B's players pay surprise visits to youth hockey teams

B's players pay surprise visits to youth hockey teams
October 12, 2012, 4:47 am
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SOUTH BOSTON The Boston Bruins should have been skating in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center doing battle with Scott Hartnell and the hated Flyers on Thursday night.
Instead they were players without a game thanks to the NHL lockout.
That didnt stop a group of Bruins players, however, that took it upon themselves to make surprise visits to a pair of PeeWee hockey practices in the Boston area. Johnny Boychuk, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Brad Marchand used the two hours they should have been playing a game against Philly, and instead filled it by skating for a few hours with the young hockey fans that adore them so much. It was part of a number of rink visits over the last few days organized by the NHL players through the NHLPA, and it was an unmitigated success.
It was only an hours time for each of the players, but they created memories with the young fans, parents and coaches that will last a lifetime.
This is the second-best day to Christmas for a lot of these kids, said one of the Cambridge dads on the ice as his son posed for a picture with Marchand. Theyll all remember this forever.
It was important for each of the four Bs players to send a message to their fans both big and small: they havent forgotten about their loyal Black and Gold fans and wish there was no work stoppage with the same passionate fervor.
It was a blast. Its been a while since Ive been out on the ice with a big group of kids, said Marchand, who is back in Boston after spending a little extra time with his family in Nova Scotia. They really enjoyed it, and to see how happy and excited they were made our day too.
We love playing the game; were still at that point in our career. It would be great to be out in game situations right now. When youre in a city like Boston and you get the fan support like we do, its tough to walk around and see how disappointed they are that were not playing.We want to be in front of them and we want to play for them. It would be nice to be out there making them happy.
Boychuk and Paille skated with a South Boston PeeWee team during their practice at the Francis Murray rink in South Boston, and Marchand and Campbell scrimmaged with a Cambridge PeeWee youth hockey team at Simoni Memorial Arena. Boychuk and Paille were jokingly cut from the youth squad as they went through the drills with the rest of the team, and then signed autographs for every last child in the neighborhood rink.
Marchand and Campbell scrimmaged with the Cambridge kids, and Marchand even found himself gang-tackled on the ice by a group of exuberant youngsters when the session was over.
Both forwards also spent a half-hour signing autographs for all of the Cambridge players after skating with them. The wide-eyed looks and glowing smiles from all the young hockey players made it all worth it for the Bs players, and they hoped they were able to give something back while things have been taken away from them on the ice. NHLPA player rep Daniel Paille helped hatch the original idea with the players union to make the surprise visits to the practice sessions, and didnt have to go far to find a few of his teammates to accompany him.
His teammates loved the message behind the visit, and Paille hoped to do it again soon while they wait for the NHL and NHLPA to find a fair deal that will put the NHL back in business.
We didnt want to be in this position. We wanted to be in Philly right now, said Paille. Obviously we all want to play. But on the bright side there were a lot of kids here that showed a lot of excitement and had a lot of joy.
Weve got no games to play right now, so we need to get out among the community. Obviously theyve always been great to us, and we need to do whatever we can to help fans understand where were coming from and know that were always trying to help out.
Spontaneous, surprise visits to youth hockey practices like the ones undertaken by the quartet of Bs players on Thursday night can go a long way toward healing the wounds of the NHL lockout. Its also the best that NHL role players like Paille can do while they wait for union chiefs and league commissioners to finish haggling over hundreds of millions of dollars and decide its finally okay to play again.