By TERRY LYONS
BOSTON – It’s barely a fortnight past Labor Day and Boston Bruins team president Cam Neely can’t wait until Thanksgiving,
Neely views Thanksgiving time as a realistic time to survey the landscape of where an NHL team truly stands. While the regular season will open on October 3rd for the NHL Bruins, this coming November 27th, also known as the worst travel day of the year, will be the 25-game mark for the club.
“We all talk about Thanksgiving is a hard date to kind of see where you’re gonna be at maybe by the end of the regular season,” said Neely at a press conference to open training camp and announce the fact the Bruins extended coach Bruce Cassidy‘s contract.
“But, St. Louis kind of blew that out of the water this year,” noted Neely of the Stanley Cup Champions’ incredible second half of the 2018-19 season when they went 15-18-4, (34 points) through Dec. 31 but closed by posting a record 30-10-5 (65 points) to boast an overall record of 45-28-9 with 99 points en route to the Cup win over Boston in seven games.
“But for us, it’s really getting off to a strong start and then, we’ve done a little bit of research on Stanley Cup final teams in the past and maybe where they had some troubles throughout the course of the year, so we’ll look at that too as far as workloads and what-not,” said Neely.
Neely, Cassidy and Bruins GM Don Sweeney were out in force as the Stanley Cup runner-up Bs opened camp this week. NHL camps open just as the Fall sports calendar grinds in full gear.
The NFL opened its season amidst promotion of NFL 100 and much ballyhooing over the life and times of Antonio Brown, the now New England Patriots’ wide-out accused of sexual assault in a civic (not criminal) case. Aside from the NFL, America’s juggernaut and most popular sport, Major League Baseball is in its September pennant stretch, college football is in full stride, U.S. open tennis is in the books, as is the kick-off of The Premier League.
The World Cup of Basketball, staged in China, barely moved the needle of interest in the United States until Team USA dropped consecutive games to France and Serbia to finish an embarrassing seventh in the world, a ranking barely ahead of Poland who the USA defeated today, 87-74. Aside from world basketball, the WNBA Playoffs, Lacrosse (PLL playoffs; MLL stretch drive), NASCAR, Fall Horse Racing, the start of the silly season for PGA golf, The Solheim Cup for the LPGA and MLS soccer can barely scratch the surface of public awareness. After all, once the kids are “back-to-school,” the routine sets in again and there’s barely time for anything.
That brings us back to the Boston Bruins opening camp this week and the Bruins putting their faith in Cassidy.
“I want to obviously want to thank Mr. Jacobs, the Jacobs Family, [General Manager] Don Sweeney and [President] Cam Neely again for continuing this opportunity that started a few years ago. Julie [wife] and the kids provide a great amount of balance and support, and I want to thank the staff as well. I think we have great chemistry together, and they provide a lot of support for me and do a great job with the players. And most importantly, I want to thank the players. They’ve responded well, we’ve earned each other’s respect, and it allows us to go forward here and reach our ultimate goal, said Cassidy on the obligatory and polite thank-you’s to open his remarks.
On keeping it fresh as camp opens after the long season playing into the spring and summer?
“Well I think you grow with the game, so that’s part of it. I think we’ve changed the way we’ve played a little bit each year. I think we’re playing well, we’re playing to the Bruins’ standard of play. We’ll see how that plays out for us this year. Moving forward, we feel we’re gonna have another strong team, but till the puck drops. How the message stays fresh, sometimes you delegate a little bit more,” said Cassidy.
“I think when I first came in, obviously there was some newness so I wanted to make sure the message was direct,” said Cassidy. “I think working with Kevin [Dean] and Joe [Sacco] and Jay [Pandolfo] now, they understand when we get together what needs to be said and how to filter it. So I think that has a lot to do with it, I got a lot of trust in those guys to make sure. Veteran guys who we’ve talked about a lot, I go through them a lot. Allow them to police the room and kind of the message we want, and if the message gets skewed then I’ll have to step in and take control there.”
What makes it work for Cassidy, as he communicates with his players?
“I’m not in every locker but I have to believe that we have the best veteran group in the league in terms of being able to sit down and talk about hockey and having an opportunity to earn their respect and vice versa,” said Cassidy to the assembled media. “You watch me now [compared to his time in Washington] and I’m a different person than I was. Now, maybe some of the players are different than the guys in the room here. There’s a lot of different things that go into it. I don’t want to rehash everything. At the end of the day, like I said, I think I’ve just become a better communicator – getting your message out there. That’s probably been the biggest difference from now and then for, me personally.”
