Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

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Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

Bruins President Cam Neely and head coach Claude Julien areno different than the rest of the NHL-loving public. Just as the fans andplayers want to get back on the ice as soon as possible, executive and membersof NHL coaching staffs are chomping at the bit for a resolution to a lockoutthat passed 80 days in length last week.

So when it appeared things were close to a resolution duringthe meeting between the group of six owners and players last week duringmeetings at the Westin Hotel in New York City, naturally Neely and Julien gotexcited that theyd be headed back to work soon.

Like everybody else, emotions run high and then they go lowdepending on how everything turns out, said Neely. I think everybody wasfeeling cautiously optimistic at the Board of Governors meeting that we weregoing to get something done. Unfortunately it didnt happen. Ive been a glasshalf-full guy this whole time and Im going to stay half-full.

Im not going to lie. Its difficult to keep morale up whenwere not out doing what were supposed to be doing. I know people are going tobe upset that were not playing. Thats a given. But its days like this when wereally want to get staff out and show everyone what this organization is trulyall about. You try and make sure that everybody stays as positive as possible.

Instead things fell apart in spectacularly ridiculousfashion last Thursday with dueling Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman pressconferences. Then the NHL announced that all scheduled games through Dec. 30have now been cancelled as the two sides continue their war of labor attrition.

So it was refreshing that Neely and Julien were among agroup of Bruins employees, front office staff, coaches and media personalitiesthat spent Monday morning shopping for thousands of dollars in toys at theTarget in Woburn. The carriages full of toys, games and stocking stuffers are beingpurchased to be donated to kids stranded in local hospitals during the holidayseason in the coming days.

I certainly enjoy this. It puts all in perspective, and noteven because of the hockey things, said Julien. But to see the smiles onthose kids faces in the hospitals in the next few days or the next week willbe a very special day for me. Those kids are what its all about. It not onlyputs you in the Christmas spirit, but its about spreading joy and happiness.Weve got an opportunity to do that.

Its an outstanding Bruins tradition that started back in1990 by Ray Bourque, was passed to P.J. Axelsson in the early seasons in thisdecade, and has been organized by Zdeno Chara in recent years.

Everybody isnt happy with the lockout situation that wereinvolved in. But that doesnt mean we cant help others out around theholidays. Its fantastic to be involved with this, said Neely. To havechildren that arent able to be home for Christmas and you can shed a littlelight on them. I think its important for the organization to do that whetherits the front office and coaches, or its the players.

Regardless of how other athletes feel, were in a positionto give back and were obligated to do just that. Were fortunate to be able todo what we do for a living. For us to get out and get involved in thecommunity, in various ways, is something we should be doing."

Neely, Julien, assistant GMs Jim Benning and Don Sweeney andassistant coaches Doug Houda, Doug Jarvis and Geoff Ward were among thefriendly faces that lent their time and shopping acumen. They replaced theBruins players that normally organize the toy drive, and insured that someneedy Boston area children will have a joyful Christmas.

The event is just part of an ongoing excellent job theBoston BruinsTD Garden staff has done staying active in the community even ifthe hockey season is in limbo.

Weve always maintained a strong relationship with thecommunity in a number of ways and were always going to continue to do that,said Neely. The lockout doesnt mean that we cant keep getting involved asan organization like we always have.

Of course the Bs executives and coaches are looking forwardto handing the charitable endeavors back to the players eventually. The returnof the NHL players would mean that the business of the NHL is back up to fullefficiency, and that the fans are cheering instead of berating both the NHL andNHLPA.

Bruins officials clearly expect the fans to return in ahockey hotbed like Boston with a Stanley Cup-caliber hockey club, but they alsoknow that it might be as easy for places like Florida, Dallas, Anaheim,Carolina, Phoenix and Nashville among others.

Were bystanders just like everybody else. I can just tellyou that Im looking forward to getting back to work. I know that everybody inthere negotiating feels that same way, said Julien. Recovering from thelockout depends on the areas. Some areas bounced back more quickly than othersin 2004-05. We know hardly any Canadian cities have the NBA or Major LeagueBaseball, so hockey is the famous Canadian sport.

There were also some traditional cities in the US that hadtheir fans back. But there were some cities that had a struggle to get theirfans back, and I dont think its going to be any different this time around.We just hope that it will get resolved quickly, that the fans understand it andthat theres a real positive message there at the end.

Collateral damage from the lockout is a sad reality of thislatest work stoppage in an NHL thats had too far many of them over the last 20years.

