BEIJING — Hockey is hockey.
That’s one of the immediate realizations, upon first arriving at Xiaolang International Ice Rink in Beijing, China.
The rink is nearly 7,000 miles away from Boston. It has two sheets of ice, with overlooks for spectator viewing. There are signs lining the walls, with one that projects the motivational motto: “Be Hungry. Be Crazy.”
It is the home rink of the Little Wolf hockey family, but it served as the Bruins’ home away from home for a week of youth hockey clinics.
The mission? To help grow the game.
Current Bruins Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak made the trek across the world to help host the clinics, along with alumni Andrew Raycroft and Bob Sweeney, and the Bruins Youth Hockey Development Team.
The trip — “Bruins Global: China 2016” — was made possible through a partnership with Beijing-based company O.R.G. Packaging and the Chairman of O.R.G., Mr. Zhou Yunjie. It represents a joint initiative to help introduce the Bruins to hockey and culture in China, while they help grow the sport of hockey abroad with their knowledge and skills.
BEIJING — Ni hao! Greetings from the other side of the world.
The Bruins’ first-ever official visit to China kicked off in Beijing on July 13, with current Bruins Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak joining Bruins alumni Andrew Raycroft and Bob Sweeney, and members of the Boston Bruins Youth Hockey Development Team for “Bruins Global: China 2016.”
The crew will be in China from July 13-July 23, hosting several youth hockey clinics in Beijing and Shanghai for more than 150 Chinese youth hockey players. The clinics will consist of both on and off-ice training.
The trip came about through a partnership with Beijing-based company O.R.G. Packaging to help grow the sport of hockey in China, while also strengthening the connection between the Bruins and the local Chinese community in New England and educating North American residents about the growth of hockey in China.
O.R.G. Packaging Chairman Zhou Yunjie grew up playing hockey in Beijing and is passionate about working with the Bruins to cultivate the sport in China.
The trip is unique on a number of different levels, mainly because the players have never been that far overseas, and also because of the cultural experiences the group will encounter. There is something about hockey, though, that transcends. The Black & Gold work to grow hockey around New England, and now that approach is being taken abroad.
BostonBruins.com — The opening of free agency came and went on Friday, and as a result, the Bruins bolstered their team for the 2016-17 season and beyond.
In signing free agent David Backes to a five-year deal, the Black & Gold brought in a 10-year NHL veteran with the St. Louis Blues and a long-time captain whose scoring, grit and physicality are only surpassed by his leadership.
“Obviously the Bruins are very excited about several additions that we added to our roster and organization,” Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney told media on a conference call the evening of July 1. “We went out to identify a primary target in David Backes as a center, right wing candidate.”
“[The Blues] went for a real deep run. He’s hungry to have another opportunity to win,” said Sweeney.
Backes has 49 games of playoff experience, and he’s fresh off 20 of them with St. Louis’ 2016 push.
“During our conversations, he spoke about knowing our team and how hard they are to play against, respecting our leaders and our club,” said Sweeney. “He’s done his due diligence with a number of players that we have on the horizon. He knows this was a full commitment from the ownership, you know, with Cam [Neely], Claude [Julien] involved, players involved.”
BostonBruins.com — The Bruins will enter the NHL’s Free Agency period on Friday with a key defenseman re-signed for four more years.
While the timing was not a priority, Boston now has Torey Krug in Black & Gold through the 2019-20 season. He would have become a restricted free agent on July 1.
The 25-year-old signed his new contract on Thursday in Boston, at an average annual value of $5.25 million. The cap for the 2016-17 season has been set by the NHL at $73 million.
“We’ve had significant talks for an extended period of time with Torey and his agent Lewis [Gross] — I want to thank them both,” Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said on a conference call with media Thursday evening. “The timing, I don’t think it was that paramount, but it’s great to be able to come to an agreement. Both parties feel very comfortable and fair in how things were approached.”
BostonBruins.com — The Bruins welcomed six new prospects this past weekend at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, N.Y., including two in the first round and a second round selection.
Combined with the 2015 draft in Florida, the Bruins have added 16 new prospects to their system in the span of a year.
“We’re really excited about the depth now, where we’re at,” General Manager Don Sweeney said following the draft in Buffalo. “So we’re excited about where we’re at with where we come out of the draft. We’ll move forward [to free agency] and address some of the other things that we’ve spoken about previously.”
