(Mostly) good-news bearers
A couple of thousand Bruins season ticket-holders showed up on Causeway Street last night to pledge their allegiance to the Black-and-Gold flag, listen to team ownership, management, and players talk earnestly about trying to repeat as Stanley Cup winners, and otherwise keep connected to the good, good, good vibrations that so gloriously rocked the Hub of Hockey in the spring.
Noting to the crowd inside the Garden that the championship was a “pretty magical ride’’, team president Cam Neely proclaimed the state of the Bruins to be “probably never as good as it is today - on and off the ice.’’
The one caveat, at least as of this hour, is Brad Marchand, the Li’l Ball of Hate left winger who still hasn’t signed on the dotted line. Is he close to a new deal? That’s between Marchand, his agent, and general manager Peter Chiarelli, a threesome that remains as short on words as the Bruins were once short on Cups. Boston’s varsity training camp opens this weekend and, unless there is a sudden change in the negotiating dynamics, the 23-year-old Marchand will be absent without contract.
“I can’t answer that,’’ said Chiarelli, asked after the group hug if he now must plan for camp without the pugnacious winger.
Further asked to characterize the negotiations, Chiarelli labeled them “neither contentious nor amicable’’, and later added that “it’s a normal negotiation, it’s just not done yet.’’ In case anyone forgot, Chiarelli, the ex-Harvard hockey captain, is an attorney.
How this ends, folks, is anyone’s guess. Longtime NHL scribe Bruce Garrioch, who writes in Chiarelli’s hometown of Ottawa, reported over the weekend that the Bruins are shopping Marchand. Rumors have Boston offering something in the $2 million-a-year bracket and Marchand asking for about twice that. If true, that’s about the same differential that existed here two years ago with Phil Kessel. The Bruins gladly would have kept him here at a price of about $3.5 million a year, but they ended up dishing him to Toronto, where he inked a deal worth an average of $5.4 million over five years.
Otherwise, things are fairly quiet on the dawn of a new season, which officially begins with the Flyers in town Oct. 6, the night the Bruins will hoist their sixth championship banner to the rafters. In preparation for the new flag, the Bruins this summer had the existing five banners (1929, ’39, ’41, ’70, and ’72) decommissioned and redesigned. The new models were revealed to the crowd last night shortly before 6 p.m. Not big news, by any means, but what’s a lovefest without a little flag waving?
Other news included:
■Chiarelli making official that Marc Savard will have his name on the Cup. The GM also reiterated that Savard will miss the upcoming season because of lingering concussion-related symptoms.
■Neely revealing that the club soon will be selling an “exclusive line’’ of Stanley Cup jewelry.
■The club also is about to release a coffee table book, “Full 60-Plus Minutes to History’’, chronicling the championship run.
■The absence of captain Zdeno Chara, who was expected to join teammates Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas on the stage. Instead, Big Z is making his way back to Slovakia to attend the funeral this weekend of long-time pal and fellow Slovak Pavol Demitra. Demitra and the entire Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team died when the club’s charter flight crashed moments after takeoff last week in Russia. It’s likely Chara won’t be in uniform here until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
■Team executive Charlie Jacobs saying that it will be another 5-10 years before the parking lot in front of the Garden is anything but a parking lot.
The rest of the night was dominated by talk of putting the Cup win in its revered place, and then moving on to 2011-12.
“I can assure you as GM,’’ said Chiarelli, “we are going to continue to move forward. We want to win another Cup. We will continue to draft and recruit players who have the character to win a Cup.’’
Added owner Jeremy Jacobs, “Somebody said winning wasn’t everything . . . I don’t think that person ever lifted that Cup.’’
Standing ovations were de rigueur. In fact, the proud-as-punch Boston fans even provided a standing ‘O’ to the video show that played in the minutes prior to the night’s honored guests taking the stage. NESN’s Andy Brickley did his usual first-rate job of emcee-ing the show and opening it up to questions from the softball-tossing fans.
One of the night’s best queries centered on the power play, which was grim before the arrival of Tomas Kaberle, and then grew grimmer during the Czech defenseman’s short stay. Coach Claude Julien handled that one.
“You made me a rich man,’’ said the smiling coach, “because I bet everyone [on the stage] that question would be asked.’’ Neely then chimed in that he thought the question would have been asked much earlier in the proceedings.
The answer: Joe Corvo, acquired in trade from Carolina, will juice up the man-advantage with his blazing shot off the point. Corvo and confidence . . . and on to the Cup!
The night’s best smile came when a grade schooler asked Thomas what’s more important, school or hockey?
“The true answer is . . . it depends,’’ said a smiling Thomas, proud alum of the University of Vermont. “Hockey is a great game, the best in the world, which is why I chose to play it. But realistically, school, and learning how to learn, and what you learn in school, is a higher priority than hockey.’’
Though that may be music to the ears of parents, teachers, and school administrators across the land, those words did not trigger the blaring horn inside the Garden. Academic, I suppose, considering it was the Bruins who took everyone to school last season.