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Coach & B's Visit Newtown, CT

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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Newtown, CT - It doesn't happen often in writing, and especially in covering a team day in and day out, that you don't even know where to begin - that something is just so beyond words.

Only an emotion or feeling could really do it justice.

That the little moments and encounters and smiles are much, much more important than the soundbites.

Such was the case Monday in Newtown, CT, where Coach Julien and members of the Black & Gold visited with families affected by the tragedy that struck at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

While that day will never be forgotten, Monday was not meant to relive the burden and heartbreak of the past couple of months - it was about looking forward to a reason to smile, a day filled with hockey, laughter and excitement.

And the day wasn't about the Bruins. It was about the families; it was about bringing happiness and laughter to the children buzzing around the gym at the Newtown Youth Academy. It was about running up and down the street hockey court for hours, joining in a quick game of basketball between street hockey sessions, taking a minute to talk to a child and give him or her a high five, a smile, a hug, a fist bump after a goal.

The sadness and grief came through - as when listening to a parent tell about his son's fallen friend; or walking the halls of the Newtown town hall, with posters, teddy bears and well wishes lining tables and walls, and letters from all around the world overflowing from boxes.

Those moments were way beyond words.

But the overwhelming joy throughout the day from the families in attendance was about being in the moment, in Newtown, with their closest friends, their children, and a hockey team from New England that just wanted to come make them happy.

You often hear "putting smiles on kids' faces" as the importance of offering support to the community, but that was - truly - at the core of the visit.

"Important is probably a real small word," said Coach Julien. "For us, it was something that we really wanted to do. The fact that we have that opportunity to come here and hopefully put smiles on faces and to show our support."

"I'm looking at the players and they're still in there having a blast," Coach said, as he watched Adam McQuaid, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, Andrew Ference and Chris Bourque running around with the kids and playing street hockey on the courts stretched in front of him. "That's such a nice thing to see right now. I'm really proud of our players for coming in here and helping out."

"When you look at the faith and you look at the strength of this town and how they've bonded and supported each other, it's amazing - and having the opportunity to be part of that group, and wanting to be part of that group, is pretty special."

And if the Bruins had their choice, they probably would have stayed for much longer, visiting with the community and making the kids laugh, signing lines upon lines of autographs and taking lines upon lines of photos.

So upon saying their goodbyes, the B's, who had entered the day in their Black & Gold jerseys, left donned in the blue and yellow jerseys of the Newtown High School hockey team with "Newtown" embroidered diagonally down the front. The sweaters had been given to them at the end of their visit by the NHS Head Coach to thank the players and Coach for spending time in the town.

"Obviously, just want to represent the best we can," said Tyler Seguin, sporting the jersey as the Bruins gathered together on the bus leaving Newtown, reflecting on the day's events. "We're all keeping them on now - we gave them all our jerseys we were wearing and signed them. So, it definitely was a fun day."

"The kids were having a good time and that was the main goal of coming here today," said McQuaid, seated a few spots down to the right of Seguin. "Just let the kids be kids."

"And for them to have fun."

"They obviously went through something that no kids should have to go through, and just to show our support to this community and just let them know that we're thinking of them and we support them."

Dougie Hamilton chimed in as well. "Just to be able to go there and see the kids and have some fun with them and just to be able to play hockey with them and sign autographs for them. It was a special day."

Not only were the B's showing their support, but it was amazing how much support the community - mostly all wearing their Black & Gold - was offering the Bruins.

"There were a lot of diehard Bruins fans and it was awesome to see," Paille said, as he reflected on the thousands of folks who came out to spend time with the team and with each other. "We wanted to show as much support as they show us all of the time, and I think we did our best to have everyone get excited."

Chris Bourque couldn't be pulled from the street hockey court, where he spent the time playing with the kids and setting them up for some pretty nifty goals, all with raised arms, cheers and huge smiles after.

"I think all of the guys here were pretty excited to be here and just put smiles on kids faces," said Bourque. "The last couple of months have been pretty rough for them, so to maybe come out here and give them something else to think about, just hang out with them for a little bit."

In the back of the bus, down a few seats from Bourque, Rich Peverley and Andrew Ference sat next to each other, offering their experiences from the emotional day.

"It was a great experience to be able to do something positive for the community," said Peverley, on being able to have the opportunity to spend his off day doing something so meaningful for the town.

"All of us chose to be there today."

"It was really important for all of us to be there and show our support for the community."

Every Bruin left Newtown Youth Academy wearing bracelets representing the green and white of Sandy Hook, that read "Angels of Sandy Hook" on one side and "Hope Faith Love" on the other.

"Obviously, the bracelets are to support Newtown," Ference said, as he looked down at the bracelets wrapping his wrist in green and white. "Everything the community's gone through and what they stand for now."

"And the military made these ones," he said, showing off a second green and white bracelet made with 10 feet of military rope. "It's a sign that the military is supporting everyone in the community."

"And likewise - we are."

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