BLAINE, Minn. – David Backes first hit the ice at Fogerty Arena when he was five years old. It did not end very well.
Backes was not wearing any gear during his inaugural trip around the rink and at one point fell and bashed his head off the ice.
“I don’t know what my parents were thinking,” Backes joked.
Despite that rough start, Backes stuck with it. He received some skating lessons from a friend’s father and, as the years passed, his love and passion for the game grew.
Fogerty Arena became a second home.
It was the rink where he made so many memories, met so many friends, and where he ultimately began to construct the framework for a tremendous career in the National Hockey League.
So each time Backes walks through the doors of his hometown rink – which sits just outside of Minneapolis – the recollections come flooding back, as they did on Thursday afternoon when the new Bruins forward visited the old stomping grounds during #BearTracks, presented by Sal’s Pizza.
BostonBruins.com – The 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class was announced on Monday evening and it is heavy in Bruins and New England connections.
Former Bruins standout Craig Janney, legendary Rhode Island high school coach Bill Belisle, and the 1996 U.S. World Cup of Hockey team will be inducted later this year in a ceremony (date to be announced).
“This is a truly magnificent class,” Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey, said in a statement. “Each member of the Class of 2016 has had an extraordinary impact on our sport and is most deserving to take their place among the hockey immortals in the United States.”
Janney played 12 seasons in the NHL after being drafted by the Bruins with the 13th overall pick in 1986. The native of Hartford, Conn., registered 188 goals and 563 assists for 751 points during his career, including 85 goals and 198 points in 262 games over five seasons with the Bruins, with whom he made trips to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988 and 1990.
BOSTON – When David Backes was in college, he wanted an animal or two to have around the house and keep him company. But as a seemingly young and maturing student, taking on such an important responsibility was not quite feasible.
Backes, instead, decided the next best thing would be to volunteer at the local animal shelter. So during his three years at Minnesota State University-Mankato, he spent time scooping out litter boxes and cleaning kennels.
It was the beginning of what has become a vital part of his off-ice life.
Backes is a passionate animal advocate, who after beginning his NHL career wanted to use his voice and influence towards a great cause by founding Athletes for Animals, which rescues and protects the welfare of homeless pets.
So it was fitting that the 32-year-old forward – who has four dogs and two cats at home – made his first official appearance as a member of the Boston Bruins at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain on Wednesday afternoon.
Backes, along with his wife Kelly and young daughter Stella, toured the facility and met with a number of animals and MSPCA employees, before addressing the Boston media for the first time.
BostonBruins.com – There are few people as familiar with the Bruins’ bevy of prospects than Kevin Dean.
He has worked closely with many of the organization’s young players in recent years, having spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach of the Providence Bruins.
Last week, Dean was on the ice for all four days of Bruins Development Camp.
His experience in helping to shape players who could become vital pieces to Boston's future made him a natural fit to take on a larger role – which he did on Monday.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced Dean as the 11th head coach in Providence Bruins history. Dean takes over for Bruce Cassidy, who was promoted to Boston earlier this offseason to become an assistant to Claude Julien.
“We had an extended search for the head coach position,” Sweeney said during a conference call Monday afternoon. “[Director of Player Personnel] John Ferguson and myself spoke and met with several candidates. However, we always considered Kevin a very strong internal candidate.
“Developing young players was always at the forefront of our search and Kevin has institutional knowledge of our current players. He is totally invested with the process of helping players get to the National Hockey League.
“He sees across the spectrum. I think that his personality lends to teaching every day and communicating every day.”
LOUDON, N.H. – Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano both grew up in New England. They were raised as members of the region’s rabid sports fan base, which never fails to deliver passion for its favorite teams.
Now, as members of the Boston Bruins, they get to experience that devotion from the other side.
They witness it firsthand every day, both on and off the ice.
So it really wasn’t much of a surprise for Acciari and Vatrano to see the passion of New England’s NASCAR fans when the duo arrived at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday morning for the New Hampshire 301.
“Driving up to the speedway I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Vatrano, a native of East Longmeadow, Mass. “It’s crazy to see everyone tailgating at 8 in the morning and having a good time. It’s cool to see that kind of support for NASCAR, especially in the New England area.
“I didn’t really know how big of fans the people are of NASCAR. But you can see the huge support that they have here in New Hampshire. It’s awesome.”
Acciari and Vatrano – guests of Roush Fenway Racing – were both attending their first NASCAR event. Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle was driving a special NESN Fuel-themed car, which was emblazoned with the logos of the Bruins and Red Sox.
WILMINGTON – Prior to the start of this week’s Boston Bruins Development Camp, General Manager Don Sweeney was eager to get a look at the organization’s bevy of prospects.
