-- When a team accomplishes something as historic as what the 2010-11 Boston Bruins
did last season, that squad can look forward to numerous reunion celebrations.
The 2011 Stanley Cup champions, however, are about to get a rare jumpstart to that reuniting process much earlier than most teams. Other than three departed regulars from the team that ended a 39-year championship drought in June, the Bruins are reuniting this season to attempt to become the first repeat Cup champion since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings
That reunion began last week when players started to trickle into the Boston area for informal skates at the team's practice facility. It continued Monday when most of the team was on hand for the club's annual charity golf tournament at The International Golf Club and Resort.
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Excitement was as prevalent among members of the 2011-12 Bruins as familiarity.
"You had that time apart and it's a special feeling when you get the group back together," forward Milan Lucic
said. "And there's always going to be that special bond that we created between one another and when we see one another there's always going to be that smile and that connection because we did go the distance and we did something so special together. So that's why I think it's great that almost all the guys are back so far."
The Bruins lost forward Mark Recchi
to retirement and forward Michael Ryder
and defenseman Tomas Kaberle
to free agency. They imported Joe Corvo
for their back line via trade and signed former Montreal forward Benoit Pouliot
to a one-year deal. While there's a chance a rookie could cause more roster turnover, this Bruins team is going to look almost identical to the one that raised the Cup in Vancouver.
Even forward Brad Marchand
, who as a restricted free agent still doesn't have a contract for this season, couldn't miss the chance to get together with most of his championship-winning brothers.
"It's awesome. Everyone was really excited to get back and sort of talk about different days with the Cup and how summer has gone. Now I think everyone is excited to have the opportunity to do it again this year," said Marchand, who noted that his agent and the Bruins are working on a new deal every day. "It's great to see everyone back, we're having a lot of fun, we're back with each other and we can't wait to get camp going."
The Bruins are scheduled to report to TD Garden for conditioning tests and physicals Friday, and will hit the ice for the first time as a group the next day. By then, they better have their minds shifted from the past to the future because the "Cup hangover" can take its toll if a team allows the celebration to linger too long.
Lucic is confident he and his teammates will be thinking about nothing but 2011-12 when camp opens.
"It is (tough to stop celebrating)," he said. "You want to celebrate. You could celebrate for the rest of your life. You want to just kind of keep the party going. But there comes a point where you have to say, 'Hey, it's time to step back and start focusing on next season.' And obviously that point is now. And definitely we're looking forward to having another great year with all the guys back. I think our main focus right now, it's not even about thinking about making another run. It's just about having a good season and making the playoffs."
As a member of the Florida Panthers
for his entire career before he was traded to Boston prior to last season, Nathan Horton
had never been through the grind of the playoffs. While the shorter summer was different for the power forward, he says it's made getting back into the swing of things easier.
"You want to celebrate. You could celebrate for the rest of your life. You want to just kind of keep the party going. But there comes a point where you have to say, 'Hey, it's time to step back and start focusing on next season.' And obviously that point is now." -- Milan Lucic
"We only had two, three months off, where I'd usually have an entire three months," he said. "It goes by a lot quicker. It's definitely nice to be back and it's nice to come back to the rink when you feel like you haven't left it. Normally when you come back, everything feels different and it takes a while. Not this year. It just kind of feels normal."
Horton said he's fully recovered from the concussion he suffered in the Cup Final and the separated shoulder he played through during the entire playoff run. That leaves Marc Savard
as the only member of the Bruins still battling injury from last season. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli recently revealed Savard will miss the 2011-12 season because of post-concussion syndrome.
Savard's situation has tempered some of his teammates' celebrations.
"It's tough," Lucic said. "He's a great hockey player. He's been a big part of this team for the last five years, and he's helped me a lot. I remember my rookie year, when I was here four years ago, I spent a lot of time hanging out at his house, us two together. So it's tough to see him go down the way he has the last couple years, and I think the main thing right now is focusing on getting himself healthy and worrying about his life more than hockey or anything like that."
The Bruins haven't had much time to get themselves rested, but that could keep complacency from setting in. There's a hope that the start of the season will feel like a continuation of last season.
"It's going to be more or less the same. The same kind of attitude, the same work ethic," defenseman Johnny Boychuk
said. "I don't think too much is going to change. We know we have a good chance at repeating and we don't want to mess anything up. We just want to make sure we're ready from the get-go. I know everybody's healthy, so there's no reason why we can't."