- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins have reached the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the first six seasons under coach Claude Julien. Twice the Bruins have reached the finals, and once they've raised the Stanley Cup.
During his time in Boston, Julien has become friends with another winning coach in New England, the Patriots' Bill Belichick. The two have built a strong relationship. It's common to see Belichick sitting in the stands at TD Garden during the playoffs and waving a gold towel in support of the Bruins and Julien.
The two exchange text messages often, especially during the playoffs, and they've talked many times. Julien has been a Patriots fans since he was younger and has learned many things about being a coach from watching and speaking with Belichick.
"In watching Bill closely, and hearing about the things he did, a lot of it encouraged me to be myself because there's a little bit of him in me," Julien said. "Details are important to me. Sometimes you're always saying, 'Am I overdoing it?' You look at Bill's record, he's a guy who pays attention to detail, and players buy into it and believe in it and he's always had successful seasons.
"When you watch how he operates, those are the things that have helped me a lot, and gave me even more confidence than ever to continue to do what I believe in doing. I see a lot of things in him that are important to me."
Belichick has been a hockey fan since he was a kid, and he enjoys watching the Bruins. Whether Belichick is watching in person or on television, he said he appreciates Julien's coaching qualities and the system the team plays.
"They always are tough. They play hard. They're physical and they're a grinding team. They're very workman-like, like he is. They compete well. They play smart. They're a good team, fun to watch," Belichick said.
"I have a good relationship with [general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] and Claude," said Belichick. "We text back and forth pretty regularly. They wish us well. We wish them well. We congratulate them on a big win, or a tough loss, whatever it is. It's not a daily thing, but we stay in close contact. From time to time we talk about some things: Here's a situation, have you ever dealt with this? Or how do you guys handle this? That type of thing. And I feel like I have a good relationship with both Peter and Claude."
Chiarelli and Belichick have never met in person.
"We've never hung out, but I wouldn't mind having a beer with him at some point," Chiarelli said. "I've had some real good, constructive talks with him. The kind that cut right to the chase and they've been helpful.
"His outlook on player personnel and motivation. I know he's had talks with Claude on motivation. ... What I've learned from talking to Bill, his outlook on motivation plays a large part on his outlook on player personnel. That would seem logical, meaning let's get a player that's motivated. It's simply put, but it runs a lot deeper than that.
"I've talked to him about players over the years and why he's acquired these players. It gives it a different look. He's a real introspective guy and I've enjoyed my talks with him. He's obviously had a lot of success. You see a dry Bill Belichick in the media, but I can tell you he's not like that."
When Julien arrived in Boston in 2007 as coach of the Bruins, he was, naturally, interested in meeting and talking with Belichick. Like a new kid at school, Julien was the odd man out. At the time, Belichick and the Patriots had already won three Super Bowls, then-Red Sox manager Terry Francona had won one World Series and was on the verge of a second. Doc Rivers and the Celtics also won a championship during Julien's first year here.
"You're kind of the little guy at the bottom of the totem pole," Julien said with a laugh. "Once we started to establish ourselves, those guys gave me support all the way through."
The pressure was on, and Julien produced.
"One of the biggest things, after we won our championship, it was really important to pick his brain and find out what the obstacles were, as far as the sense of entitlement; everybody thinks they're the reason that we won," Julien said of chatting with Belichick. "Sometimes you have a tendency to put yourself bigger than what you really are, so it was important to address those kinds of things and not let it creep into your team.
"So, you learn things about championship teams and how to bounce back and react. His experience at winning and handling those situations was important for us to know as an organization, and me as a coach and Peter as a GM. He's been really, really helpful. Although he'll tell you he doesn't know a ton about hockey, he still likes it."
As much as Belichick supports the Bruins, Julien reciprocates with the Patriots. If the Bruins don't have a game or a practice, Julien never misses a Patriots game.
"There's an even better connection when you know the people there," admitted Julien.
So, how does one of the all-time greatest coaches break down a hockey game?
"I just try to watch the game, watch the players and sometimes you watch in front of the net, there's a lot of action there even though that's not where the puck is sometimes," Belichick said. "I really don't understand the coaching during the game. I'm sure there's interaction between the coach and the players on the bench, but it's hard to tell what that is because you're in the stands and can't hear it. I just sit there and enjoy the game."
The coaching fraternity in Boston is not limited to Julien and Belichick. Those two, along with Francona, Rivers, Bobby Valentine, and now John Farrell and Brad Stevens, have built a rare camaraderie. It trickles down to the collegiate level, too.
"I feel like the coaches here, we have a good relationship with all of them. They support us and we support them and it's good. It's the whole sports community in Boston -- college and pro -- and it's pretty good, really, to support each other," Belichick said.
"I think it's important in this city that we lean on each other that way," said Julien, who texted Red Sox manager Farrell on Friday morning to wish him and the team good luck in the playoffs.
Recently, Belichick conducted one of his daily press conferences at Gillette Stadium. He was his typical, serious self and didn't reveal much information about the Patriots' upcoming opponent. Afterward, behind closed doors, he turned into a fan when asked which Bruins player was his favorite.
"I like a lot of them. I like [Zdeno] Chara on defense. I like [Patrice] Bergeron and Tuukka Rask," Belichick said before pausing. "Bobby Orr. Definitely Bobby Orr. I love Bobby Orr. Bobby's been a great friend and a great supporter, too. Really getting to know him after watching him when I was at Andover and in college, idolizing him as a great, great player and to actually be able to meet him and get to know him and Peggy, his wife. He's awesome."
Since Belichick gave his favorite Bruins players, Julien was asked about the Patriots.
"I like [Tom] Brady. I like [Vince] Wilfork. I did like Wes Welker, like everybody did, right? Who can't think that Gronk's not a good player, too? Those are the guys that I like on that team," Julien said.
Julien no longer has to feel like the new kid on the block in Boston. Like Belichick, he has cemented his legacy in this city.
While building legacies, Claude Julien and Bill Belichick have built a friendship.