|10.08.09 at 12:16 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Mark Stuart said it wasn’t official as of Wednesday morning, but confirmed he’ll be stepping into the NHLPA player representative role for the Boston Bruins in the next few weeks. The 25-year-old blueliner is actually one of the longest-tenured B’s going back to his first few rookies game with Boston in 2005-05, and he’ll be replacing veteran defenseman Andrew Ference as acting player rep.
“It’s not official yet, but I think so,” said Stuart, when asked if he was the team’s new player rep. “I’ve been the assistant for a while behind Andy, and he decided to step down. He put in his time and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. I was the next guy in line.”
Stuart served as the assistant player rep along with Ference last season, and the young defenseman was the logicial first choice when Ference reportedly stepped down from the position this week. Stuart indicated Ference was giving up the post to spend more time with his wife and two children, but the B’s blueliner has also been under a burgeoning level of criticism for his key role in the dismissal of former NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly.
Ference was a part of the NHLPA ad hoc committee that investigated complaints about Kelly last summer, and ultimately made the presentation to the rest of the players before overwhelmingly voting to remove the executive director from his post. There appears to have been several reasons for Kelly’s dismissal — including reading unauthorized minutes from a players-only meeting — but there’s also been a continual stream of unsavory aspects to the swift union action.
According to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Mark Recchi was poised to run for player rep against Ference after being highly critical of the process leading to Kelly’s firing. When Ference agreed to voluntarily step down from his post, Recchi backed off and Stuart was able to assume the position of player rep.
With all that in mind, the NHLPA is clearly at a crossroads. Mistrust and sabotage seem to be high on the list of adjectives used to describe the NHLPA after the sacking of Kelly, and that’s not exactly a sea change from the union’s past practice. Stuart recognizes that it’s an important time for the hockey player’s union to change both their perception and their process, and readily concedes there’s quite a bit of work ahead.
“Yeah, obviously there’s a lot going on. So it’s important to be informed and to know what’s going on,” said Stuart. “I think for everybody to get involved at some point [would be good] because it’s been kind of a mess as of late.
“It’s interesting to me. I wouldn’t have [taken] the assistant [job] if it didn’t. Stepping into this role means there’s some pretty big shoes to fill, and I need to just inform myself as much as I can. Be a lot more involved.”
There’s the matter of choosing another director to replace Kelly, and serious alterations to the union’s constitution following the ridiculous 3 a.m. setting that served as Kelly’s backdrop for his unceremonious dumping. Further down the hockey road, there’s a Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire after the 2010-11 season and mandate to avoid another work stoppage at all costs.
One other thing Stuart wanted to confirm: there’s no divide in the Bruins locker room despite some differences of opinion on union matters. The turn of events leading to Ference’s departure and Stuart’s ascension have effectively put to bed any conflict over the issues — and it was reportedly a pretty level-headed conversation between all parties that ultimately led to the NHLPA position changes.
“Andy did some great work for us over the last two years. It’s a big time committment,” said Stuart. “He put in a lot of time over the last two years, and it was mostly about the time. As far as the locker room goes, there’s nothing going on. He stepped down and I’m taking over for him. That’s about it.
“Guys are getting more involved and want to know what’s going on, and I think that’s good. We need to work as a group. My role is like any leader — to be that voice between the guys in the group and the rest of the [NHLPA]. It’s not me just voicing my opinions on issues. It’s me coming to the group, getting their thoughts, forming an opinion as a group and then going from there.”
|10.07.09 at 7:30 pm ET|
When did you start talking about contracts?
During the preseason, right around the start of camp. Peter [Chiarelli] came up to me and we had a little meeting. We talked about extending and staying here. It all started last year during our year-end meetings. I had a meeting with Peter and I talked to him and told him I wanted to be a Bruin for a long time and it was my goal to stick around in Boston. Because it’s such a great organization. I love playing at the TD Garden and playing in front of the Bruins fans because they’ve been so great. I’ve grown to love this city and I just love being here, everything about it.
Was it an easy negotiation?
It went pretty smoothly. I think both parties came to an agreement pretty well. In the end we’re both happy, we’re both thrilled, we’re both excited and that’s the main thing.
Were you worried about it being a distraction?
Maybe, a lot of guys tend to think about it a little too much, when it’s a contract year. It’s always sticking in the back of your head. You’re always thinking about it. But now that it’s over for me I don’t have to think about it anymore and I can just go out there and play and help the team win.
|10.07.09 at 5:42 pm ET|
Rumblings of the Zdeno Chara photo shoot in his birthday suit filtered through the B’s dressing room days ago, but this is the first photographic evidence of the minimalist photo spread with the Bruins Captain.
Can’t imagine what kind of grief the Norris Trophy winner is in store for when the magazine hits mailboxes and bookshelves all across the country. A fan base like Montreal, that boos Chara each time he touches the puck, could get awfully creative.
