CHARLESTOWN, MA — The five men standing around the gym made for a formidable group.
However, for the 40 children at the Boys & Girls Club of Charlestown, it was a wealth of puck knowledge and experience to lead Thursday's floor hockey clinic.
At one end of the gym was former B's and Boston College skater Bob Sweeney. In the middle of the floor was Bruins alum Tommy Songin. Along the wall were Boston's Assistant Equipment Managers Jim Johnson (who played four years of college hockey at St. Scholastica College) and Matt Falconer. And finally, flanking him was Jeremy Rogalski, the B’s Video Analyst, and a former collegiate skater at Bates.
"We got to play hockey, and we got to learn a few things from former Bruins," said Chris of the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club. "It was pretty cool."
It was clear from the beginning that while the Bruins brass was there to teach and create a fun environment, the kids taking part in the clinic were going to be equally as engaging. Conversations between coaches and players were struck up left and right, as the B’s coaches imparted their knowledge on the youngsters.
"These are good kids. Charlestown is a great hockey community," said Bob Sweeney, now the Boston Bruins Foundation’s Executive Director. "This Boys & Girls Club in particular does a great job of getting all the boys and girls from the area and participating, whether it’s basketball, or today it’s street hockey.
"We have a lot of fun," added Sweeney, "and the kids do as well."
Sweeney and Songin treated the kids in attendance to some of the skills the pair used to display when lacing it up in the NHL. The two put on a passing demo, sliding the ball from tape-to-tape with ease. When it came time for a shooting demonstration, Songin did not hold back, as he ripped a wrist shot into the upper part of the netting. A few minutes later, Sweeney slipped and stumbled across the floor, as if he was on the ice — much to the delight of the on looking children — before unleashing a snapshot that fired in just below the crossbar.
"The kids had fun, and it’s all about learning and having fun," said John Collins, who works with the Boys & Girls Club of Charlestown. "The Bruins brought a lot of fun to the gym today, so it was a good time all-around."
In the midst of all the good times being had, there was actually quite the competitive game going on.
After breaking the 40 participants up into two teams, a 30-minute scrimmage took place. Line changes were made about every five minutes, courtesy a whistle from Songin. The game went back-and-forth, and regulation ended in a 5-5 tie.
That was when Songin made the decision to have all 20 of each team’s players come out on the floor, throw in a second ball, and announce the next goal would be the winner.
“It was really close, it came down to the wire,” said Johnson.
After the game-winner was scored, and the celebrating was finished, the group huddled up for one final picture.
In parting, Rogalski shared a conversation he had with one of the clinic’s participants, and a message he and the rest of the staff tried to convey.
"One of the girl’s came up to me and said her soccer team had the motto, dig it like a dog, so we switched it to, dig it like a bear," he said. "I don’t know if bears dig, but it was an appropriate motto for working hard."