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By the Numbers: Bubble Bound

B's equipment, medical, and strength staffs are packed for the long run

by Eric Russo @erusso22 /

BOSTON - After 27 years of traveling around the globe as the Bruins head athletic trainer, there is not much Don DelNegro hasn't had to prepare for. Whether it was a trip to Prague, the Great Wall of China, or just a quick flight to Long Island, DelNegro - who worked his 2,000th career game last November - has always had the Black & Gold medical staff prepared for whatever challenge might come its way.

This summer, however, the Bruins are set to embark on an odyssey unlike any other in the team's nearly 100-year history. 

"The hard part is packing for 32 possible games - 28 playoff games, three play-in games, and the one exhibition game," said DelNegro. "Trying to pack for that, being on the road the whole time without being able to even leave the bubble to re-stock is kind of the stressful part.

"[Figuring out] what you need is the hardest part. If I knew what I needed, it would be easy. I wouldn't need to bring all of it."

DelNegro and the Bruins will be spending the next month - at a minimum - in Toronto, Ontario, one of two "secure zones," along with Edmonton, Alberta, that the National Hockey League has established to resume the 2019-20 season, which was paused almost five months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The safest way to continue the road to the Stanley Cup was by placing the 24 competing teams in bubble cities for what could be some 10 weeks for those that advance all the way to the Final. With each team allowed 51 or 52 members in their traveling parties, that means a massive amount of equipment, luggage, and other supplies will be accompanying them north of the border.

Perhaps the easiest way to portray just how much the Bruins are lugging with them is this: it's not all going to fit on the team charter.

"I think we have six [trunks just] on the equipment side of things," said Bruins head equipment manager Keith Robinson, now in his 32nd season with the club. "Most of the additional supplies will be in probably 15-20 extra bags of stuff and lots of boxes. We're also sending a whole sprinter van full of boxes and supplies.

"The sprinter is going up early with all that excess supplies and we have a company moving us to the airport…that's definitely unique to our travel is sending a whole sprinter van full of supplies."

So, as the Black & Gold board their flight on Sunday afternoon, much of the team's gear will already be en route to the bubble thanks to assistant equipment manager Jim 'Beets' Johnson, who will be behind the wheel for the eight-hour, 550-mile journey.

With a minimum stay of nearly four weeks, the B's packed for a trip some three times longer than their lengthiest road trip during a typical regular season.

Throughout Boston's two-week training camp period at Warrior Ice Arena, the players revealed some of the items they'll be bringing with them, with books, tablets, gaming stations, extra hoodies and sweatpants, and some favorite snacks among the most popular items.

All of those things, of course, can be neatly stashed into a carry-on bag or backpack.

The real challenge has been for DelNegro, Robinson, and the rest of the team's medical, equipment, and strength staffs, all of whom have spent weeks making sure they are properly stocked for what they hope is another lengthy postseason run.

"You've got to be ultra-organized, more than ever before," said DelNegro. "Prior to this, if you forgot something, I could walk to a CVS and get what I forgot or have my suppliers overnight it, which now you can't do that. A lot of things aren't allowed into Canada either from our suppliers. That's what gets really tricky…I gotta basically have a CVS in our truck."

Here's a closer look at some of the supplies headed into the bubble with the Black & Gold:


32 | Bottles of Flexall Pain Relieving Gel

75 | Cases of medical and athletic tape

300 | Individual packs each of Aleve, Tylenol, Advil, etc.

Among the most unique changes for the Bruins during this unprecedented scenario is the need for almost everything to be individualized. Gone, at least for now, are the days of sharing supplies and supplements, with everything required to be distributed in single-use packaging.

"Normally, I would buy four bottles of 100 Aleve [pain relief pills] and have 400 Aleves," DelNegro explained. "Now we have to buy them in single-dose packs. I literally have six boxes of 50 single-dose packs. My packing size gets huge because now I have this huge cardboard box instead of six little pill bottles with 100 each. Multiply that out for Tylenol, Zyrtec, Advil, Claritin…Prilosec, Zantac.

"It's weird, even creams - Flexall, normally you bring up one gallon of it and the guys just share it. Now, I have to have individual bottles for every player. Instead of having one nice gallon of it, I've got 32 bottles of it."

In addition to figuring out the right quantity of each item needed for an extended stay on the road, DelNegro noted that it has also been a tall task to make sure he remembers each type of first aid item that is needed for any medical scenario that might arise.

"Where ours gets exciting is more diversity," he said. "Needles for injections - you need 18-gauge, 20-gauge, 21-gauge, 25-gauge, 30-gauge…medicines - 10 milligrams of this, 20 milligrams of the same…band aids, regular band aids, butterfly band aids, square band aids, dots. The diversity of first aid supplies is what's unique for us, not necessarily the volume."

Being away from the comforts of Warrior Ice Arena and TD Garden for such an extended period will also present its difficulties.

"Having it organized in a fashion that's easy to get to when you need it in an emergency, not being in your own dedicated homeroom the entire time, being in a practice rink, being in a game rink and then conceivably moving everything again to Edmonton [if the team advances to the Conference Final] gets very daunting because that's how you lose stuff or forget how you packed it," said DelNegro.


4 | Glove driers

60+ | Pairs of skates

150 | Skate blades

450 | Hockey sticks

Robinson, likewise, is in an unprecedented situation of his own. Traditionally, he can rely on the home team to provide supplies like glove driers, fans to air out the dressing room, tape, laces, and other pieces of protective equipment. Now, with no home teams, each club is responsible for traveling with all of the supplies it might need for the duration of their run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Usually we just go to a city and use the ones that everyone's been using," said Robinson. "Another thing unique to this situation is instead of having supplies that would be just general locker room, clubhouse types of supplies - like any types of toiletries - we had to put together individual bags for everyone to have their own supplies.

"We're traveling with toiletries and stuff now. Nothing community shared throughout the dressing room."

Some of the other items that Robinson is not used to traveling with on the road: both the home and away sets of jerseys, socks, and helmets, as well as a large number of extra skate blades.

"I should have four to six sets of steel for every player, the interchangeable blades," said Robinson. "And in the event of a broken skate blade, we're bringing multiple sets of every size skate blade holder."

And when it comes to sticks, the Bruins are hauling all of their existing inventory, with the hope that they will require a secondary shipment in the event they make it all the way back to the Stanley Cup Final.

"We're taking every stick we had on hand for guys with the hopes of being in a situation to order more," said Robinson. "We're taking everything we had coming down the stretch of the season."

Strength and Conditioning

While the equipment and medical groups have more than their fair share to lug north, both Robinson and DelNegro pointed to the team's strength staff, led by head performance coach Kevin Neeld, as having the most eye-popping numbers. They weren't kidding.

In addition to individual blender bottles (for smoothies), foam rollers, and minibands for each player, as well as a mass of medicine balls, superbands, yoga mats, and more for soft-tissue work, Neeld is also bringing along the following to make sure the Bruins remain in top physical shape in the bubble:

60 | Tubs of protein powder

90 | Total boxes of supplements

250+ | Bottles of vitamins and minerals

275+ | Boxes of within-game nutrition (bars, gels, etc.)

1,200 | Pounds of weights (bars, weight plates, dumbbells, kettlebells)

1,500 | Individual packets of protein

3,500+ | Individual packets of rehydration sports drinks

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