But at least it’s a tasteful nude rather than something with a series of Austin Powers-esque strategically-placed pieces of hockey equipment.
It’ll be interesting to see what noted art critic Shawn Thornton has to say about “The Full Chara” when he gets a look-see at the sneak preview. To check out the full gallery of athletes chosen for the body issue — including Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz and tennis player Serena Williams — check it out at ESPN.com.
|10.07.09 at 11:55 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins are just wrapping up a full practice day in anticipation of the Thursday tilt with the Anaheim Ducks. Newly-signed Milan Lucic is out in front of one of the nets working on tipping and redirecting pucks that Derek Morris is firing at him from the right point.
Lucic’s production directly in front of the net in the offensive zone is one of the areas that the hulking left wing will be working to improve on now that he’s a $4 million plus man beginning next season. Lucic and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli are set to meet with the media momentarily at the B’s practice rink in Wilmington, and there will be full coverage at the Big Bad Blog.
|10.06.09 at 5:35 pm ET|
The Bruins issued the following press release about the three-year extension to which they signed Milan Lucic, which will keep the bruising power forward under team control through the 2012-13 season. ESPN is reporting that the deal is worth $12.25 million.
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has signed forward Milan Lucic to a three-year contract extension through the 2012-13 NHL season. Per club policy, financial terms of the deal will not be disclosed.
The 21-year-old Lucic set career highs in all major statistical categories last year after recording 17 goals and 25 assists for 42 points, in addition to tallying 136 penalty minutes and a +17 rating. He netted his first career hat trick and a career-best four points on October 25, 2008, after a 3-1=4 performance against the Atlanta Thrashers.
During the 2008-09 postseason, the 6’3’’ 228-pound winger had three goals and six assists and a team best +12 plus/minus rating in 10 games. In his rookie year in 2007-08, Lucic registered 8-19=27 totals and 89 penalty minutes in 77 contests. Lucic earned the team’s ‘Seventh Player Award’ for his efforts, an award voted on by the fans and given to the Bruin who performs above and beyond expectations. He also contributed two goals in seven postseason games.
Lucic has skated in both games during the 2009-10 season and has notched one assist and five penalty minutes.
He was invited to – and participated in – Canada’s National Men’s Team Orientation Camp this past August, in advance of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2010 IIHF World Championship. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be played in Lucic’s hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Originally drafted by the Bruins in the second round (50th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Lucic helped the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League capture the 2007 Memorial Cup Championship.
|10.06.09 at 3:50 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It wasn’t a common sight last season, but there was at least one Bruins practice that involved the Boston defensemen corps firing pucks through bright orange traffic cones.
The traffic cones were placed near the right and left point areas in the attack zone, and the drill was designed to achieve pinpoint accuracy on the all-important power play blasts. The big gun shots from the B’s defensemen are oft-times the trigger to jolting Boston’s man advantage attack. With that in mind, there were times when a normally mighty power play lost some of it’s bite for the B’s last season when those point shots were nudged a little too far off the mark.
It wasn’t the sheer power of the long-range bids because guys like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman have slappers capable of obliterating glass behind the net — with the assistance of some good wood, of course. But there were times when the shot would fade wide to either side, or an aggressive penalty kill would smother a shot with one brave sacrificial body.
“That’s the one thing that we lacked last year. At times we really had some trouble getting our shots through,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Teams are blocking shots and getting into the shooting lanes, and its getting harder to get shots off.”
Despite the intermittent bouts of wildness with their point shots, the Bruins still boasted a 23.6 percent power play success rate, and ranked fourth in the entire NHL. Only the high-powered units in Detroit, Washington and San Jose ranked higher last season.
|10.06.09 at 11:10 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic is skating free and easy without any trace of a limp on the top line along with Marc Savard and Marco Sturm in Tuesday morning’s Bruins practice at Ristuccia Arena. Big Looch missed Monday’s session with a non-hockey related issue that was essentially a tiny facial abrasion that got slightly infected, and was addressed medically Monday. The original bump on his kisser wasn’t sustained playing hockey, and Lucic is back on the ice Tuesday morning.
The “personal day” for Lucic had nothing to do with his legs or his right punching hand. Both were thrown out as speculation after Lucic abused Jay Harrison in a bloody brawl Saturday night during their win over the Carolina Hurricanes. But neither theory was the actual case with Lucic, who appears good to go against the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night.
–The Boston Bruins/Carolina Hurricanes fight-filled Saturday night opener for NESN earned a 3.9 household rating, which marks the network’s highest rated season-opening broadcast in 25 years of covering the Bruins. NESN’s 3.9 rating was also the highest average household rating recorded in the Boston DMA (designated market area) during the game’s 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm window, beating all other broadcasts and cable networks during that time period.
The network’s previous high rating for a season opening broadcast came during a Bruins 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on January 23, 1995 when the network earned a 3.8 rating for its first broadcast coming out of a lockout shortened season.
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