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BOSTON – Bob Sweeney could have called it a career with an impressive hockey resume to stand behind.

The Massachusetts native and Boston College product suited up for six seasons with his hometown Boston Bruins, twice helping the Black & Gold to the Stanley Cup Final, and overall spent 16 years in professional hockey. Sweeney three times eclipsed the 20-goal mark and four times racked up 45-plus points.

But, perhaps, his most impressive accomplishments have come during his second act.

For the past 22 years – 16 as head of the Boston Bruins Foundation – Sweeney has helped make an indelible impact on the New England community, as the Bruins’ tradition of giving back continues to reach new heights under his leadership.

“Perfect. He’s been made to do this,” said former Bruins captain and Sweeney’s longtime friend Ray Bourque. “His ability to communicate with people, make everybody feel special, and keeping relationships and building relationships – that’s what the Bruins Foundation is all about in terms of raising money year in, year out, keeping those relationships and finding new ones. He’s got a gift for doing that kind of stuff.”

For his efforts guiding the Foundation, as well as his six years with the Black & Gold, Sweeney received the hockey legacy award at Wednesday night’s 22nd annual Tradition gala at TD Garden. Sweeney was feted alongside Patriots Hall of Famer Kevin Faulk, baseball Hall of Famer and Red Sox great Dennis Eckersley, former Celtics head coach and 2008 NBA champion Doc Rivers, UFC founder Dana White, and former Team USA women’s soccer goalkeeper Briana Scurry.

“It’s awesome. Very well deserved,” said Bourque. “He was a really important guy for us as a teammate, one that would score the big goal, would kill off a big penalty, would have your back, and would be there physically. Really a guy that did it all. He was a glue guy in terms of chemistry for our team and we really had great chemistry in the mid ‘80s to the early ‘90s. He was a really big part of that. That’s just talking about what he’s done on the ice.

“What he’s accomplished with the Bruins Foundation…Bob’s been a big part of it for 16-17 years. He just has a special way about dealing with people and connecting people and he’s just a special man. It’s really nice to see him honored in this way tonight.”

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On the Ice

Sweeney’s hockey career began to blossom in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, as the Concord-born and Boxborough-bred forward played his minor hockey for Assabet Valley before moving on to play high school hockey for Acton-Boxborough Regional where – in both instances – he was teammates with goaltender Tom Barrasso, who was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“You always remember your first game, your first goal [in the National Hockey League],” Sweeney recalled. “It’s kind of ironic that I scored my first goal against Tommy Barrasso…that’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Sweeney went on to play four seasons at Boston College (1982-86) where he earned All-Hockey East Second Team honors in 1984-85 after posting a 32-goal, 64-point campaign in 44 games. He also helped the Eagles to a Beanpot title during his freshman season in 1983.

Just prior to his arrival at The Heights, Sweeney was drafted by the Bruins with the 123rd overall pick (sixth round) in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. Upon his graduation from BC, Sweeney joined the Bruins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Moncton before getting the call for his first game against Calgary on Jan. 24, 1987, during which he picked up an assist on a Dwight Foster tally in a 5-3 win over the Flames at Boston Garden.

“Well, one of my favorite memories was my first game,” said Sweeney. “My stall was right next to Ray. I’ll never forget that. It was a Saturday afternoon, we played Calgary…Ray just made me so relaxed and made me feel like I belonged, and I’ll never forget that. Skating on the ice for the first time being a hometown kid, that’s something you’ll never forget.”

That relationship with between Bourque and Sweeney has continued to this day.

“We were all close. That team that went to the Cup Finals in [1988] – it started probably in ’86, continued for us until the early ‘90s,” said Bourque. “That group of guys was a very special group. For me and my career, the group that I’ve been the closest to. Those relationships have lasted ever since. Bob is one of my very best friends.”

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Sweeney, of course, remembers that six-year period with the Bruins quite fondly as the Black & Gold made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988 and 1990 and to the semifinals in both 1991 and 1992. What made it even more special was the bevy of Boston-area players on the roster.

“The one part about the Bruins in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s after Terry [O’Reilly] left, we were coached by [Walpole’s] Mike Milbury,” said Sweeney. “John Cunniff was a [South] Boston boy…[Melrose’s] Andy Brickley, [Winchester’s] John Carter, [Waltham’s] Jeff Lazaro, we had so many kids – Craig Janney from Connecticut. And then Carpey [Bob Carpenter from Peabody] when he got traded here. We had a strong Boston connection.

“You ask any one of those guys if you have the chance to play for your hometown team, that’s something you never forget. We had some good runs in the ‘80s and ‘90s going to the Finals and going to the semifinals twice. Out of that six-year period, four years going to the conference finals is pretty special.”

Sweeney was a significant contributor in each of those runs as he posted lines of 22-23—45 (1987-88), 14-14—28 (1988-89), 22-24—46 (1989-90), and 15-33—48 (1990-91). During the B’s journey to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988, Sweeney tallied six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 23 postseason games, which was tied for fifth in team scoring behind Ken Linseman (25), Bourque (21), Cam Neely (17), and Janney (16).

“You need to be physical, he could be physical, you need to kill a penalty, he’d kill a penalty, he’d play up and down the lineup and a guy that was really important for a team to have success,” said Bourque. “Those guys really make a difference. In terms of being a glue guy and being an amazing teammate, he was awesome.”