He was looking forward to being back in the rink and observing the progress the players have made since this time last year.
After four days off rigorous on-ice practices and off-ice conditioning, Sweeney is coming away from the week with extremely high hopes for the future.
“It’s always an exciting week for all of us,” said Sweeney. “But it’s been a process here for the last couple of years in particular, with players that are now at the forefront of where this organization is headed and we feel good about that.
“They’re a big, big part of our future – they know it, we’ve acknowledged it to them. And now they recognize the opportunity in front of them to take advantage of it.”
The players went through multiple on-ice skills and practice sessions each day, before concluding on Friday with a three-on-three tournament. They also took part in off-ice training and seminars at various points during the week, while getting the chance to tour Fenway Park and attend community events in Wakefield, Stoneham, and Charlestown.
Sweeney credited new Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo – who previously had been the team’s Director of Player Development – and skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold for putting the week together.
WILMINGTON – Malcolm Subban is used to getting peppered with pucks. He has been struck in most parts of his body.
It's just that most of the time, those part are covered in armor. Unfortunately for Subban, that was not the case last February.
Subban was taking shots in warmups before the Providence Bruins game against the Albany Devils at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center when he was pelted in the throat, an area that was not protected by his mask or padding.
At first, Subban felt fine. He though it was just another bruise.
But he quickly realized something wasn’t quite right. After skating over to the bench, Subban had trouble breathing and swallowing water. It was at that point that the Providence trainers examined him and determined he needed to get to the hospital.
The diagnosis was a fractured larynx, which required surgery and four to eight weeks of recovery, causing him to miss the remainder of the P-Bruins' season.
“I honestly thought that I just got hit and I was swollen and I was going to have to come back up on the bench and be freezing cold,” Subban said at this week’s Bruins Development Camp.
WILMINGTON – At the end of last season, Brandon Carlo got a taste of what it’s like to be a professional hockey player.
The defenseman suited up for seven games – plus one playoff game – with the Providence Bruins, tallying one assist and a plus-3 rating.
Carlo, a 2015 second-round pick, hopes that experience – albeit abbreviated – helps him this season during his first full pro campaign.
“It was great,” Carlo said at this week’s Development Camp. “Coming in and using my speed against those bigger guys was a lot more fun. I felt like I handled myself pretty well against a lot more heavy men. I had a lot of fun experiencing that and I feel like I did pretty well.”
Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, who was in charge of player development last season, noticed how at ease Carlo looked during his short time with the P-Bruins.
WILMINGTON – Ryan Lindgren was not on the ice when Bruins Development Camp kicked off on Tuesday morning. But there was a pretty good reason for his absence.
The newly drafted defenseman was at the University of Minnesota partaking in his freshman writing and student athlete summer courses. Lindgren completed his necessary commitments and flew to Boston in time for Day 2 of the camp on Wednesday, joining the rest of the group for a long day of on-ice sessions.
It is just the beginning of a careful balancing act for the 18-year-old native of Minneapolis.
Juggling his academic duties with his hockey career is something he will have to get used as he approaches his first fall as a member of the Golden Gophers.
“I think they do a great job there at the University of Minnesota of keeping us balanced between hockey and school,” said Lindgren, who was selected by the Bruins in the second round of last month’s NHL Entry Draft.
“I came there to play hockey. I’ve got to have good grades as well, though, that’s important.”
Lindgren played the last two seasons for the U.S. National Development Team Program, for which he tallied nine goals and 44 points, to go along with 145 penalty minutes, in 116 games.
WILMINGTON – Cam Clarke was drafted by the Bruins just three weeks ago. But his family’s history with the team goes back much further than that.
Clarke’s father grew up a huge Bruins fan and adored B's legend Rick Middleton. Over the years, his Black & Gold fandom faded as his hometown of Ottawa got a team of its own.
But he always hung on to one special piece of Bruins memorabilia: a vintage Bruins jersey, personalized with the last name Clarke and the No. 16, in honor of Middleton.
After Cam Clarke was drafted by the B’s in the fifth round of last month’s draft, his mother made sure to pull the jersey out of the closet.
“Maybe the weirdest story I’ve ever been a part of,” Clarke said after Day 2 of Bruins Development Camp. “My dad when he was super young was a big Boston Bruins fan and his favorite player was Rick Middleton.
“I wasn’t at the draft – I was at home – so my mom pulled out the jersey and it was just unbelievable to see the No. 16 [for his draft year] and my last name on it. It was a cool experience.”
Clarke’s dad was more than thrilled to see his son picked by the team he grew up rooting for.