NHL Free Agency begins on Friday, July 1 at noon ET, with Sweeney and his staff pursuing all options to improve the club. BostonBruins.com will certainly provide full coverage of any news that comes up.
But, first, let’s recap the draft and take a look at the new members of the Black & Gold.
LAS VEGAS — The NHL is expanding to Las Vegas.
The announcement came from Commissioner Gary Bettman during a press conference prior to the 2016 NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 22.
The decision to award an NHL franchise to Las Vegas beginning with the 2017-18 season came at the Board of Governors Meeting, where it was approved in a unanimous vote. It makes the NHL the first of the four major North American professional sports leagues to put a team in Las Vegas.
This marks the NHL’s first expansion since Columbus and Minnesota entered the League during the 2000-01 season.
Boston Bruins Owner and Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs was on hand to introduce the NHL’s newest owner, Bill Foley, who spearheaded the expansion effort to bring the League to the 2.3 million residents of Las Vegas.
“The executive committee had four objectives in considering a League expansion,” Jacobs said in his remarks. “First, to evaluate the viabilities of a respective franchise owner. Secondly, to determine the quality and suitability of the respective market. And third, to certify the NHL’s readiness in the arena and respective market. Most importantly, to determine the franchise that had all three attributes would also enhance the National Hockey League and make it stronger.”
LAS VEGAS — The 2016 NHL Awards came and went on Wednesday night at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Patrice Bergeron was nominated for the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the fifth straight time, given to the NHL’s top defensive forward. Instead of Bergeron earning his fourth straight tropy, LA’s Anze Kopitar took the win for his first-ever Selke.
Kopitar garnered 1,145 voting points, including 77 first-place votes, while Bergeron received 996 points with 46 first-place votes. The other finalist, Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler, had 424 points and nine first-place votes.
“Obviously you’re up against amazing players and it’s just the nature of it,” said Bergeron. “It’s one of those things where I’ve always said, win or lose, I would play the same way and I still feel the same. That’s still how I feel.”
LAS VEGAS — For Patrice Bergeron, the month of June usually brings with it a routine trip to Las Vegas.
As such, the Bruins alternate captain received his fifth straight nomination for the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2016, given each year to the NHL’s top defensive forward.
The 2016 NHL Awards will take place on Wednesday, June 22, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (7:00 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).
“It’s special,” Bergeron said during Tuesday’s NHL Awards Media Day at Encore Las Vegas. “It’s always a great honor to be nominated, but at the same time, it’s one of those things where I wouldn’t change the way I play whether I’m nominated or not.”
“That’s the way I was brought up. It’s special. There’s no individual awards without the the help of your teammates and that goes without saying. It’s fun to be here.”
It is difficult to find a new angle for Bergeron’s Selke prowess — but isn’t that exactly what makes Bergeron, Bergeron?
LAS VEGAS — The NHL’s offseason docket of events kicks into gear this week with the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 22 and the NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, N.Y. on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25.
Patrice Bergeron is on hand for the Awards in Vegas as a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.
Meanwhile, Loui Eriksson is up for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.
BostonBruins.com — There’s a new date for Bruins fans to add to their calendars.
As announced by the NHL on Monday, the puck will drop for the Bruins’ 2016-17 home opener on Thursday, Oct. 20, at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils.
It marks just the second time in franchise history that Boston will open its home schedule against the Devils. The first time was in 2003-04, with a game that resulted in a 3-3 tie.
“It’s really exciting,” said defenseman Adam McQuaid. “It’s been a long offseason; it can’t come soon enough.”
“Just excited for the possibilities of a new year and hopefully what’s to come and to get in front of our fans here and have that excitement, to feel the energy again. It’s a new year and I think everyone’s really looking forward to it, and we’ll hopefully have a lot of success.”
The full 2016-17 regular season schedule is forthcoming from the NHL.
The Bruins took the season series against New Jersey in 2015-16, going 2-1-0. They won their lone game at TD Garden against the Devils on Dec. 20, with Ryan Spooner nothing the shootout winner in a 2-1 victory. Spooner also scored the winner in a 4-1 win on Jan. 8 at the Prudential Center.
Boston’s all-time home record against New Jersey is 32-14-8-6 (60-34-14-10 overall).
The franchise’s all-time record in home openers is 38-37-16.