Sweeney was claimed off waivers by Buffalo in 1992 and went on to play four more seasons in the NHL with the Sabres, New York Islanders, and Calgary Flames. He spent the 1996-97 campaign with Quebec of the International Hockey League before playing four more years in Germany.

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A Second Act

It was upon his retirement in 2001 that Sweeney found his second calling when he returned to Boston and became the President of the Bruins Alumni, as well as the B’s youth hockey ambassador. In 2007, Sweeney took over as Director of Development for the Boston Bruins Foundation, which had been founded in 2003. He later became the Foundation’s Executive Director and is now the President.

This year, Sweeney is overseeing the Foundation’s 20th anniversary, which coincides with the Bruins’ Centennial celebrations and included the organization’s Centennial Gala that was held in October. Since 2003, the Foundation has raised over $62 million, including $7.3 million last season. As part of the Centennial festivities, BBF will donate $50,000 to a minimum of 20 charities around New England.

“This is an awesome time to be part of the Bruins organization whether you’re a fan or work for the team,” said Sweeney. “The 100th anniversary doesn’t come along very often. It’s my only shot at this. The opening weekend was amazing to see all the former players back and to have the Centennial Gala, which went through the Foundation, which was a huge undertaking that so many people were working on over the course of a year.

“I remember marveling to Charlie Jacobs – to see how many prominent former Bruins and current Bruins [were together], we’ll never have that group in the same room again. It was just an amazing turnout, an amazing weekend.

“And now having the different Era Nights being celebrated, it’s a tribute to all the former players and what they meant to the Bruins over their time here.”

While Sweeney’s on-ice accomplishments may not have been as prominent as some of the players celebrated at the club’s Centennial Gala, his impact on the organization and the community is just as lasting – and integral.

When he began with the Foundation, its only event was the Bruins Wives’ Carnival, an annual one-day celebration with fans and players held at the Garden. Now, the Foundation hosts a bevy of signature events each season, including the annual golf tournament, the Puck & Paddles ping pong tournament, Bowl with a Bruin, the BFit Challenge, and the BFit Heroes Cup hockey tournament.

“It’s come a long way since the Wives’ Carnival…I remember the wives doing a lot of work. There was no Foundation, obviously. It came a long way,” said Sweeney, who also helped form an ongoing alliance with Special Olympics Massachusetts. “I think when we had our first Winter Classic [in 2010 at Fenway Park], we had an Alumni Classic to kind of replace the Wives’ Carnival.

“I think we’ve evolved nicely into different events. Our next event will be the BFit Challenge running the stairs [at TD Garden] for all first responders and their families. But it’s rewarding to see where we’ve come over the last 20 years.”

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The Foundation has also partnered with various organizations for charity golf tournaments to support the likes of injured high school hockey players A.J. Quetta and Jake Thibeault, and for the last 17 years, has fielded a team for the Pan-Mass Challenge benefiting the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

“I’m so proud of Swoop,” said Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs. “I’m fortunate enough to call him a teammate. He’s done some great work. When I started the Foundation we had a couple of different directors that came in – and I believe it was Cam who said, ‘why don’t we have a former Bruin come in and help us with the Foundation?’ And it was absolutely right. I ended up talking to Swoop about the position. He was very passionate about it and, frankly, he’s taken it to level that I didn’t ever anticipate when I started it over 20 years ago.

“It wouldn’t be what it is today without Swoop and all the great things that he’s done. The addition of Johnny Whitesides [as Director of Health, Fitness, and Wellness], Leandra Murphy [as Foundation Manager], the [Bruins Academy] Learn to Play program with Community Relations. He plays with in everybody’s sandbox – he creates a healthy environment of collaboration and, frankly, it rises all the ships in the harbor.”

Sweeney has also overseen the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to reach local youths, teaming up with Red River to open numerous STEM Labs in schools across New England, as well as with National Grid to bring the BFit School Assembly program to students all over the region. The Foundation has also worked with various other organizations and municipalities to build street hockey rinks in communities around Massachusetts.

“[Earlier this week], we were at a school in Norwood and we had the Norwood Fire Department there along with Rich McKinnon the president of the [Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts] and we talked about healthy habits with the kids, the firefighters talk about bullying,” said Sweeney. “It’s our school assembly program supported by National Grid, they’ve been partners of our to go into these schools and teach kids about healthy habits and being good kids.”

Giving back, of course, has always been a core part of the Bruins’ culture – which Sweeney aims to carry forward for years to come.

“Ever since my first year here with the Bruins, it was always embedded in us,” said Sweeney. “From the previous leadership, there was Johnny Bucyk. When I got here, Ray Bourque and Rick Middleton. It was part of what we did. We always went to different places. Chief, I remember he was still doing a lot of the radio then and the team services, so he did a lot and told us what we should do and we followed.

“I think that has transcended over time. Just look at we had the toy shopping [event] today that Ray started…Patrice [Bergeron] took that over and the guys are still doing it. It’s something in the Bruins culture and something that will always continue.”

And it’s Sweeney who is now helping to lead the way.

“Bob is humble, Bob is grounded, and Bob cares,” said Jacobs. “Those components, when you put them together, as well as his drive – he’s tireless…he’s out there for the right reasons. He wants to carry the Bruins’ flag and he wants to make a difference. That’s really special. Those people are hard to find.

“That’s Swoop…he’s a guy that brings the team together for the greater good. That’s what Bob is. God bless him. I’m really fortunate to have him in my life.”

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