Wilmington, MA -- A quick scan of the Bruins full roster will reveal a number of colleges, a virtual rundown of usual NCAA suspects, represented by the B’s current players and prospects.
The University of Denver, Colorado College, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, as well as New England hockey powerhouses like the University of New Hampshire and Boston College all make appearances in player bios. But this season, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks have a representative on the Boston roster and defenseman Jeff Penner will try to bring his former program some well-deserved recognition.
“It was a bit different lifestyle up there with the daylight and the cold weather,” said Penner from his stall in the B’s locker room in Ristuccia during Boston Bruins Development Camp last July. “I’m kind of used to the cold, being from Manitoba.
“But this was a different kind of cold.”
Having recently completed his first year with UAF, Penner decided to forgo his remaining years of eligibility and take the unique opportunity to sign as a free agent with the Bruins. And even though his college career came to an early end, he knows that his time spent with the Nanooks, although brief, certainly contributed to the success of his game.
“Hockey-wise, it was a great experience,” explained Penner. “Because you only play on the weekends, you have so much time to work out and develop, so overall it was a great experience.”
Penner, who has already played two games with the P-Bruins, explained that he has one less hurdle to surmount than his new teammates – travel. UAF racked up the frequent flyer miles as they traveled to face opponents in the CCHA.
“Being up in Alaska, most of our competition was in Michigan, so it was already a long trip,” he said. “By now, I’m kind of used to the flying.”
For a hockey player, becoming a permanent New Englander is no easy task. After all, you have to make either the Providence or Boston roster, first.
However, within minutes of stepping off the plane at Logan, all newcomers to the Hub realize one thing very quickly -- one of the most basic traits of a Bostonian is having the undying passion for the local sports teams.
Penner was able to pass that early test with flying colors.
“The Red Sox game was great,” said Penner of his first trip to Fenway Park in July. “I’ve been to a couple Minnesota Twins games, but this was a whole different experience.
“It’s such a beautiful park (especially) with the atmosphere and all the great fans out here.”
Later that same week, Penner and the rest of the B’s prospects got a small taste of the atmosphere in the TD Banknorth Garden as the development campers all had dinner in the AT&T SportsDeck while watching last season’s Game 6 versus Montreal on the arena’s high tech scoreboard, Garden HDX.
As such, in an effort to see his name on that amazing scoreboard, Penner is ready for September and his first professional training camp.
“I’m going to have to turn it up,” said Penner. “Hopefully, it will go well from there.”