|Tying up loose ends in Belfast||10.02.10 at 10:10 pm ET|
BELFAST — The first leg of the overseas Bruins trip is unfortunately done with, as the Big Bad Blog departs Belfast but will continue to bring all the unfathomably good stuff from Prague over the next week.
There was a lot of stuff to blog in the three days that I’ve been here, so naturally some tidbits I came away with fell through the cracks. Here are a couple:
- Meet Wayne Hardman. He covers the Giants and loves the crap out of hockey. He’s a real die-hard for the sport over in Northern Ireland, something I was not sure existed. He’s so committed that he commutes two hours every day to do what he calls more of a “passion” than a job.
- Speaking of that name, an enforcer in Belfast is referred to as a “hard man.” Gross.
- People use expressions we’d be familiar with, such as “how are you?” and the other basics, but when it comes to the really informal, youthful way of asking someone how they are, throw “sup” out the window. Instead they say, “What’s the crack?” Gross.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
It’s tough to pick. There were a few good ones each day, but in the end Shawn Thornton and Tyler Seguin may have ended up tying one another with their quips following Saturday’s game:
- “I guess like that?” – Seguin, after a reporter with a very heavy accent asked him how he’d been handling the Northern Irish accents. Seguin apologized several times for not understanding him (he wasn’t alone — the media scrum was just as confused), and when he finally realized what he was asking, it was the only logical answer.
- “I definitely wanted one, but oh well. Me wanting a goal and [not] getting one is pretty much my life story.” — Thornton when asked if he was content with not scoring a goal in front of his family (he had two assists).
|Bruins react to an honest scare||at 5:53 pm ET|
BELFAST — The Bruins went into Belfast, beat the best squad the Elite League could put together by a four-goal margin (5-1), and Boston fans have two more Tyler Seguin goals to ogle over. So what’s the problem?
The problem is that they didn’t beat the Giants select team as handily as the score might suggest, as the Belfast squad played them very tight through the first period and and half. Though the team reacted to falling behind, 1-0, in the second period by firing off three quick goals and adding two more in the third, they admittedly were given a run for their money on Saturday night.
So what went into the jittery play out of the gate? For starters, the Odyssey Arena crowd — which holds 7,100 people — may have given the TD Garden (17,565) a run for its money when it came to decibles before the game. When the Bruins — scratch that, “Legendary Boston Bruins” — were announced, the place went nuts, and the fans seemed to know their stuff. The biggest cheers went to Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi, but all of the players were showered with support.
“It was really loud,” Milan Lucic, who scored the Bruins’ fourth goal, said after the game. “I got a little bit of goosebumps there at the start of the game. I’ll be honest, it was a little nerve-racking to start the game.”
And did that carry over once the puck was dropped?
“It kind of looked like we were nervous, too. It almost looked like we were trying to do too much and they were just playing simple and kind of just getting the puck out every chance they got,” he said. “Obviously, they gave us a little scare by scoring that first goal, but I think it was a good finish to that second period and we were able to play more consistent in the third period.”
At the end of the first period, it seemed almost comical that the Bruins could find themselves in such a tight game with an opponent of such a lesser league. The Giants, who got their lone goal in the second period from Jade Galbraith, actually had the two best scoring opportunities of the period.
“They did, for sure,” Tuukka Rask said of the Giants having solid opportunities on him. “Right in front, but you could tell that they didn’t have the patience that maybe the NHL guys would have to hold onto that puck and find the extra corner to put the puck in. They definitely had some chances, and they really deserved them too.”
Once the Bruins got things going — it all started with Seguin and Michael Ryder crashing the net to produce the rookie’s first of the game — there was no looking back. It was clear they were the better team, and even when the Giants outplayed them for stretches early, the clear difference in talent remained apparent. Even so, it seemed to take the Belfast goal being scored to act as the splash of water to the face that the Bruins needed.
“I try to just keep the game tight all the time, and I think the guys woke up after their first goal and realized that we can’t afford to lose this game, because the skill level should be on our side for us to win that game,” Rask said. “They got the first goal, got some energy, but then the skill level came up. We scored three goals in like a minute or so, but give credit to them. They really battled and they wanted to win that game.”
All in all, the Bruins made no lie about what they ended up going against, whether or not they were expecting it. Shawn Thornton, who had two helpers in the game, didn’t see why the Giants wouldn’t have played as well as they did.
“This isn’t taking anything away from them, but a lot of those guys have never had the chance to play in the NHL or get an NHL game, and this is probably as close as they’re going to get, so I knew they’d be giving it all they had,” Thornton said. “I’ve played with a number of those guys, I’ve played against them and I know they character of them. A few years ago I was in the same shoes as them, not thinking I’d ever get a game. When you get a chance to show what you have, you’re definitely going to show what you have.”
Nobody should be surprised with how hard the Giants came out playing on Saturday night. From Claude Julien to every player asked about it in the locker room, the Bruins have said time and time again that they were expecting the best game of the Elite League players’ lives. Even so, it sure was interesting to see it last as long as it did.
|Five scratched for Belfast game||at 8:48 am ET|
BELFAST — The day has arrived on which the Bruins will wrap up their Northern Ireland trip with a game against a squad made up both Belfast Giants and Elite League all-stars. Here are the projected forward lines for the Bruins.
Lucic – Krejci – Horton
Recchi – Bergeron – Caron
Ryder – Seguin – Wheeler
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton
The Bruins blueliners will be Zdeno Chara, Matt Hunwick, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid, and Mark Stuart.
Tuukka Rask gets the start in net, with Tim Thomas backing him up.
Five players won’t take the ice for the B’s: Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk, Brian McGrattan, Daniel Paille, and Nolan Schaefer.
|Apple doesn’t fall far from tree for Thornton||10.01.10 at 9:32 am ET|
BELFAST — Shawn Thornton has a reputation on the ice as a guy who is in his element when his hands are bare. In the locker room, he’s got a reputation as the nicest guy you’d meet, and with such a sense of humor that taking his words literally could confuse the common man (an Irish cameraman almost tried placating him Thursday when he sarcastically complimented him on having the brightest lights ever).
In spending some time with Thornton’s mother, Christine, who is visiting Belfast for the first time since she was four years old, it’s quite clear where he gets his sense of humor from. In fact, she said time and time again Friday while watching the Bruins practice at Odyssey Arena that, “now you see where he gets his sense of humor from.”
There were quite a few members of the Mills (Christine’s maiden name) in attendance on Friday, with Thornton’s mother often standing up to take a picture of her son and jokingly venting frustration over Thornton’s not looking at the camera. Here’s a snapshot of the family members in attendance (Christine is second in from the left). To clear up any confusion that may be caused by the picture, Thornton is not related to any NESN or Boston Herald employees.
|The Bruins aren’t the only ones excited…||09.30.10 at 3:55 pm ET|
BELFAST — Phone calls out on whether the folks at Belfast will erect a statue of Shawn Thornton have yet to be returned (the Northern Ireland media has gone bonkers for the forward whose mother was born in Belfast), but in the meantime here’s a little something to show their excitement for the Bruins to take on the Giants.
|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.”
|Slideshow: Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s||08.09.10 at 10:51 pm ET|
WEEI.com was on hand for Shawn Thornton’s first annual Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament, which means photographer John Vu was snapping plenty of pictures at Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton. Here is the slideshow of the event, which also featured Bruins forward Milan Lucic and goaltender Tuukka Rask (click the picture to begin). For the full low-down on the event and what it meant to Thornton, whose grandmother passed away from Parkinson’s, click here.
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