|Bruins have sleeping in the aisles to thank for energetic practice||09.30.10 at 3:02 pm ET|
BELFAST — If you expected the Bruins to roll into Belfast falling over themselves with fatigue, as unlikely as it would seem given the last two days and jet lag, you were somehow wrong.
Just a few hours after arriving at their hotel, the team tore up the ice at the Odyssey Arena in a high-energy practice. One of the highlights of the skate, which was a truly entertaining hour and a half, was a drill in which a skater would take a penalty shot. Players would essentially bet sprints on whether they would score, lining up on one wall to signify their faith in the scorer and the other to support the goaltender. Players laughed throughout the drill — hearing it from teammates as they would shift from wall to wall based on the shooter — but by the end of it had skated plenty.
Though one might think a practice in which players were both sprinting tirelessly and in high spirits would be impossible after a five-hour flight that came with a five-hour time-difference, that’s simply what came of Thursday’s skate.
“I think guys are trying to compensate for the tired legs and stuff and trying to get the most out of it,” defenseman Andrew Ference said. “Coach has had this planned out for a while, what the day was going to look like, just to try to get over the jet lag as quick as possible. We knew the practice was going to be a good one to get the legs going, and I think guys took it seriously. We want to get on the right foot as quick as possible here.”
Asked if he was able to get any shuteye on the plane, Ference said he employed a tactic used in his WHL days.
“I think all the guys that played in the Western League (slept) on the floor. We’re used to sleeping on the floor of the bus.”
“Oh yeah. The Western League guys are pros at that. I grabbed a towel that was as thin as paper and got down there for a bit.”
To sleep on the floor during a flight with a plane full of teammates may be a sign of faith that pranksters would refrain from tapping their feet or employing other tactics to disrupt one’s slumber. Ference wasn’t worried about such shenanigans interfering with his rest, but for a different reason.
“Z’s part of the Western League boys,” he explained, “so if anybody messes around [they to deal with Zdeno Chara].”
As for how Ference did at choosing in the penalty-shot fiasco, he ended up skating quite a bit after the shooters got off to a hot start.
“I’m a good guy, so I bet on the gaol-scorers every single time,” Ference said in defense of himself. “Well, maybe the goalies won’t think I’m a god guy, but I believed in our goal-scorers every time. It was probably about half (right) and half (wrong) I think.”
|Cultural differences: Part 1||at 9:46 am ET|
BELFAST — I was champing at the bit to make up a “cultural differences” series when I saw this poster outside the playhouse in Belfast. You know that really popular play “Movin’ Out”? You know why it’s set to Billy Joel music? Because Billy Joel sings everything. Everybody knows all his songs. He can play “Zanzibar” live and everyone in the house will know every word, even though the song was never a single. He definitely has enough hits to last an entire play.
Well, our first cultural difference encountered has a lot to do with that. This is a poster for the play “Sunshine on Leith.”
The Proclaimers. Even a bad music aficionado couldn’t name five songs by them. Must be a short play. Off to practice now, check back here for some interesting stuff.
|We’ve landed in Belfast||at 8:33 am ET|
BELFAST — …And I could totally bust out a “5,000 Things We’ve Learned” right now but Bruins’ practice and drowsiness from barely sleeping in the last however many hours would get in the way. Instead here are some pictures from the first night/morning of the trip, many of which were taken on a camera phone, so all apologies.
|Shawn Thornton and Patrice Bergeron: Irish brothers?||at 7:35 am ET|
BELFAST — The European trip to kick off the Bruins’ 2010-11 season can be viewed as being about a lot of things. From seeing new places to seeing unfamiliar teams in preseason and getting a good deal of team bonding in, there are plenty of story lines that run congruent with the team’s 10-day trip. Just days away from the Bruins’ exhibition game with the Belfast Giants in Northern Ireland, one player comes to mind for embracing his family ties and soaking up the tradition. That player, of course, is Shawn Thornton, but should there be more?
Thornton’s mother, born in Belfast, flew in on Wednesday to stay with her cousin while her son is in town. Given all the excitement throughout his relatives, the veteran forward is expecting 20 family members to both show him around and attend Saturday’s game. Reallocation of the players’ tickets certainly came into play as a result.
“There’s a lot of guys who did not need tickets for this game. Thank God,” Thornton said with a smile. “I’ve got the most.”
Yet while Thornton is eager to see family members, some of whom he’s never met, there’s another Irish relative he’s excited for, and one Bruins fans might be a little more familiar with: Quebec’s own Patrice Bergeron.
“My grandfather was born in Northern Ireland. He came over a long time ago with his parents. It’s been a long time, but it’s going to be pretty special to go there,” Bergeron said of the surprising bloodlines.
Born and raised in Quebec and a star of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as a teenager, there isn’t much about Bergeron’s upbringing or time in the game that screams “Northern Ireland.” Though Bergeron isn’t sure if he actually still has any relatives in the area, Thornton can assure him that he has at least one.
