BostonBruins.com — They're grizzled, imposing figures on the Dunkin' Donuts Center ice, but apparently not so scary to their own teammates that the B's youngest prospects don't feel comfortable seeking out veterans like Garnet Exelby, Christian Hanson, Jamie Tardif and Trent Whitfield when they need advice.
In fact, that give-and-take is exactly what Exelby and the rest of Providence's most senior players were looking for as the season got rolling and they got to know their new roster.
Going into last weekend, when the AHL Bruins looked to even their record, the veteran leadership in Providence was hoping to help stabilize their club and get the RI Black & Gold back on track.
"I think it wasn’t that long ago before I was a young, snot-nose kid so to speak, just learning the ropes and stuff like that," said Exelby, 31.
Even before the B's two-game, two-win turnaround, Exelby's fellow defenseman Torey Krug, 21, just games into his first full professional season, said the P-Bruins vets have been invaluable.
"Well it’s great," said Krug. "Those guys really understand how the games work, and they understand how to communicate it to the younger guys. I’ve been sitting in the locker room with my ears open every day, taking in something new.
"Whether it’s Whitfield, Tardif, Exelby — I’m sitting by [AHL veteran] Bobby Robbins in the locker room. There’s a lot of guys in there with a lot of experience, and I just keep my ears open."
What could help is, similarly to Exelby, some of the P-Bruins more experienced players remember having to adjust as a rookie, and the importance of players filling the mentoring roles they currently embody.
"I’m not that far removed from my rookie year, so I still remember what it was like to come in, and kind of be the little deer in the headlights," said Christian Hanson, 26.
"You try to find some of those older guys to latch on to, so I’ve tried to find a couple of guys to take under my wings," he said.
That was especially so when Providence started the season 0-2. Krug said it was important to keep his eyes open, as well.
"It’s huge," said Krug. "You talk about being a pro, it’s talking about being consistent every day you come to the rink.
"You have a routine; you have something go through every day. I watch those guys; they do it even if they’re having a bad day. Get to the rink...but they’re business as usual, and they’re going through their preparation.
"It’s good to watch things like that," he said.
Also good to watch, beyond the professional preparation, is how the P-Bruins vets are willing to step up and be a mentor.
"I’m starting to get older—it's my fourth year in pro hockey," said Hanson as the season began. "I’m trying to take on more of a leadership role as well
"I think I try to help out as best I can," added Tardif, 27. "We do have great leadership here; Whitfield and Exelby—guys that have been around before—Bourque and Hanson.
"So I just try to do my part, help out the young kids, and set an example for them on and off the ice."
Besides simply setting a good example, Exelby's mentorship also has a paternal sound to it as well. According to HockeyFights.com, the Craik, Saskatchewan native has had 23 fights (in both the AHL and NHL) over the past three seasons.
"I had some great mentors along the way so, anything I can do to help, and get their back, if they’re getting roughed up a little bit too much out there, obviously, I like to get involved in that stuff myself," said the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Exelby with a smile. "I’ll do everything I can to help the team and help the young guys come along and get the valuable experience."