WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Less than 24 hours after the tragic events in Boston, the city’s hockey team practiced with heavy hearts Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena.
The Bruins' practice lasted just more than an hour, and afterward, all the focus was on the victims and families affected by Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line. The mood in the Bruins’ locker room was somber.
“It was one of those days you practice with heavy hearts,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Obviously, we have a job to do and we still have to do our job, but our guys are proud of this city they represent, Boston, and as much as it was hard to really go out there today and give your all, I think our guys did a good job. Practice is over, and our thoughts are back with those people affected by it.
"Boston, for me personally and my family, is a city we’ve fallen in love with, so when you see something like that happen, there’s no doubt it affects you as an individual, and even for us as a group,” Julien said.
Like all his teammates, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was home resting for Monday's game when he received a phone call from his wife, who was on Boylston Street with the couple’s daughters and heard the explosions.
“I knew they were safe because she called, but obviously she was pretty worried,” Ference said. “You’re scared for anybody. You start thinking about people you know who are running the race and people who are down there watching. ... You feel helpless, and it’s an empty feeling. It’s tough to say what you felt, other than you’re proud so many people are helping out and you start to hear back from people that you know and they’re OK and you’re happy. But obviously you know there are a lot of people who are getting different news and you feel pretty heartbroken for them.”
One of Ference's close friends, an Army Ranger, ran the marathon and had just finished when the explosions occurred. Within a minute, his friend was on the sidewalk helping the wounded.
“He was obviously pretty disturbed,” Ference said. “The last time he was deployed, one of his friends got hit, so it brought back some bad memories.”
Prior to Tuesday’s practice, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara gathered the players and they talked about what they can do to help. The players and Julien kept those discussions internal, but they plan to “play their hearts out” Wednesday.
“We all know it was a very sad day and emotional around the city for everybody,” Chara said. “We just have to support each other. We can all play for each other, and during these tough times, maybe help people cheer. With the way we play, we can show the support.”
Bruins veteran forward Jay Pandolfo went to school and played hockey at Boston University, and attended many marathons during his collegiate days.
“It’s pretty shocking,” Pandolfo said. “You don’t expect something like this to happen, especially at the Boston Marathon. People, it’s a lifelong goal of theirs to finish a marathon, and you’ve got family and friends there watching you, so for something like this to happen, you can’t describe the feeling, especially for people who were directly involved with it.”
After Tuesday’s practice, there wasn’t much talk about hockey.
“It’s such a great event and there are so many smiling faces, then you see the footage of sheer terror on people's faces. It’s just a sad day in the city,” Bruins forward Chris Kelly said.
When the puck drops Wednesday night at TD Garden, the Bruins realize they can help distract the people and fans of the city and region by playing a good hockey game. Those three hours will help heal this city for at least a short time.
“We represent the city of Boston and we want to make sure we represent them well,” Julien said. “All you can do is go out there and give it all you’ve got. Whether it gives a little bit of joy, or excitement to some people, it’s going to take a while to heal from this, and we don’t expect tomorrow to be the day that everything’s going to be OK, but you’ve got to start somewhere and tomorrow’s a great time for us to go out there and play our hearts out for all the right reasons.”