Boston -- With the holiday season fast approaching, the Bruins went on a shopping spree on December 5th to benefit sick and underprivileged children in Massachusetts.
Backed by personal donations from Boston players--the total of which was matched by the Bruins Foundation--and along with donations from NESN and Volvo, the B's, who donned sweaters and Santa hats, made their way to the Target store in Woburn, MA.
With nearly $20,000 in pocket, forwards P.J. Axelsson, Brad Boyes, Shean Donovan, Phil Kessel, Mark Mowers and Glen Murray, along with defenseman Mark Stuart and goaltender Hannu Toivonen strolled the aisles looking for only the coolest gifts to bring to some very special children.
The team has made this an annual event ever since Bruins' legend Ray Bourque started the tradition over a decade ago.
The festive spirit continues next week. With gifts in tow, Bruins' players will visit 15 hostpitals and shelters including Franciscan Hospital for Children, Children's Hospital Boston, Floating Hospital for Children, Shriners Hospital, Rosie's Place, Mass. General Hospital, Women's Lunch Place, Boston Medial Center, Spaulding Rehab Center, Cross Roads Family Center, Mass. Eye & Ear Infirmary, Home for Little Wanderers and The Neely House.
Staff members will also bring gifts to an additional number of hospitals and shelters, in the hopes of adding a little extra winter cheer to several different locations next week.
"Every guy here loves the holidays, and giving back," said Assistant Captain Murray. "We're here shopping for some kids that really need it."
After a wild, 6-5 victory over the Habs in Montreal, a pleased Head Coach Dave Lewis gave the team the day off, and they seemed quite eager to stroll the aisles of the store in lieu of practice.
Stuart was seen picking out CD's from the music section and a nearby shopper advised him on what to purchase, swearing by albums from artists Snow Patrol and The Fray.
"I'm kind of just trying to figure out what's popular," admitted Stuart. "We already filled up three carts here though, so we're doing pretty well."
Toivonen got some assistance from Blades the Bear, the Bruins' mascot.
Blades pawed fiercely at the sporting goods, but Toivonen said he wanted to peruse the toy selection a little more leisurely.
"I'm trying to look around a little bit," said a smiling Toivonen. "I mean, I'm still a kid myself so I'm having fun just picking stuff.
"And hopefully these toys we're getting are going to make kids happy, and make their holiday memorable," he said.
The Bruins have played some of their best hockey of late, and in doing so have bonded as a unit. And as tough as they might be on the ice, it's pretty apparent that there's no "Scrooge" on this team off the rink.
As the team shopped, some of the players took the opportunity to reflect on how they've come together over the first part of the season.
"There's a real good group of guys here," said rookie sniper Phil Kessel with a smile. "I don't think we have anyone who's real grumpy."
"No, there's none of that, that's for sure," said Murray. "It's a pretty even-keel team that takes care of one another."
"I really think the team has come together," added fellow forward Axelsson. "We're playing great together, and having fun with each other."
Axelsson, a 10-year veteran of the Black-and-Gold, had some help in picking out presents from his daughter Wilma and wife Siw, and he said the gift-giving is an event that he looks forward to every year.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "Especially when we go out and deliver them, to see some big smiles when they get the presents. It's really enjoyable."
Also present for the day were Glen Murray's wife Katie and his daughter Hunter, Wayne Primeau's wife Leanne and their children Maddie and Mason, as well as Shean Donovan's son Jorian. _____ Matt Porter is a student at Emerson College