HAVERHILL, MA — Perhaps sensing a bit of nerves, Winthrop Squirt B coach Steve Indrisano stood up in the locker room and gave his team a bit of a pre-pregame pep talk as they waited for Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien to address the squad before Sunday's game against the Watertown Squirt B in Haverhill's Valley Forum.
"I think Coach Julien is going to be really excited to see you guys play. Are you guys excited to have Coach come in to tell you how to play hockey?" he asked his club.
"Yeaaaaaaaaah," was the in unison answer. But a smirking Indrisano, knowing exactly the response he would get, also asked, "Do you think he knows more [about hockey] than me?"
"Yeaaaaaaaaah," was the overwhelming answer from his smiling and now laughing players, turned to see Julien, the head coach of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions, enter the room.
Thanks to a raffle designed to benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation and Massachusetts Hockey, the Winthrop youth team won the chance to be “Coached by Claude.” But despite not knowing any of his new players, Julien stepped into a locker room — bedecked in Black & Gold courtesy of B's Equipment Manager Keith Robinson, and following a team stretch led by Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides — and addressed the Winthrop squad as if they were his own Boston Bruins.
"This is two games in two days," began Julien. "It’s going to be pretty challenging, isn’t it?
"You probably don’t want to be out there on the ice too long. You want to keep your shifts short, but at the end of the game, the one thing that is the most important thing is that you want to know that, as individuals, and as a team, you gave it your best effort, and while doing that, you also had fun.
"I want to see you guys having fun, so don’t be afraid to smile out there, because I will. I’m here to have fun, too," he said.
And that's exactly what the Winthrop B's did as they defeated Watertown 3-2 in very entertaining fashion to the delight of their families, fans, and all of the Bruins staff on hand.
"I don’t know how much coaching I’m going to be doing; I’ll let their coaches do their job," Julien told bostonbruinsTV before the game. "I’ll certainly be behind the bench, and encouraging these guys, and maybe making some small corrections.
"The main thing is, I want to be positive, and make sure these guys have a real good experience."
|Julien & the Winthrop Squirt B's. Click here for a full gallery. |
As far as Winthrop's head coach was concerned, there couldn't have been a better experience for his skaters.
"If anything, it will just be fun to see and hear what Claude says to the players, and how he advises them, and the little pep talks that he gives and everything like that," said Indrisano to BostonBruins.com pregame. "I think it will be good for me so I can carry that out with the kids for the rest of the season."
All through the game, Julien focused on fundamentals and fun, and clearly struck a chord with the club, which their head coach hoped will continue throughout the remainder of their schedule.
"I think it fit perfectly. The kids are young, we teach the basics. Basic sort of zone positioning, forecheck, backcheck, you have to hustle, second effort, all that kind of stuff. Your basics always go up every level," said Winthrop's bench boss after the win. "So what he’s saying to these guys is pretty much the same thing we would say — maybe a little more advanced — but I think it fit in just the same."
Julien's participation in the event also fit perfectly into the mission of the Boston Bruins Foundation.
"We thought we could have a nice little, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have your kid’s team coached by Claude,” said Boston Bruins Foundation Executive Director and Bruins alum Bob Sweeney as he watched the contest. “So we partnered with Mass Hockey to get the word out, and it was great that we had a team from the Valley League, and Winthrop.
"The kids are so excited."
Postgame, after speaking to his victorious Winthrop B's, Julien seemed just as excited as the youth players sitting in their stalls.
"I’m glad they enjoyed it," said Julien. "It was a lot of fun for me too.
"They were an excited group, and again, I let the coaches coach and basically just gave them little pointers as I saw fit along the way.
"Everything was about being positive and encouraging, and it was a great win for them," he said.