Here Now, The Notes: Kevin Durant understands the business side of the NBA and the attachment of fans to their teams, but that doesn’t mean he likes it…. “Some days I hate the circus of the NBA,” Durant told The Wall Street Journal for an article published Tuesday. “Some days I hate that the players let the NBA business, the fame that comes with the business, alter their minds about the game. Sometimes I don’t like being around the executives and politics that come with it. I hate that.” … Durant signed a four-year, $164 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets after his former team, the Golden State Warriors, lost the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors. Durant ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the series and will be out most, if not all, of the upcoming season. In the interview, it was apparent Durant, who turns 31 later this month, was a player in need of a fresh start, but maybe, if he’s truly sick of the NBA circus, he should think about a fresh start playing for $100,000 a year in the EuroLeague. … Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani will have his second surgery in two MLB seasons as he’s set to undergo a season-ending procedure Friday to address a bipartite patella in his left knee. … This surgery will have a shorter timetable for recovery than the Tommy John elbow surgery he had after the 2018 season. A full recovery is expected in 8-12 weeks, putting him on track to be healthy for the start of spring training in 2020. … There was no indication of a knee issue for Ohtani, who hit a home run in Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians. He batted .286 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in 106 games this season, a year after winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award. … Ohtani, 25, did make 10 starts on the mound in 2018 but was reduced to a designated-hitter role this season while his elbow was on the mend. He did throw bullpen sessions, mostly in the season’s second half, in anticipation of returning to the mound next year. … New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso struck out twice in his first three at-bats Thursday, then decided to take some cuts in the clubhouse — shaving of his mustache midgame. … “I had very terrible at-bats before,” Alonso said. “And so I’m like, all right mustache needs to go. Simple as that.” … And it wasn’t the first time Alonso had gone to the razor to fix his swing, either. … “Oh yeah, baseball players are very superstitious,” he said. … Media outlet SNYtv tweeted photos of Alonso with and without the mustache in announcing what the player had done during the Mets’ 11-1 home victory against Arizona. … Alonso also reached on a throwing error before deciding to shave. Afterward, he struck out for the third time in the sixth and grounded out in the eighth. … The Mets first baseman hit his major-league-leading 46th and 47th homers Monday but ended Thursday hitless in his past 13 at-bats.
Larry Garron, an original member of the Boston Patriots, died at age 82. … Garron played for the Patriots from 1960-68 and remains in ninth place on the franchise’s all-time rushing list. … “On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, I want to extend our sincerest sympathies to the Garron family,” said Robert Kraft, the chairman and CEO. “This year marks the 60th anniversary season for this franchise and Larry has represented this organization and been a member of the Patriots family since Day 1. … “We owe a debt of gratitude to Larry and all of the original Boston Patriots like him. Without their many contributions, we would not be the franchise that we are today. Our condolences go out to all who are mourning Larry’s loss.” … A Mississipi native, Garron played at Western Illinois before joining the Patriots, where he spent his entire nine-year pro career. He was a four-time All-Star in the American Football League. … He finished with 2,981 rushing yard and holds the record for the longest run in team history — an 85-yard touchdown run vs. Buffalo on Oct. 22, 1961. … Garron also was a proficient receiver and gained 5,483 yards from scrimmage. He had 40 touchdowns in 99 career games (18 starts). … ESPN’s Chris Berman and Tom Jackson are returning to their signature “NFL PrimeTime” show. … The highlight program, which aired on ESPN from 1987 to 2005, will be available to stream on ESPN+, a subscription service that costs $4.99 a month, beginning this Sunday. … They will be joined by SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt and Joe Tessitore, the play-by-play voice of “Monday Night Football.” … “ESPN just celebrated its 40th birthday and the NFL is celebrating its 100th season,” Berman said. “What better way to commemorate both occasions than by bringing back NFL PrimeTime, now on ESPN+. I hope everyone is as excited about this as we are.” … The hour-long show will stream live at 7:30 p.m. each Sunday and will be updated with highlights from the Sunday night and Monday night games. Viewers can watch it on demand until late Wednesday night each week. … “This is a passion project for Chris Berman and Tom Jackson,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN executive vice president, event and studio production. “It is incredibly exciting to have the show return on ESPN+ where fans can stream and watch on demand.” … Berman, 64, joined ESPN shortly after its launch in 1979 and semi-retired in 2017. Jackson, 68, played linebacker for the Denver Broncos for 14 seasons and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and later was at ESPN for 29 years until retiring in 2016.
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Field Level Media, GraceNote, and Digital Sports Desk staff reporting contributed to this column.