WILMINGTON, MA - It was a long summer for the Bruins. It came too soon, and couldn't end soon enough. They don't like it that way.
But when the Black and Gold reported for training camp on September 18, they came stronger and more refreshed after four long months of training.
When they hit the ice for their first formal practices on Friday at Ristuccia Arena, they were energized with a renewed purpose.
Bruins' bench boss Claude Julien had an up-close view, as he ran the on-ice sessions for four hours.
"I think the guys skated well, the work ethic was good, the energy level - the guys were excited to get back on the ice," Bruins' bench boss Claude Julien observed.
"You could tell there was a lot of jump and a lot of guys are very happy to be back, and on the ice again together," said Brad Marchand. "So I think it was a pretty good practice — very intense and high tempo, a lot of flow drills today and getting the legs back under us, so it was good."
Marchand was no doubt excited to be up against Patrice Bergeron one-on-one, and battling drills along the boards quickly brought out the players' competitive edge.
No better way to judge your strength and summer conditioning than going up against Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara, right?
Ben Sexton and Matt Fraser both had that honor.
"A lot of drills were meant for battling and one-on-one - it was a really good first day," said Captain Chara. "There's obviously more coming up and a lot we need to work on. That's what training camp is for, doing the battles and a lot of one-on-one's, two-on-two's and a good skate at the end."
For about 10 minutes at the end of practice, the players skated sprints between whistles.
They had spent the previous half hour going over the systems, some of which were refresher courses, and some of which were new implementations the Bruins are making for the upcoming season - like quicker transitions through the neutral zone.
Beyond the X's and O's, the vets and young players alike are using the first few days on the ice to get their legs under them, get their timing back and prepare of the first order of business: the Black & Gold Scrimmage in Providence on September 21 (Dunkin Donuts Center, 5:00 p.m. ET).
"Just trying to get a good feeling," said Loui Eriksson. "And we're already playing a game Sunday so it will be good to play some games here and get used to everyone again, and just get in good shape for the season."
"You're just trying to feel comfortable as quick as you can," said Tuukka Rask. "I thought the pace was good, passing was pretty good and everything looked sharp, so a good Day 1, it looked like everybody was ready to go."
Players always come into camp after individual offseason regiments. They disperse for the offseason, get over the disappointment of a lost chance at the Stanley Cup, refocus and come back to Boston more than ready to roll.
"A tough year last year, and a lot to prove this year," said Marchand.
The four-month wait is over, and the Bruins will have to rise to their high expectations once again.
"Let's go," said Chris Kelly. "It's been a long summer for us, and everyone's excited and anxious to get going."
They'll also have to earn their keep.
"That's the great thing about training camp," Kelly said. "You come in, work hard, prove yourself, and go from there."