With training camp and the preseason schedule over, the Boston Bruins spent the last two days before their 2014-15 season opener on their annual team-bonding trip to Vermont.
Bruins coach Claude Julien began this tradition a few years ago and the players believe it’s an important way to begin the season. The team participated in educational and training exercises at the Vermont State Police Academy.
Unlike the last few years, there will be several new players on the roster when the regular season begins Wednesday night. This makes the bonding trip that much more useful.
“Every year it’s important and this year we had a few more guys that might be a part of the team, so it definitely was even more important this year to do it,” said Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. “It’s always nice to kind of get to leave here as a team and be somewhere where you’re basically here for 48 hours and you can establish some chemistry by doing these activities and working on leadership and trusting each other. It always helps.”
The activities focus on leadership, teamwork and trust. For the veterans, it’s a refresher course, and for the new players it’s about learning what it means to be a Bruin, according to Bergeron.
“It’s also about making a connection with all the guys, even with the new guys, and trying to make them feel comfortable around the group and not [be afraid of] stepping up or leading the way if need be in our activities, and realizing that that’s the way we do things around here,” Bergeron said. “It’s about all the guys and not just individuals.”
Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said training camp can be overwhelming because there’s so much to accomplish in a short amount of time. Being away as a group off the ice helps establish camaraderie.
“To take the time as a team and go away together, and maybe get away from the rink a little bit, is definitely beneficial and I think it’s important to kind of refresh ourselves,” Krug said. “We’ve been skating a lot lately and now everyone’s just eager to get this thing going. I think we have a very excited, hungry group and we’re just looking forward to Wednesday.”
The Bruins’ goal is to create a strong start in hopes of being atop the Atlantic Division by the beginning of December. It’s better to be in front than to play catch up for the majority of the season.
“It’s important, especially this year,” Bergeron said. “Looking at the schedule, we have a lot of games early on. It’s a little different for us, we haven’t really had a start this busy for a few years, so it’s definitely something where we have to get off to a good start. We have to establish a connection with all the new players and everyone is going to have to make sure we’re dialed in and that we definitely need to carry on what we’ve accomplished already. We need to keep getting better game after game and go from there.”
Not every NHL coach believes the preseason-bonding trip is necessary. Darryl Sutter, the coach of the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, told reporters last week that his team bonds in May and June.
“If you’ve got to go somewhere to learn about your personality, you probably have a disorder," Sutter told reporters in Los Angeles.