“I mean, we’re Irish brothers,” Thornton said. “I call him Patrick Cleary, not Patrice Bergeron, so we’re probably related back from back there at some point.”
And thus perhaps the most unlikeliest of connections, even by sarcasm’s standards, is made. Both players are Canadian-born, of course, and neither have been to Belfast before. Though they’ll be there for just three days before departing for Prague on Sunday, the anticipation isn’t lost on either of them.
“It will be good to see some family,” Thornton said. “I’ve met some of them — they used to come over and visit my grandmother over time — so it will be good to see them again and hopefully get some local knowledge of the city.”
Bergeron, whose father’s last name actually is Cleary, is definitely excited for the trip, though it’s unlikely he’ll play the role as resident Belfast expert like Thornton hopes he will. Asked if he and Bergeron would embrace the culture heavily through the wearing of scally caps to truly reflect their Irish heritage, Thornton didn’t hide mask his pride a bit.
“I’ve got tons of them. We’re going to look for some while we’re over there, but I’ll be bringing a few just in case,” he said.”
Especially in the case of Prague, many players have some places in mind when it comes to sight-seeing. Bergeron spoke of how beautiful he found the city when he last played there in 2004 representing Canada in the World Championships.
For the Belfast leg of the trip, Thornton has put forth an effort in looking up interesting spots to take teammates during the team’s three days in Northern Ireland. That doesn’t mean he still won’t rely heavily on the natives in his family to direct him.
“I’m sure I don’t retain as much information as I should when I [research places], so I’ll probably just play it by ear when I get over there,” Thornton said. “I’ve got aunts and uncles that will be taking me around. I’m sure their knowledge of it is better than what I can find on Wikipedia.”
|Savard missing Belfast||09.29.10 at 1:00 am ET|
According published reports, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed on Tuesday with reporters that center Marc Savard will not accompany the team on its trip to Belfast on Wednesday night. Savard has missed all of training camp with post-concussion symptom syndromes. Peter Chiarelli has indicated that he could potentially fly to Prague to watch his teammates open the regular season against the Coyotes on Oct. 9 and 10.
UPDATE [Wednesday]: Chiarelli said that Savard is on a seven or eight-day program for his conditioning as he works his way back to potentially pass an impact test. Savard failed the test on September 17, the day the team opened training camp.
With the Bruins gearing up for their preseason-concluding and season-opening trip to Europe, the anticipation throughout the locker room is rather apparent. Though some may know the respective areas of Belfast and the Czech Republic better than others, all seem to be genuinely excited for the trip.
Count Dennis Seidenberg among those players, but factor in that when he speaks of heading overseas to open the regular season, he speaks from experience. Last season, he, Gregory Campbell, Nathan Horton, and the rest of the Panthers made the trek to Finland for a couple of preseason games and two regular season matchups with the Blackhawks, the latter a series in which the Panthers split with the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
As much as Seidenberg, a native of Germany, enjoyed the trip, he found the travel of the preseason to be a bit much, and it would be hard to blame him based on the team’s preseason schedule: at Novia Scotia, at Ottawa, at Montreal, at Edmonton, at Calgary, at Dallas, home at Florida, and finally to Finland. Given that the Bruins’ travel this preseason has consisted of Montreal, New York, and DC as its road games, Seidenberg isn’t concerned the side effects that accompany a hectic schedule will be factor this time around.
“This year we definitely didn’t have all the traveling we had with the Panthers. We had a couple of road games, but they were pretty close, so traveling wasn’t a problem at all,” Seidenberg said. “I think we’ll get in there a little more rested, a little better prepared and it should be a good experience for everybody.”
The Panthers took the first game in a shootout. That was the good. The bad was the lesson that a hockey player’s schedule and jet lag don’t exactly fit together well. The Panthers played all four of their European games in the span of six days, while the Bruins arrive Thursday morning and will play their four games over an eight-day span (Oct. 2-10).
“The tough part was the time change, because every day around noon or three or four, you just wanted to go to sleep and sleep for the rest of the night,” Seidenberg said. “You just can’t do that. It takes a few days to get used to it, but that’s why we’re going over there a little earlier.”
Belfast is five hours ahead of EST, while Prague is six hours ahead. Seidenberg added that dealing with each countries quirks — whether they be food or anything else — does make the experience “a little bit different” but that “you get used to it pretty quick.”
Though nobody on the squad is actually from Prague and David Krejci hasn’t been there in several years, Seidenberg is among the players expecting family at the games. Hailing from Villingen-Schwenningen, West Germany, Seidenberg’s family will make the six-hour drive to Prague. The team’s final preseason game will be played in Liberec, which is about an hour north of Prague. With Villingen-Schenningen near the Swiss border and Liberec right around the Poland border, Seidenberg doesn’t expect his family to make that trip.