Commentary

Summer was fun, but it's back to work

Camp around the corner and targets on their backs, Bruins must avoid Cup hangover

Updated: September 13, 2011, 3:52 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOLTON, Mass. -- The party is over, boys.

It's time to get back to work for the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, who spent the better part of the summer celebrating their title. The first official day of training camp for the 2011-12 NHL season is Friday, but already the majority of the Bruins' players have been back on the ice with every intention of keeping the Cup right where it is.

[+] EnlargeBruins
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonThe Bruins were in Bolton on Monday for their annual golf tournament. Soon, they'll be back to work, with camp opening Friday.
With the exception of Mark Recchi (retired), Michael Ryder (signed with the Dallas Stars) and Tomas Kaberle (signed with the Carolina Hurricanes), the Bruins' roster will remain largely intact and the returning players have a familiar mindset.

"It's going to be more or less the same attitude and same work ethic," Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said Monday. "I don't think too much is going to change. We have a good chance of repeating, and we don't want to mess anything up. We want to make sure we're ready from the get-go. I know everybody's healthy so there's no reason why we can't."

The Bruins held their annual charity golf tournament Monday afternoon at The International with the entire team on hand. The course also was littered with plenty of Bruins alumni, some who have their names etched on the Stanley Cup and some who came close to hockey's ultimate achievement.

While the current players were signing autographs and taking pictures, there were many aging and gray-haired gentlemen quietly walking around the clubhouse. One in particular knows exactly what it will take to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Derek "Turk" Sanderson was a member of the 1970 and 1972 Bruins teams that hoisted the Stanley Cup. The stories of how those teams and those players partied and celebrated their titles are legendary.

The current defending champions also enjoyed their summer with the Cup.

So what will be the challenges for the Bruins during the upcoming season?

"They have to work on a lot of different things, and the first thing they need to work on is attitude," Sanderson said. "Everybody will want to beat them.

"They caught everybody last year and it still went seven games, so I'm happy for them because it was a team that really liked each other," added Sanderson. "When [Marc] Savard went down [with a concussion in January], they collectively got together and became a team. They weren't waiting for the power play or their big gun to do it; everybody had to do it, and they did -- to a man." Those teams back in the '70s were known as, and remain, a tight-knit group. It was obvious with what the Bruins accomplished last season that this group has similar attributes.

"These guys really did a great job. They played as a team and played the team game. They played hard and fought all the little battles," Sanderson said. "I've never been prouder than after they won it. With that parade, the hockey fans said, 'We're better fans than Patriots fans, Red Sox fans and Celtics fans.' Our guys are top dogs now, and everybody showed up."

It was a long and arduous season that ended in jubilation for the team and the region. From the players' standpoint, it was a hectic summer, one in which they had to balance celebrating along with rest before getting back into their offseason workouts.

"It went pretty quick, but we're excited," Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. "It's a good challenge for us to come back this year and be ready. Last year was a dream come true for pretty much everyone, but that being said, it's not over and we've got to keep on going. Now we're the defending champs, and we should take pride in that." The Bruins do take pride in that. This is a special group of players.

"You want to celebrate for the rest of your life and keep the party going. There comes a point you need to step back and start focusing on next season, and obviously that point is now," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "We're definitely looking forward to having another great year with all the guys back. Our main focus is not thinking about making another run; it's about having a good season and making the playoffs."

[+] EnlargeTim Thomas, Milt Schmidt
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonHall of Famer Milt Schmidt (right) knows firsthand the challenges Tim Thomas and the Bruins will face in trying to defend their title.

The last thing most of these players want to talk about is the possibility of repeating as champions. After all, there hasn't been a team to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998.

Can the Bruins be the first to do it since Detroit?

"It's going to be hard, but I don't think we should look at that right now. We should look at training camp and take it a day at a time," Bergeron said. "Looking too far ahead won't help us.

"You can't just sit on what you did last year to accomplish anything this year," he added. "Now, being the defending champs, all the other teams are going to try to beat us, and we have to be ready for that."

Lucic said the team's focus heading into training camp is to get back into hockey shape and recreate that chemistry that helped the Bruins win the Cup.

"It's obviously a little different feeling," Lucic said. "It's great with what we did all last year, and it was a lot of fun. It was great with all the chemistry we created, and with most of the same group coming in, it's going to be a lot of fun seeing everyone and we want to do as much as we can to get back to that point where we're having fun playing with one another."

There needs to be a sense of normalcy, which the Bruins are attempting to create. The veterans have participated in captain's practices, and rookie camp is already under way.

"It'll be the same as every other camp," said Bruins veteran and two-time Stanley Cup winner Shawn Thornton. "There's been a lot of camps for me, and it's no different. Last year was last year, so we'll start working on this year." Thornton won his first Cup with Anaheim in 2007, and the following season he signed with the Bruins. He says he's not an expert on the so-called "Stanley Cup hangover" but likes what he's seen so far from his returning teammates.

"As far as getting in shape, everyone looks good and I hope everyone is mentally refreshed and ready to go," Thornton said.

This summer has been a special one for the Cup winners, and all celebrated in a well-deserved fashion. Once the puck drops on the 2011-12 season, there will be a different feeling at the Garden because the Bruins will have a sixth Stanley Cup banner hanging from the rafters.

Similar to the '70s, hockey popularity is peaking again in New England thanks to the Stanley Cup returning to Boston.

"I think it's fabulous," Sanderson said.

Like Sanderson was during his playing days in Boston, Thornton is a fan favorite, and it didn't take him long to realize what winning a Cup in this city for these fans would mean. He can't walk down the street or into his favorite neighborhood watering hole without being recognized.

"It's a good thing, though," he said. "It means the Bruins are a big deal again, which is awesome."

The party is over. It's back to business for the Boston Bruins.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

  • Tough Lesson
    The Bruins found out the hard way that the Red Wings won't go down easy.
  • Lacking Momentum
    The Orioles got to John Lackey right away, and the Sox couldn't recover.
  • Why They'll Run
    Six people impacted by the bombings share what motivated them to enter.
  • Cloudy Vision
    Danny isn't sure what the C's will look like, but he thinks they'll be better.
  • Change Of Heart
    After initially balking at returning, Rita Jeptoo will defend her Boston title.

MORE NHL HEADLINES