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Bruins bring smiles to Newtown, Conn.

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Along with every other concerned parent across the nation, across the world, Rich Peverley saw a worst nightmare played out in news reports on Dec. 14, when 20 children and six staff members were murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Peverley remembers exactly where he was in that moment. He was preparing to return to Finland and rejoin the SM-liiga team he signed with during the NHL lockout.

“I was here in Boston, I was going back over to Europe,” Peverley said after Tuesday morning practice at Ristuccia Arena. “It really kind of shakes you, especially when you have your own kids. It’s something that you never want to have to live through.”

On Monday, the Bruins arrived back in Massachusetts at 2 a.m., following their 3-2 win in Winnipeg. It was a scheduled day off for the players. But Peverley, six of his teammates and Bruins head coach Claude Julien were soon taking off for Newtown, looking to provide support and smiles at the Newtown Youth Academy. There, about 600 of the town’s children and adults mingled with the Bruins contingent, playing street hockey, socializing, and forgetting -- albeit if just for a moment -- the outside world.

“It was pretty amazing, a lot of fun and amazing to see how strong and resilient those people are,” Julien said. “The faith that they have and the support that they’ve been giving each other -- the word is probably amazing.”

While the Bruins undoubtedly left a lasting memory with all in attendance, the experience impacted them as well.

“I felt privileged to have the opportunity to go there,” Julien said. “I know everybody would love to be able to help and, fortunately, we were some of the lucky ones who were fortunate to go there and hopefully put some smiles on some faces.”

Peverley called the event a highlight of his career, but it had little to do with hockey.

It had more to do with being a dad.

“Being able to bring positive energy to the town and put a smile on kids’ faces and just change the focus there for a day was really special,” Peverley said.