Haggerty: Good vibes return to TD Garden in Black and Gold


Haggerty: Good vibes return to TD Garden in Black and Gold

Perhaps the best way to describe Sundays first practice of Boston Bruins training camp was a carnival atmosphere that was missing only the calliope music and the sword-swallowing bearded lady.

Close to a thousand diehard Bruins fans traveled to TD Garden to watch the Bruins open up training camp after the first 119 days of the 2012-13 NHL season were wiped away due to the greed, stupidity and stubborn turns taken by the NHL lockout.

It was a celebration of NHL hockey with fans applauding and cheering as each Bruins player walked down the runway and hopped onto the ice.

There is nothing better. These fans are unbelievable. It feels good as a player stepping on the ice and hearing those fans cheering, said Nathan Horton, who has been envisioning that moment for nearly a calendar year after being knocked out of commission by a Tom Sestito hit back on Jan. 22 of last year against the Flyers. There is nothing better. It felt so good.

Quite simply: it was a continuation of a love affair thats raged on between the Boston sports fan and this particular set of Black and Gold skaters over the last five years.

It was a great day for hockey, said Claude Julien, simply and correctly.

All across North America there were hockey revivals in places as far-reaching as Vancouver and Sunrise, Florida, and there was quick forgiveness for many that had smoke coming out of their ears just a few weeks ago. It helped that both the NHL owners, executives and players and pretty much everyone involved with the sport was ready to say Im sorry in some form or fashion once the four months of madness ended with a signed Memorandum of Understanding around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

First it was the NHL schedule for everybody to pore over, then information on a quick six-day training camp and on Sunday morning Cam Neely was talking about free healthy wraps, fountain sodas and other concession items the Bruins will be giving away free at all January home games at TD Garden.

These are things that hopefully our fans can appreciate because Lord knows that we appreciate our fans, said Neely.

Neely followed up the free goodie offers by posing for an endless amount of pictures and signing autographs during the Sunday practice session as a steady stream of Bruins-garbed fans walked up to the private section where Neely, general manager Peter Chiarelli, assistant general manager Don Sweeney and assistant general manager Jim Benning were evaluating the players on the ice.

The message was pretty clear: the fans do matter to the Bruins and its more than just a Thank You, Fans painted in blue lettering on the ice.

Some may continue a bitter jihad against the NHL after their latest work stoppage that should have been avoidable. Some will watch the Bruins games on TV and swear to never spend another dime on a league that has taken its fan base for granted far too many times in the past. There might even be NHL teams in places like Phoenix or Florida that wont ever truly recover from the Great Lockout of 2012 and will instead relocate to a hockey city with a much warmer fan embrace.

But most Bruins fans in the city of Boston simply wanted their Stanley Cup-worthy team back out on the ice, and yearned for another Tyler Seguin rush up the ice, another Milan Lucic beat-down of an unfortunate opponent and another scorched Zdeno Chara slap shot that seems to defy the laws of physics.

They simply wanted their Bruins back and that finally happened on Sunday after a few more drawn-out moments courtesy of the lawyers doing their thing while drawing up a workable contract.

It was very exciting. Everybody was just pumped to be out there and skating in front quite a big number of fans, said Dennis Seidenberg. To hear them cheer for us was a good feeling. I think everybody here is just looking forward to playing on Saturday in the home opener vs. the Rangers and playing Bruins hockey again.

So now amid the good-feeling and Hakuta Matata moments at TD Garden as fans pass around free peanuts and discount-priced Dougie Hamilton jerseys from the souvenir shop, there will also be the matter of a 48-game regular season to be played. It will be immediate and exciting, and every game is going to have ramifications that couldnt even be imagined in the customary 82-game meat grinder.

It took pain and more than a little gnashing of the teeth to get to this point, but Sunday proved that the NHL and the Bruins are back with a vengeance as the New England Patriots enter the final weeks of their playoff lives, the Boston Celtics seem fated for Old Man Basketball oblivion and Red Sox spring training doesnt have quite the luster of 10 years ago.

Its been said all along that it would have been disastrous for the sport if the entire 2012-13 NHL season was cancelled, and a second entire year within the last eight was gone. Instead there will be life over the next four months and there will be a full round of Stanley Cup playoffs that will cause hard feelings to fade as they did for the NBA last season.

Sunday was the first step, and it was a good one. All that was missing from the scene was a Black and Gold Bozo the Clown handing out Bruins Balloon Animals to hockey-loving tots in the Gardens lower bowl.

But its not too late. Maybe thats the plan for Tuesday nights free Black and Gold scrimmage where the good vibes will just keep on coming.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Magic in Orlando. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back


Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.