This past Tuesday, the Providence Bruins hosted their annual skate with the players event. Always has been a fun time to get pictures, autographs, and get to know the team on a more personal level. As a writer working toward media credentials it’s also become an avenue to talk to players directly and gather a few talking points for a blog post.
JFK and Emil Johansson were the two Providence skaters I ran into first. Despite being understandably mercurial on game days, JFK was friendly in person away from the bright lights of game days. Johansson was a man of few words, but still quite friendly.
Despite his team’s standing at first in their (Atlantic) division, captain Tommy Cross took my praise for the Bruins success but added that the team “has to be better”. Given their recent come from behind wins and my critique of their performance, I wonder if Cross is one of my readers, as he echoed a lot of things I’ve written about.
2015 first round draft picks Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril were comfortable in their transition from the Canadian major junior leagues to life in the AHL. While the pace of the AHL was faster than the CHL, both were excited for the challenge of a bigger stage closer to the goal of making it to the show (both metaphorically and geographically). Despite their first round pedigree, neither seemed haughty nor arrogant much like the always smiling Jake DeBrusk was last year. Fellow first rounder Jeremy Lauzon was also taking part in the event. For those of you who follow me, I’ve been gravely concerned about Lauzon who hasn’t suited up for a game since 11/22 against the Devils affiliate. Up till lately, it’s been termed an “upper body injury”. Mark Divver of the Providence Journal and beat reporter for the P-Bruins was given the green light to shed light on the injury, officially labeling it a concussion. Lauzon seemed subdued yet amicable; I didn’t want to bother him too much so I told him I was hoping for a speedy recovery and best of luck to him going forward.
Peter Cehlarik was one of the best conversations I had Tuesday. He appreciated my enthusiasm about finally scoring his first big league goal and understood the enthusiasm given the column I wrote about him. He had a chuckle about how easy the San Jose goal was (told me even as a beer leaguer I could have scored there) but admitted fortune went his way the goal wasn’t overturned in the same fashion his actual first goal was (against the Kings last year).
Blueliner Rob O’Gara recounted a few of his games from starting the season in Boston. We also chatted a bit about the Foxboro Summer league. Fun guy to talk to, but nothing incredibly memorable came from this brief chat.
Jay Leach stopped by on the player’s bench to chat with fans. Not sure if previous coaches have done this in years past or if I was too oblivious to notice but he seemed guardedly optimistic about the team’s success to date and coaching the AHL all-star game. Definitely a class act by the bench boss to stop by.
Though I’ve been critical of Zane McIntyre during his slump, stayed well away from any negativity and instead talked about equipment when we chatted. No need to bring up a topic he’s probably very aware of. Jordan Binnington seemed to genuinely appreciate my fiancée thanking him for the amazing work he’s done for this organization despite being on loan from another team (St. Louis Blues property). We wished him the best of luck in his stint at the All-Star Game.
Austin Czarnik attended the Alabama-Georgia football game the day before the Skate with the Players and had completely lost his voice. Pretty sure he listens to the hockey podcast Spittin’ Chicklets as he fully understood the reference to Mike Commodore’s slogan when I said Czarnik was getting #InOne the night before.
Kenny Agostino appreciated how excited I got about his overtime winning goal against the Utica Comets back in December. He did his best to recount it for me as I unfortunately had to watch via iPhone screen through AHL Live. He’s quite a class act, and good storyteller.
The entire team was on the ice at one point except for Anders Bjork who was given 4 days off by the parent Bruins organization to rest and relax in similar fashion to players of the Boston Bruins were on their “bye week”. Colby Cave was curiously absent from the event, which was disappointing as we’ve had some great conversations in the past. Matt Beleskey was also curiously absent, though that was probably to protect him from direct, unnecessary, face-to-face public scrutiny.
Overall, the players demonstrated a strong sense of camaraderie throughout the event. You could see it in the way they were interacting with each other and how you never saw a teammate alone for very long before a few teammates would join him. While they might need better starts and finish to their games of late, they are a close knit bunch with a lot of compete and loyalty to their team.