Bruins vow to 'play their hearts out'

Updated: April 16, 2013, 9:18 PM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

WIMINGTON, Mass. -- Less than 24 hours after the tragic events in Boston, the city's hockey team practiced with heavy hearts Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena.

The Bruins' practice lasted just more than an hour, and afterward all the focus was on the victims and families affected by Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line. The mood in the Bruins' locker room was somber.

"It was one of those days you practice with heavy hearts," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Obviously, we have a job to do and we still have to do our job, but our guys are proud of this city they represent, Boston, and as much as it was hard to really go out there today and give your all, I think our guys did a good job. Practice is over and our thoughts are back with those people affected by it.

"Boston, for me personally and my family, is a city we've fallen in love with, so when you see something like that happen, there's no doubt it affects you as an individual, and even for us as a group."

The Bruins' game against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night is scheduled to be played, marking the first pro sports game in Boston since the bombing.

Monday's Bruins game against the Senators was postponed, and the NHL announced Tuesday that it will be made up at 7 p.m. April 28.

"The city that informed us that there are no issues with playing," Bruins president Cam Neely said on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Tuesday. "Obviously, there is going to be tight security in and around the building. We're confident that we're going to have the proper measures taken and security here. The city has informed us that they don't see a need for us at this point to postpone another game."

Like all of his teammates, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was home resting for Monday's game when he received a phone call from his wife, who was on Boylston Street with the couple's daughters and heard the explosions.

"I knew they were safe because she called, but obviously she was pretty worried," Ference said. "You're scared for anybody. You start thinking about people you know who are running the race and people who are down there watching. ... You feel helpless and it's an empty feeling. It's tough to say what you felt, other than you're proud so many people are helping out and you start to hear back from people that you know and they're OK and you're happy. But, obviously, you know there are a lot of people who are getting different news and you feel pretty heartbroken for them."

One of Ference's close friends, an Army Ranger, ran the marathon and had just finished when the explosions occurred. Within a minute, his friend was on the sidewalk helping the wounded.

"He was obviously pretty disturbed," Ference said. "The last time he was deployed, one of his friends got hit, so it brought back some bad memories."

Before Tuesday's practice, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara gathered the players and they talked about what they can do to help. The players, and Julien, kept those discussions internal, but they plan to "play their hearts out" Wednesday.

"We all know it was a very sad day and emotional around the city for everybody," Chara said. "We just have to support each other. We can all play for each other, and during these tough times, maybe help people cheer. With the way we play, we can show the support."

Bruins veteran forward Jay Pandolfo went to school and played hockey at Boston University, and attended many marathons during his collegiate days.

"It's pretty shocking," Pandolfo said. "You don't expect something like this to happen, especially at the Boston Marathon. People, it's a lifelong goal of theirs to finish a marathon, and you've got family and friends there watching you, so for something like this to happen, you can't describe the feeling, especially for people who were directly involved with it."

After Tuesday's practice, there wasn't much talk about hockey.

"It's such a great event and there are so many smiling faces, then you see the footage of sheer terror on people's faces. It's just a sad day in the city," said Bruins forward Chris Kelly.

When the puck drops Wednesday night at TD Garden, the Bruins realize they can help distract the people and fans of the city and region by playing a good hockey game. Those three hours will help heal this city for at least a short time.

"We represent the city of Boston and we want to make sure we represent them well," Julien said. "All you can do is go out there and give it all you've got. Whether it gives a little bit of joy, or excitement to some people, it's going to take a while to heal from this, and we don't expect tomorrow to be the day that everything's going to be OK, but you've got to start somewhere and tomorrow's a great time for us to go out there and play our hearts out for all the right reasons."

The Bruins have seven games remaining in this lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule and the Stanley Cup playoffs are waiting. Currently, Boston ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference and is only one point behind the Northeast Division leaders, the Montreal Canadiens.

After Monday's events, it's going to be hard for the Bruins to focus on the task at hand, but Julien and his players are confident they can.

"You have to. You don't have a choice," Julien said. "Your thoughts and your prayers are always going to be with those people. As anybody else, whether it's media, camera guys who had to cover what happened yesterday, no doubt it had to be hard on those people that helped, but at one point you have to do what you have to do and this is where we're at right now. When we play our next game, we have to go out there and do our jobs. If anything, you want to show people that you represent the city the right way, with pride and also with a lot of caring behind it."

Added assistant captain Patrice Bergeron: "I know when events like this happen, hockey should obviously be second. I realize this is just a sport and there are worse things in life, and yesterday was a perfect example. At the same time, right now we need to make sure we're prepared mentally [to play]. We're making sure we're ready and we had a good practice today for that."

On Monday after the Bruins game was postponed, there was heavy security at the entrances of North Station and TD Garden. S.W.A.T teams with machine guns stood guard, along with Boston Police, as locals and visitors came in and out of the building on Causeway Street.

Security will be tight again for Wednesday's game, however Julien, for one, says he won't let fear overcome him.

"Each individual will think differently," Julien acknowledged. "I'm one of those people who wants to live my life to the fullest and I'm not going to live my life worrying about what's going to happen. You put trust in people that it's going to be as safe as it can be and you have to live with the consequences. But the one thing you don't want to let happen is people, or individuals, or groups ruin your life by living it in fear. Sometimes you have to go out there and make the best out of every situation and that's what I intend to do."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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