“This is really the first time this opportunity presented itself,” Jon Lundin, spokesman for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, said Wednesday, April 20 as the Boston Bruins practiced on the USA Rink behind him.
Trailing the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in their best-of-seven, first-round playoff series, the Bruins practiced in Lake Placid Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20, between games 4 and 5 in Montreal. Boston lost the first two games on its home ice, then won in Montreal. The series then took a two-day intermission as the Canadian rock band Rush played at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens’ home arena.
The Bruins’ athletic trainer, Don DelNegro, has a home in Lake Placid and first contacted ORDA about possibly practicing there, Lundin said. Bruins coach Claude Julien was looking for a team-building opportunity and a chance to get away from the city.
“What we wanted to accomplish was to get a little bit of rest here, come here and have a quality practice, which we did today, and head back up to Montreal,” Julien told reporters after Wednesday’s practice at the Olympic Center. “The guys had a chance to walk around yesterday, and they seemed really relaxed. That’s the best way to keep yourself fresh for playoffs. They enjoyed the few days that they spent here, and to me it was a positive trip.”
Bruins forward Mark Recchi also said he thought the team accomplished its goal with the trip to Placid.
“We got some stuff accomplished yesterday, but it was more relaxation than anything,” Recchi said. “It’s a beautiful place here. It was work today, and get our focus on what we have to do tomorrow. The guys were great about it. We had a good couple of days here.”
Julien said the team is going to have to move the puck more and change up its style more in coming games.
“We’re easy to defend against,” Julien said. “Our guys have to be moving a little more and create a little more insecurity for the (penalty kill).”
Julien also said forward Chris Kelly, who was sent back to Boston due to an eye injury in Game 3, will play Thursday night.
“There might be a fracture, but nothing that would prevent him from playing,” Julien said.
The Olympic Center is famous for the “Miracle on Ice” during the 1980 Olympics, when the U.S. hockey team beat the heavily favored Soviets. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said Wednesday that he decided he wanted to be a goalie at 5 years old, while watching U.S. goalie Jim Craig play in those Olympics. Recchi, who is Canadian, also remembers it.
“You know the history of it,” Recchi said. “I was old enough to understand about it all. Obviously, growing up a player and a hockey fan, it was good. Something special.”
The Buffalo Sabres practiced at the Olympic Center in the 1980s. They were followed by the Washington Capitals, then the former Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes) and the Philadelphia Flyers.
The last NHL team to practice here was the New York Islanders, about a decade ago. These teams all practiced here before the season started, however, not in the middle of a playoff run, Lundin said.
Lundin said the publicity of Lake Placid bylines in newspapers throughout the country will help the area, especially now during what is generally a slow time of year.
“It’s a tremendous value, not only to ORDA but to Lake Placid as well,” Lundin said.
Photos by Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Boston Bruins starting goalie Tim Thomas covers the net while teammates skate in a one-on-one drill during practice at the Olympic Center’s USA Rink on Wednesday, April 20.