|09.09.11 at 7:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — This time of year, hockey players are used to mostly talking shop. The usual stuff: what shape they’re in, what they learned in the previous season, etc.
This year’s different, though. As hockey starts up again, the game can move on from, but not forget, what has been a devestating summer. Gregory Campbell had to remember fallen friends, smiling only when he could talk shop.
“When he got on the ice, he was like a robot. That guy blocked more shots than anybody I think I’ve seen in my life,” Campbell said of Karlis Skrastins, one of the former NHL players who died in Wednesday’s KHL plane crash. “He had wrist guards, and literally armor underneath his hockey equipment. He was such a warrior on the ice. It was almost contridictory, because he was so gentle off the ice and such a good person.”
Yet as far as anecdotes can take someone mourning multiple losses, Campbell often found himself repeating one word that was used far too often over the summer: tragic.
The sad streth for the sport began during the conference finals, when Rangers tough guy Derek Boogaard died of an accidental drug overdose. Jets forward Rick Rypien committed suicide in August, and newly retired enforcer Wade Belak hanged himself two weeks ago. It was already a gloomy time for the game, but the most horrific blow came Wednesday when a plane carrying the entire KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl killed 43 people, including nine former NHL players.
Given the astoundingly large number of players who perished over the offseason, it’s hard to find a player throughout the league who wasn’t personally impacted by the tragic events the summer held. On Thursday, Zdeno Chara grieved over the loss of close friend Pavol Demitra. On Friday, it was Campbell’s turn.
“I feel like the whole hockey community is really a family, and the longer you play the game, the more players you meet, the more players you play with,” he said. “That’s one unique thing about sports, is you do get to interact with so many different people along your career. … For the hockey family, so to speak, to lose as many members as we did in one summer is really just tragic. I don’t think that there’s ever been a summer like this.”
The summer, which featured Campbell’s day with the Stanley Cup, already had a dark cloud of it prior to Wednesday, as he was close friends with Belak (“I still kept in contact with him,” Campbell said) from the two seasons that they were teammates in Florida. Then Wednesday’s plane crash occured, taking the lives of former Panthers teammates Ruslan Salei and Skrastins.
“Karlis was just the nicest man that I’ve ever met in my life,” Campbell said. “He was really, really soft-spoken. Quiet, but just a gentle, kind person.”
“Rusty was a jokester. He was always the first guy at the card table, one of the louder guys on the team,” he said of Salei. “Guys would tease him as a grumpy old man, but that was in a total joking manner. At heart he was a really good guy, and that was his way of expressing his affection to other people.”
A player with strong family values (he had father Colin on the ice in Vancouver when the B’s won the Stanley Cup), Campbell expressed his sympathies to the families of all the players who died too young. As hard a summer as it’s been for the game, he does feel there is a lesson to be learned amidst the sorrow.
“On the hockey front, we really have to appreciate it and have respect for what we do and how lucky we are,” Campbell said. “More importantly, on the life side of things, you have to appreciate life and appreciate what’s important in life. In sports, there’s often lots of ups and downs, but that doesn’t compare to the times you spend with your family and the people close to you. That’s what you have to appreciate and savor.”
|09.09.11 at 3:00 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It hasn’t been long since we last saw ninth overall pick Dougie Hamilton, but the young defenseman made sure that his second impression on Ristuccia Arena was different.
Hamilton, 18, worked to address the area he’s been asked about non-stop since he was selected by the Bruins in June: his weight. The Niagara Ice Dog added six pounds since July’s development camp, weighing in at 194 pounds on Friday as rookie camp opened for the Bruins.
“I’ve gained a couple pounds, and I’m the same height,” the 6-foot-5 Hamilton said. “It’s something that I’m kind of focusing on and working on, so I’m pretty happy.”
Players generally don’t need to note where they stand height-wise, but Hamilton was still growing when he was last in town. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli noted over summer that Hamilton had grown between a quarter of an inch and half an inch from the end of the season to development camp.
Wherever Hamilton is size-wise these days, it likely won’t be the same when he becomes an NHL regular, which is more likely to happen later rather than sooner. The common line of thinking is that he’ll need another year in the OHL to bulk up and polish his skill set, with Chiarelli saying in July that 210 pounds would be a “great” playing weight for Hamilton.
For now, the Bruins are simply pleased with the progress Hamilton has been able to make in such a short period of time, as was discussed by assistant general manager Jim Benning after Friday’s double-session.
“He looked real good today, I thought. He’s skating well,” Benning said of Hamilton. “From the summer, he weighed in at 188. He was 194 today, so he put on five, six pounds of muscle. He’s a young player and he’ll continue to get stronger and bigger. He’s going to be a good player. It’s just going to be a matter of time with him.”
Hamilton seems to understand what “matter of time” means, but he isn’t entering camp thinking he’s a sure thing to return to the OHL. After using development camp as a getting-to-know-you period, Hamilton wants to use rookie camp to show the Bruins that even if he doesn’t make the team this year, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with some day.
