|Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, right, and coach Claude Julien. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) |
"I’m not sure...I would have been happy with this trip had we not won a game," said Julien. "We wanted to enjoy the experience that was given to us, but we also felt that these games were really important for us, especially [towards] getting off to a good start."
However, even before the B's shut out the Coyotes on Sunday, Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli sounded like a man who had already made up his own mind about the trip to Europe. But given the philosophical nature of the Bruins GM, the answers about the Black & Gold's trip overseas were not always black and white.
"You understand what the league's overall mandate, so we are all partners in the whole operation," said Chiarelli of the NHL's desire to grow hockey's footprint in Europe and around the globe. "You want to help them."
But you don't want to hurt your own hockey team in the process.
As such, Chiarelli said the key was to give hockey a hand without disrupting the natural flow of a team's training camp.
"In the past I have heard about teams going over to Europe and it's kind of becomes a distraction, with the time change, with traveling around, but every year the teams collectively have gotten better at planning and learning from the year before," said Chiarelli. "This year has been pretty seamless, as far as travel and adjusting to the time period, practices and just the general planning.
"So, when they ask, you are a little hesitant, but...to go to a city like Prague, I mean it's a gorgeous city, so it's beneficial too for the team and all the people around it."
The first leg of the trip wasn't a tough sell either.
|Belfast Giants Selects, Tim Cook (8), in action against Boston Bruins, Mark Recchi (28) during the preseason NHL hockey game in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010. (AP Photo) |
"Traveling from Boston to Belfast is probably the shortest distance when you go overseas," said Chiarelli. "It's five hours and a little bit, so from that perspective it gave us a leg up as far as getting acclimated to the time change."
But the B's general manager also said that playing teams of varying competition levels can be be difficult, both mentally and physically. The Belfast Giants Selects, for example, had the B's on the ropes for most of the first 40-minutes of play.
"It's almost like a no win situation, if you really beat them badly then it's like 'Wow, they're not good enough.' If it's close, then we're not good enough. So you try and go out there and work on things," said Chiarelli. "And that game [in Belfast] particularly, we weren't very good. In every zone we weren't very good.
"So we were able to [work on those things and] it gave us -- while we were here -- the ability to build.
"So, if we had just cleaned them out, I don't know that we would have worked on the things that we have been working on. And I thought our next game against Liberec was good, in a lot of areas."
Asked if training camp went smoother with the club cloistered in team buses, planes and hotels in Europe for almost two weeks, Chiarelli gave the very honest answer: "I don't know."
But the B's back room boss pointed out that there were positives and negatives about being away from Boston for so long during the preseason.
"I mean there's the whole team bonding thing...on the road doing all these things, but then you counter that with being away from home for ten, eleven days," said Chiarelli. "I think it's brought the team together. I mean, there's been some funny instances with the team and they've gotten the chance to go out together, and there's been the team meals.
"Would they have come together the same way in North America? I don't' know? Maybe? Maybe not?"
However, a hockey team also has personnel who need to come together off the ice and Chiarelli talked about his own squad of boardroom types.
|Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron, right, scores past goalkeeper Tomas Vosvrda, center, and Jiri Moravec, left, both of Bili Tigri Liberec during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game between Boston Bruins and Bili Tygri Liberec in Liberec, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) |
"It gives us, the management team, a little more time to focus on the task at hand, because you are over here and it is all about hockey," he said. "When you are on the road you tend to think more about the game.
"So, maybe in that respect it's a little more efficient over here putting the team together."
But the $25,000 question remained: If the powers that be came a calling, would the B's pack for Europe again?
"Yeah, we'd look at it," said Chiarelli, who quickly qualified his answer.
"I mean we've had the Winter Classic last season and then this," he said. "Maybe [it's time to] rest for a few years before we start doing another event."