BostonBruins.com - This Veterans Day, the Boston Bruins hosted Military Appreciation Day during their home game against Tampa Bay Lightning. To show their support, players Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk, David Krejci, Torey Krug and Dennis Seidenberg each purchased $2,500 worth of tickets to the games to be donated to local military members and their families.
"It’s just a small gesture," said Krug. "Obviously they do a lot for us, and freedom doesn’t come free so it’s just a small little gesture."
"It’s our way to say a small thank you and our appreciation for their services," added Seidenberg, who has participated in the program for years. "It’s just great what they do and I really look forward to meeting them after the game."
After the game, the military men and women met the respective player who donated those seats to them alongside family and friends.
Senior Airman Danielle Rourke of the United States Air Force National Guard had the opportunity to meet Johnny Boychuk after the game.
“It was an amazing experience and I feel blessed that we had this opportunity," said Rourke. "That they went above and beyond and totally supported us and everything that we do and it really means a lot to us that we had so much support here tonight.”
Although Boychuk is a native of Canada, he now resides in Boston and felt that it was important to give back and support the soldiers at today’s matinee game.
“It’s Veterans Day here and Remembrance Day back home and even in Canada you have family and relatives that were in at least one of the wars throughout in your family tree. Not all of them came back but it’s just important to remember the people that fought for us,” said Boychuk, on why he wanted to get involve and donate tickets for Military Appreciation Day.
It’s just a small gesture. Obviously they do a lot for us, and freedom doesn’t come free so it’s just a small little gesture. - Torey Krug
The Bruins' defenseman met both Staff Sargeant Julia Masse of the United States Air Force International Guard and Senior Staff Sargeant Mike Youlik of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, who just very recently arrived back in the U.S. from Afghanistan.
“It’s always great to meet them. There’s a couple that just came back and you appreciate everything that they do for us, and we just want to give a little bit back to them," he said. "It’s just nice to have people come down and just enjoy themselves.”
Staff Sargeant Tyler Ward of the International Guard 143rd out of Quonset, Rhode Island LRS shook hands with Matt Bartkowski whose own brother serves in the military.
The Bruins had showed their support on Military Appreciation Day by wearing camouflaged jerseys during warm-ups, which were being auctioned off by the Boston Bruins Foundation.
“I thought those were awesome. Those were really cool looking," said Ward, beaming with a smile as he talked about his time at TD Garden with the Boston Bruins.
"I’m one of the few Americans on the team and I have members of my family in my military," said Bartkowski. "One cousin, he’s done a few tours already and then my brother goes to West Point so it’s just a little more special."
Though Bartkowski and Krug are the only Americans on the team, the entire squad shows its support, whether by getting involved with donations, wearing "Rangers" shirts during postgame interviews to represent the Army Rangers, or sporting the military Player of the Game jacket during the 2013 postseason run to the Stanley Cup Final.
"I’m one of the few and he’s one of the few Americans, but from the rest of the international contingency I guess, they show their support very well – whether it be for our military or theirs or whoever," said Bartkowski.
As for Krug, simply shaking the hands of the military men and women was enough to brighten their day. He even got to meet a special young fan (dressed like a little bear!) and his father, who served in the Marines.
The family posed with Krug as he signed autographs for them.
Krug is extremely appreciative of the men and women who serve our country.
“I’m lucky enough to walk around every day and do the thing I love because they fight for our freedom," he said. "There’s a lot that goes into it so I’m just very honored that I got to shake all of their hands and meet them, interact with them and see their families and just say thank you.”