On Thursday, August 27, Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that the club has agreed to a long-term affiliation agreement with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. This affiliation is already one of the longest standing player development agreements in either league’s history. The P-Bruins have been Boston’s AHL affiliate since their inception in 1992, making this the 23rd consecutive season of affiliation.
“On behalf of the Bruins organization we are happy to have our relationship with the Providence Bruins extended,” said Bruins President Cam Neely. “Having our AHL affiliate so close is a great asset to not only our hockey team but to our fans, as they can watch our prospects develop.”
This past season saw many call ups of from Providence as the Boston Bruins endured some lengthy injuries to Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg in addition to a 15-game suspension to Shawn Thornton (now with the Florida Panthers).
During his first call up to the Boston club, for the January 4, 2014 game against the Winnipeg Jets, Bs’ forward Justin Florek talked about how playing the “Bruins hockey” system in Providence made the transition to Boston a little easier.
“It’s nice to be able to jump in here and a few tweaks here and there,” said Florek. “But at the same time it’s pretty much the same just get in there and play hockey so it’s great.”
“Having a solid working relationship with your AHL affiliate is so integral to the long term success of your NHL team,” said Chiarelli. “With Providence and H. Larue Renfroe’s stewardship, we have that and more. We look forward to many more years with the Providence Bruins.”
One would assume that any AHL team would work to mirror the style of hockey that is played by their NHL affiliate, but that does not appear to always be the case. Florek was asked if he knew if other AHL teams played the same system as their NHL affiliate back in January.
“I’m not really sure, I think I’ve heard a couple, talking to a couple of guys that it’s not like that in their AHL teams, so when they get called up it’s completely different,” Florek expounded. “So in Providence it’s great to run the same systems especially to have guys coming up and down and saying it’s pretty similar. What we do in Providence, it makes an easy transition for us.”
When the media suggested that it seemed logical that both the NHL and AHL teams would play the same way, Florek agreed.
“It certainly does and like I said, I’m very fortunate to be in Providence doing the same thing they’re doing in Boston here,” he said.
Helping to bridge the two levels, and ensure the continuity, is the appointment of the Boston Bruins Assistant General Manager, Don Sweeney, as the new General Manager for the P-Bruins. In addition to his current responsibilities to the Boston club, Sweeney will be responsible for hockey operations for the P-Bruins.
“Don takes a lot of pride in the development and success of the younger players, most of whom come through Providence,” said Chiarelli. “Don has been in charge of Providence for some time now and he will continue to oversee that important relationship with enthusiasm and passion and ultimately, success.”
Sweeney, a 16-year NHL veteran and Harvard University alumnus with a degree in economics, was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 1984 Draft (166th overall). He is one of just two defensemen and four players in Bruins history to have played in more than 1,000 games in a Boston sweater.
“During the past eight years, I have been very fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to work closely with some outstanding people in Providence,” said Sweeney. “I can fully attest to their total commitment to developing young men as both aspiring NHL players and quality people. Our partnership with Providence is about providing an opportunity for players to develop in a competitive and winning environment.”
Rounding out today’s announcements was the appointment of Jay Pandolfo another Bruins alumni, as the Bruins development coach. The 39-year-old Winchester, Massachusetts native and Boston University alumnus, is rejoining the Bruins organization, this time on the management side. Though he played the bulk of his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft (32nd overall), his last season in the NHL was spent sporting the Spoked-B.
“We are excited to have Jay rejoin the Bruins organization as he brings a wealth of NHL experience to our group,” said Sweeney. “He knows what it takes for forwards to play in all sorts of different roles on Stanley Cup winning teams. I believe Jay will be a huge asset to aid our staff in the development of our young players.”
“I am very excited to start the next chapter in my career and rejoin the Boston Bruins organization as the team’s Development Coach,” said Pandolfo. “Working with the younger players in the system and helping them improve as professionals is an opportunity I am grateful for and a challenge that I look forward to.”
“Jay[‘s] got a good sense of how we approach things during his time as a player here,” said Chiarelli. “He has a real common sense approach that focuses on commitment and dedication. These are attributes that he showed also as a player and he will use in development of our younger players and prospects.”
Continuity, commitment and common sense,; the Boston Bruins have all three in spades. And with their ongoing affiliation with the Providence Bruins coupled with the appointments of Sweeney and Pandolfo, the 2014-15 season looks to be promising.