Full Bruins contingent headed to NYC for CBA talks

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Full Bruins contingent headed to NYC for CBA talks

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins win as a team. They lose as a team.

They also show their player solidarity as a team.

The entire contingent of Bruins players minus their erstwhile goaltender holed up in his Colorado compound hopped on a train Wednesday morning bound for the NHLNHLPA negotiations in New York City.

Their train trip came immediately after the bulk of Bs players skated for 60 minutes at Ristuccia Arena at a captains practice led by Zdeno Chara. Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle and Edmonton Oilers defensemen Ryan Whitney along with former UMass hockey player Alex Berry were skating along with the host of Bruins players including
Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Chara, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin, Johnny Boychuk, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Jordan Caron, Chris Bourque, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Rich Peverley.

As many as 300 players are expected to head into NYC for the NHLPANHL talks over the next two days with a possible lockout beginning at midnight on Sept. 15 if a deal isnt reached between the two sides. The Bruins players know that a show of solidarity is important, and Ference later tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that all members of the Black and Gold roster were headed to the Big Apple for the CBA showdown.

Its good that a lot of guys are going to find out where were at as a union. Were going to have some long meetings tonight and tomorrow morning, and were going to get more clarity of what to expect over the next few weeks, said Milan Lucic. With all of the players
showing up, it shows that were against the lockout and we want this game to grow and continue.

Its no secret that the game has grown tremendously over the last few years and its headed in a really good direction. Don Fehr is very black and white with us, so we know exactly whats going on. The large attendance in New York City really shows our solidarity.

The NHL has scheduled a Thursday afternoon press conference with the expected likelihood that theyll announce a lockout, and thats something the Bruins players are bracing for despite being hopeful headed into the informational meetings. Gregory Campbell said he
expects progress once the NHL announces a lockout of the players, but theres also the inevitably there will be some kind of lockout.

The biggest thing for us is how to prepare as players for a lockout. Do you go home? Do you stay in your NHL city if youre a guy with kids and a family? said Campbell. Im trying to take an optimistic approach. The lockout deadline almost seems inevitable
from everything that Ive heard about the talks. Thats the owners plan. Theres nothing written in stone and even if we are officially locked out on the 15th Im still optimistic that as soon as the deadline comes there will be progress.

Once the deadline hits its for real and the season wont start until it gets sorted out. Hopefully thats a time when people really get serious and try to work something out here. I dont think the game is in that bad of a shape. Its certainly a lot better than it was when I
came into the NHL.

There is still a glimmer of hope that the NHL and NHLPA can overcome their hurdles and find some common ground over the next two days, but it wont be easy. The NHL has to back off the rollback of salaries and the promises of salary escrow that the players bitterly accepted
during the last CBA negotiations, and the players will have to give back generously from the 57 percent share of the Hockey Related Revenue theyve earned over the last six seasons.

Perhaps Fehr and Gary Bettman will meet face-to-face and hammer out their disagreements with the Sept. 15 lockout date looming, and end the battle over NHL profit margins appearing to drive the fundamental disagreement.

Whatever happens the Bruins players are once again showing theyre in harmony as a hockey club with the battle having been transferred from the ice to the board room this week in New York City.

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," he said "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .