Boston Bruins pay a visit to Rockland hockey academy
Updated with soundslide featuring interview with Bruins coach Claude Julien.
It certainly wasn't their usual practice rink, but local hockey fans and students were thrilled to see the Boston Bruins arrive for a morning skate at the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland on Friday, December 16.
The Bruins had taken a day off after a game in Ottawa on Wednesday night and were invited to experience the brand-new facility and practice on its ice before a Saturday game in Philadelphia.
Star players like Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand took part in the hour-long session, joined by Bruins newcomer Benoit Pouliot, a native of Alfred.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who began his coaching career in the Ottawa Valley, and general manager Peter Chiarelli, from Nepean, are both strong supporters of the Rockland academy. Following the practice, Julien met with media representatives and academy students and shared his views.
"This is an extremely well-built facility," he said. "Things were obviously well thought out, the guys were really impressed with the building and even the attitude of the people working here. Everything is really professional, especially considering this is its first year in operation."
"It's valorizing, to come back to your local region, to participate in something like this, and to see people from the region who want to watch your team play," he added. "It's a chance for me to give back something to those who've supported me throughout my career."
Academy founder and president Robert Bourdeau later addressed the students, saying it was important to recognize opportunities in life and take them, because they might not appear a second time.
"If you miss out on that one moment, it's gone forever," he said. "For you, as students, I know it's a little bit hard to understand, but that one game, that one test, that one thing that you miss, it never comes back. So make the most of your time, and make the most of your time here."
Invited to say a few words, Julien said it was "an honour" for the team to attend the facility.
"It's a great facility, we were treated extremely well and I think they got an opportunity to see how great you students have it here," he said. "I would certainly say you have a great opportunity here to further yourselves in your life by being able to be in this surrounding."
The coach discussed the importance of structure, saying professional players have to respect strict schedules similar to those at the academy. But he equally extolled the virtues of education and learning, in addition to making the most of the opportunity to play professional hockey at a young age.
"School is probably the most important part of this academy, right now," said Julien. "The odds of making the NHL - and I'm not telling you anything you don't know - is very slim. Some will make it, but a lot won't, and the thing you have to back yourselves with is an education, because it will help you along the way.
"But also, what you're learning here, hockey-wise at the academy, will help you further along in life. Maybe you won't make it to the NHL, but you'll have a great scholarship at a school, it might take you to Europe... there are lots of opportunities that open from the sport you're practicing right now."