others we saw during our trip.
Spooner is a firm believer in the benefits of yoga, which he practices two or three times per week in the offseason.
“For me, if I’m doing weights a lot, I get extremely tight,” he explained. “So the fact that I can come here and just kind of stretch out helps me a lot. I Googled the benefits, and it said if you’re flexible, it makes you 50 percent stronger. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’m definitely trying it out.”
And Spooner already has something in common with at least one of his new teammates: He, too, has a dog named Carll.
The final #BearTracks stop brought us to Montreal, home of veteran forward Max Talbot. Like Connolly, Talbot was acquired at the 2015 trade deadline, and right off the bat, his energy and positivity were contagious in the B’s dressing room.
Talbot enjoyed his first stint with the B’s, but he was disappointed that his new team fell short of its potential. In 2015-16, therefore, he is intent on helping to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.
“Being a hockey player, you need to be passionate about your sport, about the team you play for, and that’s certainly something I am,” he said. “I’ve only played 18 games in the logo, but it is so exciting to wear that B on the front of the sweater, and you need guys to want to wear that jersey and to want to win with that jersey on.
“That’s something that shows on the ice — every time you step on the ice, you’re proud of the team you represent, and you’re proud of the city you represent and the fans. So that’s the mentality that every guy should have, and will be having, during camp.”
Though #BearTracks has come to an end, it won’t be long at all until Connolly, Rinaldo, Beleskey, Spooner and Talbot are joined by the rest of their Black & Gold teammates on the ice for training camp.
And from there, another run at the Cup begins.
Be sure to click here to see all of the 2015 #BearTracks content.