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Sweeney's First Day as GM

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.com - May 20, 2015 will serve as the date that Don Sweeney was named General Manager of the Boston Bruins, the eighth in the franchise's history.

There was much work that went into the month leading up to his introduction as GM -- a month-long interview process full of knowledge vetting and intense discussions -- and there will be much work moving forward, as Sweeney and the Bruins' management team look to get the organization back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

With that, let's take a walk through Sweeney's first day.

After all, this has only happened seven other times in team history, and marks just the fourth time since 1972. Sweeney joins a list that includes 'Ultimate Bruin' Milt Schmidt and Art Ross, the franchise's first coach and GM.

President Cam Neely revealed during Sweeney's introductory press conference that there were four candidates for the position. Sweeney came out on top.

So, what has the past month been like for Sweeney, who was operating in his previous position as Assistant GM (and GM of the Providence Bruins), while also going through the exhaustive interview process?

"Well, my family has been a big part of this, in terms of supporting me and riding the ups and downs," Sweeney told BostonBruins.com first and foremost, when asked to give insight into the process. "And people have talked about sentimental favorites and things - that doesn't exist in this business, by the way - it's to make the right decision and fully respect the people on the other side and present yourself as the most qualified candidate, and hopefully it falls your way."

"You know, you have to have the confidence. I feel there's a tremendous amount of great people here that I've worked well with and want to continue to do so and lean on them. And, again, it had its ups and downs, there's no question, you start to second guess and feel like it may not happen, but again, that's out of respect for the whole process itself."

There were many nights where Sweeney wasn't home, and there will be many nights in the future where his job as GM will take over.

"They’ve made a tremendous amount of sacrifices and there with me in lockstep all the way," said Sweeney.

9:00 AM - Announcement

That long process culminated on Wednesday, when the official announcement was sent out by team at 9:00 a.m. on the dot. Boston and hockey reporters first began chiming in on Twitter about the news.

“I am both excited and humbled for the opportunity to be named the General Manager of the Boston Bruins," read a statement from Sweeney in the press release. “I would like to thank the entire Jacobs’ family and specifically Mr. Jacobs and Charlie, as well as, Cam for bestowing the confidence and trust in me to direct this historic franchise in which I have been a part of for 24 years."

Sweeney's introductory press conference with CEO Charlie Jacobs and President Cam Neely was set for 1:30 p.m., so the next few hours for new GM were filled with meetings and plenty of calls.

He spoke with players, and Claude Julien, whom he had spoken with during the process. He'll speak more with Julien in the coming weeks to go through areas that need change, and see if their philosophies are in line before making a final coaching decision.

Sweeney talked with the Bruins' leaders and members of the team, and heard from them about the disappointment that the 2014-15 season brought.

"You don’t want to be on the outside looking in. I know that talking to some of our players this morning, that’s the way they feel as well, and that’s what you want to hear as a general manager on the job for the first day," said Sweeney. "You want to hear from the players that they realize they underperformed."

"It’s always going to come back to the players. You can talk about systems and such, but those guys know deep down that they’re the ones that are going to have to go out and implement and perform and the guys that I spoke to are anxious to get back and move forward with the process."

Key in players' development, Sweeney will continue to have one-on-one conversations and keep the lines of communication open. Being a former player, he's comfortable in that role.

"You have a pulse on things to support a coach and to support a staff, and hopefully have them challenge you back, because that’s what you want," he said. "You want people that are going to be willing to challenge or push you to get better."

1:30 PM - Press Conference

Promptly at 1:30 p.m. ET, Sweeney walked out from behind a black curtain with Jacobs and Neely to ascend a few stairs to the platform set up for the press conference. He sat down in the middle of the table in front of a microphone. Jacobs joined him on his right, and Neely on his left.

The press conference was taking place at TD Garden, near the arena floor, which has been more dormant than usual in the month of May. With 15 seasons as a Bruin, Sweeney spent many years playing on that rink in the Spoked-B and many hours in the locker room down the hall.

Jacobs, Neely and Sweeney all gave opening statements to the rows of reporters seated below with their phones and computers at the ready, recorders capturing every word and cameras documenting every mannerism.

