Thursday, September 13, 2018 marked the opening of the Boston Bruins training camp in Brighton at the Warrior Ice Arena. For the Bruins this was actually the second camp to open this preseason. Their first set of campers met earlier in the week and then hopped on a plane to head for China, where they will play against the Calgary Flames during part of the preseason.
A couple of years ago, the main training camps for many of the NHL teams were slightly altered because some of their players were representing their countries in the World Cup of Hockey. For the Bruins, this meant they did not have some of their core players until the preseason was almost over. This year the NHL is working to expand its brand in China and Europe, sending some of the teams to either play each other, such as with the Bruins and Flames, or to play against some teams in Europe.
The training camp squad for the Bruins has been split, with Head Coach Bruce Cassidy traveling to China with a mix of veterans, AHL players and rookies. Joe Sacco is working with those players who have remained in Boston.
Many have questioned how this affects the players, and if going to China meant that the players had a better or worse opportunity of making the team. What was said to the players?
“Well, what happened was before the team, the group that left for China, [Don Sweeney] and [Cassidy] had their opportunity to speak with that group here the other day and [Sweeney] and myself had a chance to speak with the group this morning that’s here,” shared Assistant Coach Sacco. “So, obviously it’s no secret because it’s a split squad. We have the group in China and the group here, but the message to the group was pretty simple, that there’s really not a big difference here. You know, we kept some players behind here. We sent some guys over there. Both groups, there’s guys in both groups that are competing for jobs. And that’s really the message that was sent to both teams. Regardless of if you’re here or regardless of if you’re overseas, there’s an opportunity for you and again just like every training camp, go out and make the most of it. So that was pretty much the simple message that was delivered.”
When talking to some of the players on Thursday after they completed their off-ice testing, it was clear that they knew they needed to bring their game as soon as on-ice practices begin. For those still in Boston that will begin on Friday. They have two practices before they will meet in their first preseason game on Sunday, taking on the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions—the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. A second game will take place on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
The players in China had a little delay in their opportunity to get on the ice and begin to practice as some of their equipment didn’t arrive on time. However, with their seasoned veterans they will rally and hit the ice on Friday for practice before playing against the Flames on Saturday.
Those who have the NHL Network will be able to watch the China games along with many of the other preseason games. This includes the Bruins and Flames first game which will air at 2:30am on Saturday morning. In all the NHL Network will televise 27 preseason games in 19 days.
For the Bruins, all of whom are excited to get going playing hockey, the minimal practice time means little to them. They have all talked about their long summer and how thrilled they are to get back on the ice and back to playing the game they love.