WELLINGTON, FL - At the end of the day, when the ice is cleared, the skates unlaced and the jerseys hung, the Bruins are - to put it in its simplest term - a family.
And when the B's and staff were invited by Owner Jeremy Jacobs to his family's home for dinner on Saturday, following practice in Sunrise, it offered a rare opportunity for them to enjoy some time together in the warm weather, before a hectic 34 games in 63 days.
"It was obviously very generous of Mr. Jacobs and his family to have us here," said Gregory Campbell, as he relaxed in a golf cart, appreciating the day. "I think it allows us to let loose a little bit. Obviously we have a game tomorrow, so we have to stay in the flow of things a little bit."
But for a team that gets along so well off the ice, the array of activities to do together outside provided a peaceful break from the normal routine.
"There's a lot to do - some guys are fishing, some are dirt-biking, some are playing basketball or golfing," said Johnny Boychuk, outfitted in his shades, as he fixed the bait on his fishing pole and threw his line out into the pond. "So it's pretty nice."
"We're a close group of guys. With this rest, coming up in March, it's going to be pretty hectic - and just to have a couple of days off to relax is going to help us going forward this month
"Makes you feel like a kid again," added Campbell, on being able to let loose for a couple of hours.
Whether it was Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin competing for fish in the pond, Tuukka Rask or Rich Peverley taking a cruise on the dirt bike, Daniel Paille and Dennis Seidenberg checking out the horse stables, or Nathan Horton hitting a few golf balls, there were a lot of happy B's who were taking in the tranquility of the afternoon.
Towards the end of the visit, a game of knockout (a very competitive game of knockout) broke out on the basketball court, with Jacobs' family members, along with a few B's, including Jay Pandolfo, Milan Lucic, Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton, Aaron Johnson and Chris Bourque, among others.
"As you can tell with what’s going on behind us here," said Bruins Principal and Alternate Governor Charlie Jacobs as he looked on at the B's on the basketball court. "We’ve all had a good afternoon."
"The guys skated this afternoon at Sunrise and took the bus up here to Deer Ridge at our family’s farm and had a great barbecue and are having some fun."
"There’s a lot of camaraderie amongst all our players, just kidding around and having a good time. We’ve got some guys that are playing tennis, some are basketball, some guys decided to fish, but they all really, really do get along very well."
"I think that’s inspired by the leadership of the team," Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs said on the family-like air around the team. "The captain and the co-captains and all, they are true leaders and everybody seems to gather around them and support them. It pays dividends on the ice to see that they have such a close relationship. There a strong-knit team."
The afternoon was not only a chance for current Bruins to enjoy themselves, but also for past players - and current fixtures with the team - to visit, with Johnny "Chief" Bucyk and Harry Sinden spending time around the fishing pond.
Chief, who travels on every road trip (and keeps everything running smoothly!), was happy for the time to relax, like the players.
"We hadn’t had too much time off, but this is just great," he said. "Mr. Jacobs does this for us pretty well every year, if possible. It's fun, the guys really are enjoying it because it’s relaxing for them."
As the two longtime friends sat on a bench, recounting the countless years of memories with the Black & Gold, Harry Sinden also relayed this thoughts on the current members of the spoked-B.
"Here’s the way I read this team, and last year’s team, and the Stanley Cup team," he stated, before carefully enunciating his next phrase. "They are an ego-less team."
"They’re a team as individuals who forget their egos and play as a team. And I think that’s a reflection of the personality of their coach. So, they really do set that aside and play as a team. It’s probably as much responsible for their great record as anything."
When the visit was winding down, Gregory Campbell took in the quietness of the scenery around him, and knew that even though the focus was on the Panthers the next day, he was going to take time to take a couple of hours away from the rink.
"Especially when there's so many games going on, you look around the out of town scoreboards - there's something like 12 games today, so we're here in Florida - but I think it's good for our team," he said."We're a tight group already."
"But to get out of our comfort zone a little bit --," the forward attempted to say, before his teammates Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin surrounded the golf cart and interrupted the interview by sneakily placing their fishing lures into the shot of the video camera.
"And Marchy's trying to catch fish and he can't catch anything," smiled Campbell, as both Brad and Tyler broke out into laughter, "And Segs is always trying to get on camera…"
A further indication of their camaraderie, nonetheless.
"It's been a great day."
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