"First and foremost, obviously I’m very, very excited, grateful for the opportunity," Sweeney stated with a determined smile, uttering his first words as GM. "I’m very cognizant and respectful of the process that has gone on, specifically obviously I want to thank Mr. Jacobs, Charlie, and the entire Jacobs family, Cam. It means a lot to have gone through this process as exhaustive at times as it was, as challenging as it was, and come out the other side knowing they have the confidence in me to take this organization forward."

As far as his experience with the Black and Gold, spanning all the way back to when he was drafted by the organization in 1984, "A lot of people have talked a lot about that and being the sentimental favorite," he said. "I didn’t believe that for a second, and that’s out of respect for the number of candidates and the difficulty."

The trio - mostly Sweeney - spent roughly the next 30 minutes fielding questions from reporters.

"I’ve been listening to Donnie Sweeney talk and I find it incredibly impressive for him to communicate the way he has about his vision of the Bruins," Jacobs said to reporters, gesturing to the GM seated next to him. "I have roughly 25 minutes on my ticker that he’s been speaking and I agree with all the points that he’s made."

"This really is a transition for us from where we were and where we want to go. Where we were last season is a team that didn’t make the playoffs. Where we want to go is a team that’s going to compete for the Cup year-in and-year out and have a consistent winning team. I find that Don is the best candidate for that."

2:15 PM - Photo Op

Next up after the press conference, the trio whisked away to the Bruins' locker room for photos taken by team photographer Brian Babineau, marking the historic moment for just the eighth GM in the team's 91-year history. View a gallery of the photos on BostonBruins.com.

2:30 - 3:30 PM - Interviews

While the press conference served as an opportunity for reporters to ask questions, Sweeney spent the next hour speaking 1-on-1 with various television stations and media outlets, no doubt answering many of the same questions and graciously capping off the process with a BostonBruins.com interview.

5:00 PM - Twitter Q&A

Fans can read the articles, watch the videos and weigh in on the team, but how about having questions answered by the GM himself?

Sweeney sat down in the Bruins' Communications office for 45 minutes to answer fan questions tagged with #AskGMSweens. If you missed it, you can view the full chat on BostonBruins.com.

7:00 PM - Ceremonial First Pitch

What better way to cap off the day than at Fenway? Sweeney's wife and two sons joined him at Fenway Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Red Sox game against the Texas Rangers.

"I might have to have a little practice in that regard," Sweeney joked beforehand. "We were fortunate to go there as part of our development camp last year and shag some balls and take batting practice, so very, very appreciative of the Red Sox affording us that opportunity and this will be exciting."

"You realize you're on that field in front of a lot of people, I'm sure the nerves and adrenaline are going to kick in, so likely to turf it or airmail it, but we'll see."

Not surprisingly, Sweeney nailed it with a successful first pitch.

The Next 100 Days

With the first couple of days as GM wrapped up, the process is just beginning for Sweeney, and there is plenty on his and the organization's agenda, from coaching and personnel, to preparing for the NHL Combine, draft and free agency.

"We're going to go to work and attack it," said Sweeney. "I obviously have a tremendous amount of respect for Claude and his staff and the accomplishments that they have had - need to have conversations with each and every one of them - to make decisions going forward and we'll do that in short order."

"Getting a feel in terms of the players and having a relationship there, I feel that I know them and they know me as a person, but again, this is a different role, and I have to get comfortable and they have to get comfortable in that regard. I think that we do have to explore all of the cap flexibility things, we have the draft coming up, so we have things that are on our plate that we need to address right away, even from the unrestricted and restricted free agents that we have to have conversations with."

Jacobs referenced Sweeney's refreshing "black and white" nature.

"Approaching this summer, he has some hard decisions to make, and we spoke about the coach a little bit, we spoke about the guys who have some term left, who we might want to move, who we might want to keep, who we will re-invest in - and he'll be busy," said Jacobs. "Thinking about it through this next 100 days, like a presidency almost, what is the first 100 days? What have you accomplished?"

"He's got a lot to accomplish, but I have great faith in his execution."

There is a long way to go. Sweeney knows that. Like his first day on the job, his future days as GM will be a whirlwind. He will encounter challenges, he will welcome discourse, and his passion for the organization's success will be apparent every step of the way.

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