BOSTON, MA – The Bruins have been back on the ice for about a week – since last weekend’s announcement that a tentative agreement had been reached between the NHL and NHLPA – but today the team was together for the first official practice of the 2012-13 season at TD Garden.
“It was good to have our first official practice together,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “It was good, you could see that the guys were happy to be on the ice together, making jokes together, having some fun. It was good.”
Head coach Claude Julien had the players going from the start, with physical drills that included battling down low in the corners and some end-to-end break outs, but didn’t want to get them too worn out before the season opener on Saturday against the New York Rangers.
“Today we tried to work our practice around keeping it short for the core group that’s been playing, then do a couple extra battles and stuff like that, that will help you get back into game shape with the guys that haven’t played,” he said.
“So, we hope to give them an opportunity to catch up here this week. At the same time, you want to be at least fresh and rested as best you can for the game on Saturday.”
The B's bench boss was pleased with the way the team looked out on the ice, both mentally and physically.
“They looked like they had a lot of energy, and you know you’ve got to look at the circumstances,” he said. “I thought the guys were pretty sharp mentally, and the thing that we tried to do, and we spoke about it before practice, is that we can’t ease into this. We’ve got to get on top of our game as soon as possible and you probably heard me chirping a little bit more about certain things.
“It’s not about ‘hey, this is first day let’s take it easy’, it more ‘we’ve got to get to work here, no time to waste.’”
Fans filled the lower bowl of the TD Garden to watch the Black & Gold kick off training camp, cheering the players multiple times as they skated over to the bench to hear Julien explain a drill.
After the practice ended, the B’s remained on the ice to salute the fans for their support.
“There was quite a few fans out there and it’s just a big thank you to them because they probably sacrifice the most,” said Chara. “We wanted to show them appreciation. They deserve it because they’ve been really good to us.”
Julien, who said he felt “like a kid out there” on the ice, is glad to be back at the helm and see the fans back in the Garden.
“It was exciting to see them in the stands, you know a good number of people came out to watch us," he said of the fans. "And to see the loyalty of the fans here in Boston is tremendous.
“It doesn’t go unnoticed. I think our players realize that too. At the end of practice I was telling them about our upcoming schedule tomorrow and what we were going to do, and when it was all said and done they took the initiative to say ‘let’s thank our fans here for their support and their patience.’”
“And you’ve heard many people say they’re the best fans in the league, and they love a certain type of team and we try to deliver that type of team to them and because of that they have some loyalty. Great day for hockey today, and hopefully a great day for football this afternoon.”
B's President Cam Neely, who announced a long list of fan initiatives as a thank you for their support at he and Peter Chiarelli's season-opening press conference earlier in the day, signed autographs for fans from the AT&T Sports Deck for nearly 20 minutes during practice, as fans stretched all the way down to the boards.
“I would like to apologize to all our fans, season ticket holders and premium clients for the lengthy lockout,” said Neely during the press conference. “Certainly, I don’t know if any of us expected it to go this long, but fortunately, we can start talking about hockey and hockey games.”