“I just want to come in and play my best. Obviously there’s a lot of good d-men [on the NHL roster], but I think I’m just going to show my stuff and what I can do,” Hamilton said. “Whatever they want to do with me, that’s what I’ll do.”
|09.09.11 at 12:24 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — With the last veterans’ practice for the next few days (they’ll return to the ice Tuesday) completed, the Bruins began their rookie camp Friday at Ristuccia Arena. A couple of guys from last year’s group made the big club (Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron), so it will be interesting to see who stands out amongst the youngsters with an NHL spot potentially to be had.
Here’s the roster:
FORWARDS: Anthony Camara, Carter Camper, Craig Cunningham, Dylan Hood, Alexander Khokhlachev, Jared Knight, Kyle MacKinnon, Adam Presizniuk, Tyler Randell, Calle Ridderwall, Yannick Riendeau, Ryan Spooner, Conor Stokes.
DEFENSEMEN: Ryan Button, Marc Cantin, Charlie Dodero, Dougie Hamilton, Zach Hamilton, Kevan Miller, David Warsofsky.
GOALTENDERS: Jared DeMichiel, Michael Hutchinson.
|09.09.11 at 11:29 am ET|
WILMINGTON — There were a couple of notable additions to the group for the Bruins’ second veterans practice, as both Nathan Horton and Tuukka Rask took to the ice Friday at Ristuccia Arena. Newly re-signed defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk was also present.
For Horton, it’s a sign that he wasn’t kidding when he said a couple weeks ago that he would be ready for camp. Coming off a concussion and separated shoulder, Horton didn’t seem limited throughout the session.
Rask is coming off arthoscopic knee surgery, and as the only goaltender on the ice, was not limited.
Players spotted on the ice: Horton, Rask, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, Sean Thornton, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Steve Kampfer, Zdeno Chara, Tyler Seguin, Adam McQuaid, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Joe Corvo, Max Sauve, Jamie Arniel, Colby Cohen, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Bodnarchuk, Gregory Campbell.
|09.09.11 at 10:28 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Something was different about the familiar walk into Ristuccia Arena Friday morning, as a statue commemorating the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship in June now sits to the left of the entrance. It arrived Friday, and is certainly worth checking out if you ever take in a B’s practice. It features the results of each series, as well as a reminder as to which Bruin took home the Conn Smythe. Word is the trophy was donated.
|09.09.11 at 10:20 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins announced Friday morning that they have given defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk, who played the last three seasons in Providence with the club’s AHL affiliate, a one-year deal. He will be in camp when it opens next Friday.
Bodnarchuk is definitely a depth guy, but he’s a good guy to have in the fold. Now 23, he has five NHL games under his belt, all of which were played in the 2009-10 season. Last season in Providence, he had 15 goals and 16 assists in 75 games.
Bodnarchuk was drafted by the Bruins in the fifth round of the 2006 draft.
|09.08.11 at 12:56 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It takes a lot to shake the biggest player in the league, but a day after the tragic plane crash that killed the members of the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, it was clear that the event had a major impact on Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara.
Among those killed in the crash were former Bruin Brad McCrimmon, who was the head coach of the KHL team and had previously coached Chara while the two were in the Islanders system, as well as longtime NHL forward and Slovakia native Pavol Demitra. Chara had ties to both men, so the crash hit close to home for the Slovakian defenseman.
“It was huge. Still. It’s horrible,” Chara Thursday said of how hard the last 24 hours-plus had been. “It’s just a tragedy that shook up the whole world and hockey world especially. We all feel bad about the players’ families and it’s something that is just hard to swallow.”
Demitra and Chara grew up in neighboring towns, as Chara hails from Trencin, with Demitra being born in Dubnica nad Vahom. The two grew up less than 20 minutes away from one another, but had a long-standing friendship.
“Pavel was a guy who was always easygoing, was always friendly with everybody and never really had a conflict with anybody,” Chara said of his late friend. “He was really a very favored and popular guy between other guys, and obviously we all know he was an extremely talented player.
“People probably don’t know dedicated a dad he was,” Chara continued. “He was always spending time with his kids and family, and I think that speaks for itself, too. He had offers from the NHL, but he chose to return back home and be there for his kids and his wife when they were going to school, and they chose the school system in Slovakia. It’s a very very said time right now.”
Demitra had a profound impact in the NHL for a former ninth-round pick, as he was a three-time All Star, three-time 30-goal-scorer, and the recipient of the Lady Byng in 2000. McCrimmon was chosen by the Bruins with the 15th overall pick in the 1979 draft, and after a long playing career became a successful assistant coach in the NHL. Chara said he’ll remember those lost not by their accomplishments, but by who they were as individuals.
Said Chara: “When you get to know players as [people], it’s just devastating.”