But Monday was not about that at all. It was about a Bruinsorganization doing something tangible to improve the lives of kids looking fora lift around the holiday season just as theyve done for years.

OFFSEASON

Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

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Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics turned quite a few heads when they used two of their three, first-round picks on International players.

They were part of a record-setting night for international players, with 15 being selected in the first round – the most ever in NBA history.

But like many international draft picks, it is far from a given that you’ll see either of Boston’s international first rounder picks Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively.

While it’s not uncommon for teams to draft international players in the first round and do so with the plan being to keep them overseas for another year or two, the potential hold-up for Boston’s two international picks has more to do with coming to terms on a buyout amount with their current teams.

“We’ve had initial discussions with their representatives,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, when I asked him about it during the team’s press conference to introduce the newest Celtics on Friday. “We have not concluded anything yet. We’re still in that discussion. And I’m not sure about summer (league).”

While it remains an option, a league source told CSNNE.com that it’s unlikely that either player will participate in either of Boston’s summer league squads which will play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Ainge agrees that there are a number of positives one can take from drafting an overseas player in the first round.

But the decision by Boston to draft Yabusele and Zizic in the first round had a lot to do with one thing – talent.

“The reason that these two guys are here, … is because they’re good players,” Ainge said. “The fact that they have people that want them on their teams on the International top level competition, tells you how good players they are. They could easily find jobs overseas at the top level. They’ve earned that reputation. They’re both very productive. Guerson very productive and Ante very good rebounding … now we’re trying to figure out the best way they can help us for their development. We’re working with their representatives on that plan.”

Yabusele, a 6-8, 275-pound power forward, averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. While appearing in 34 games last season, he grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.

Zizic, a 6-11, 250-pound center, distinguished himself as one of the better players in the Adriatic League this past season. He was voted by fans, media and coaches as the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect after averaging 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the field.

Bruins need Hayes to "take his game to another level"

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Bruins need Hayes to "take his game to another level"

BUFFALO -- With it appearing that Loui Eriksson is all but gone from the Bruins with the July 1 opening of free agency around the corner, B’s general manager Don Sweeney must find a way to replace the second-leading point man from last year’s hockey club. With or without a suitable Eriksson replacement at right wing via trade or free agency, the Bruins will also need greater production from their returning wingers on the right side.

That means 20-year-old David Pastrnak needs to have a breakthrough season after the Bruins knocked away attempts to extract him in trade discussions for a top-4 defenseman, and Jimmy Hayes needs to rebound from a streaky, disappointing first season in Boston. The 6-foot-6 Hayes slumped to 13 goals and 29 points in 75 games, and was a team-worst minus-12 while going through long stretches where it was hard to even notice him on the ice.

His GM said that needs to change next season with the Bruins counting on him to play more consistently, and be willing to play the big man’s game.

“We have internal candidates that might have to step up, and David is a player like that…Jimmy is a player like that. There’s no question we’re not a complete team right now,” said Sweeney. “So we’ll go to work now, and that could be through free agency, or through potential trade stuff. It could also be about the excitement if somebody pops from the development side of things. I think Jimmy had a pretty start to the year, but he really tailed off when the team needed him most. He should take some responsibility for that. We had a pretty frank discussion about that to challenge him to take his game to another level, and be able to help out a younger player.

“He played a lot with Ryan Spooner. I have to put ownership on Jimmy in terms of saying ‘Hey, I have to take more responsibility. It’s not just about finishing and scoring goals.’ He has the capacity to do that. He gets power play time and net-front time, and he needs to get to the hard areas of the ice with more consistency. It’s an area that he needs to continue to improve upon. We as an organization feel that we need to have players that are driven to get better.”

As far as the free agent options mentioned by Sweeney, Kyle Okposo and Troy Brouwer would be names to watch closely as they both fight the Black and Gold mold of winger with size, strength and finishing ability.

Clearly there’s no choice but for the 26-year-old Hayes to have a bounce-back season given that he’s signed for two years in Boston at $2.3 million per season, and that they need him with the right side of their forward group in flux. 

Ray Bourque arrested and charged with OUI Friday

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Ray Bourque arrested and charged with OUI Friday

Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque was arrested in Andover this weekend, and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol according to multiple reports.

Andover Police told CBS Boston that the former Bruins and Avalanche defenseman was taken into custody around 11:30 p.m. Friday night on Lowell Street. The Bruins legend has lived on the North Shore with his family since retiring from the NHL, and has been a constant presence in the community at charitable events and Bruins functions.

Bourque was released on bail. No additional information was immediately available