Stuart donated $5,000 worth of tickets for the Bruins vs. Florida Panthers matchup to local military members and their families in honor of “Military Appreciation Night” at the TD Garden. His guests sat in section 145 – not a coincidence for the defenseman who sports sweater number 45.
“It’s been a great couple of weeks – just getting know Rob [Hornbrook], I met him the other day, and hearing his story, it’s pretty special,” said Stuart.
Hornbrook, a Quincy native who just retired from 20 years of military service in the Green Berets, participated in the ceremonial puck drop with Stuart at center ice before the start of the game.
“I think it’s a dream come true for him. He’s such a huge Bruins fan so really for me, it’s just an honor for me to be able to do this for him really, just help out a little bit," said Stuart. "I mean for what they do over there… this is nothing.”
During his military career, Hornbrook wore a Bruins patch on the chest of his flack jacket as a symbol of pride despite his superiors’ objections.
“[He’s] just a Bruins fan who has been in the military for 20 years – since he was 18-years-old. He has a wife and two kids and he’s retired now so he can spend some time with his family, who lives right over in Quincy,” said Stuart.
Last Monday, Stuart and Hornbook ventured over to Saks Fifth Avenue in the Prudential Center to decorate the sergeant in something other than his stars and stripes.
“Saks donated a suit for him,” his first ever, “because he just came back [from Iraq] a few months ago and he’ll be doing some interviews.
“He said when he got married he wore his uniform. So that was nice, just to [be there with him], he was pretty excited about it and you could tell he was just excited to come to the game.”
Hornbrook’s family is one of many that were honored.
“There’s 100 tickets, so I think there will be a lot of families here [and] I think I’ll have a chance to meet most of them after the game," said Stuart. “I’m not sure if there will be some of the same people from last year, but I had the chance to meet them last year with Aaron Ward when he donated the tickets and that was pretty cool, so I’m excited to meet them after.”
Stuart said he is in a unique position as a professional athlete and as a member of the Boston Bruins.
“I think any team you’re on in professional sports you have an opportunity to do things for other people in the community” he said. “Especially in Boston, people get really excited when they see us outside the rink and have the chance to get to know us.
“You’ve seen how good of a job [other] guys have done in the past. When I came here, guys like PJ Axelsson and then Wardo [Aaron Ward] doing [Military Appreciation Night] and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron
] obviously with the things he does,” including “Patrice’s Pals.”
“[These] guys set a pretty good example for me and for the rest of the guys [on our team] to get out there and do things so it’s a great opportunity for us.”