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Few Distinctions Between Players in B's Locker Room

From rookie to veteran, everyone is treated the same and is contributing

Monday, 11.10.2008 / 8:53 AM / Features
By John Bishop  - BostonBruins.com
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Few Distinctions Between Players in B\'s Locker Room
Boston, MA – At 8-3-3, the Bruins are ranked fourth in the NHL, second in the Eastern Conference and first in the Northeast Division and it’s doubtful if there is a closer locker room in North American pro sports.

By design, the Black & Gold encourage a tight atmosphere, free of distinctions between veterans and youngsters, and that family atmosphere might have as much to do with the Bruins hot start as any goal, check or save.

"One of the neat dynamics we have on this team, and it's not like that on some teams,” explained veteran defenseman Andrew Ference. “The young guys aren't necessarily treated like young guys, I think in two very positive ways: They're welcomed onto the team, and they're included (in everything).

“In any conversation they can speak up, and they can feel comfortable with the other guys. Even stupid little things like going to dinner on the road, hanging out with guys.

“Whatever it is, even little things that people might not think are a big deal, but it's different from other hockey teams, and it makes a difference when you show up to the rink,” he said.

Now in his second season, during the last campaign Milan Lucic was an example of how that inclusive attitude can help players blossom.

“It makes you feel more ‘in’ the team,” said Lucic. “Sure, it's nice when you have a lot of young guys around with you, that helps a lot, (but) you can't say enough about the older guys here – they're just nice to the young guys.

“It just makes it more comfortable and easier, and it makes it more enjoyable to come to the rink every day when they're like that.”

Rookie forward Blake Wheeler, fresh off a hat trick performance against the Maple Leafs last week, agreed.

"I think it's such an important thing when you look at successful teams,” said Wheeler of the close knit squad.  “I think it's the locker room atmosphere that dictates a lot more than you would think.

“It's just such an important aspect of the game, and to treat young guys they way they're treated around here, I think that's a big reason why our team has had such (early) success – you walk in the locker room, and you feel like you belong.

“And being a young guy myself, I can speak to it.  Just feeling that sense of belonging from guys that have been in the league, guys that you've watched on TV your whole life, that's a really cool thing, and I think that's probably the most important aspect of (our) having a successful team.”

Bruins head coach Claude Julien believes that Boston’s vets, in conjunction with the organization itself, deserve a lot of credit for the structure in “The Room.”

“First of all I think our veterans have done a great job at making sure those young guys feel just as important as they do,” said Julien. “Not only that, they’ve also shown that they’re an important part of our hockey club. We talked about two young guys getting hat tricks, so certainly they bring energy to your hockey club.

“I think the veterans that we have here are happy to have them around as well. We’ve got good team chemistry. Our veterans are doing a good job of making sure those young guys are really part of our team and they’re not in a separate room.”

Judging from his own comments, it’s clear that Coach Julien has a hand in the team’s unique unity, as well.

“I don’t believe in this “abuse of the rookies” if you want to put it that way, and saying (they) have to pay (their) dues.

“They do, but it doesn’t mean you have to treat them like rookies.

“Everybody here is treated the same way. I treat everybody the same way from the first player to the last,” he said.

Matt Hunwick, whose role on the team, that of the seventh defenseman, might be one of the more difficult positions in professional hockey, praised the Bruins organization, too.

"I think it helps for all the young players to feel like they're part of something, not on the outside looking in,” he said. “I don't know how it is in other organizations, but here they treated us well, and with respect.

“You always have to earn that on the ice as well, and I think our young guys have done that.

Hunwick said that the B’s special attitude travels up and down I-95 from Boston to Providence and back.

"There's…continuity between the two teams,” said Hunwick. “And with the amount of players that do go up and down, I think most of the guys up here, especially guys that have only been here a few years know a bunch of the guys down there, and through training camp.

“From an organizational standpoint, it's good having teams so close and (helps)…players to come up when needed and contribute.

“If you want to consider it like a high school, varsity, JV teams, it's probably the closest you get in the NHL,” he said.

Clearly, Hunwick believes that the organization does it’s best to allow players in every type of role fell important and do their jobs to their highest efficiency. And the young defenseman may have touched on the one word that makes the B’s better – fun.

"I think every young player wants to be his best, especially early on,” said Hunwick. “It's…good for the organization to have players who will come in and be poised and be confident in their
abilities.

“I think a lot of these players are used to playing big minutes n college or juniors, and sometimes your role is smaller, but you still want to contribute as much as you can.

"But it's always fun -- no matter if you're playing five minutes a night or 25 -- just to be able to go out there and be a part of this organization and this team, right now.”

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