Untitled DocumentFor the first time since since 1972, the hometown team has captured Lord Stanley's sacred cup. Although Boston has always been a "hockey town", it seems as if everyone across the state is finally embracing the black and gold.
There is no question that the hundreds of young hockey players who take part in the Valley Jr Warriors program are among those who have been glued to their television set (or for those lucky enough... taking in a game live at the TD Bank Garden) each game. In fact, many players have replaced their Warriors jerseys with their personal Bruins jerseys during pick-up games in hopes that they might someday be the next Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas, Brad Marchard or Zdeno Chara.
|From top: Bob Sweeney, Bob Carpenter and Steve Leach
The Warriors are fortunate to have a handful of former Bruins players - Bob Sweeney, Steve Leach and Bob Carpenter
- who take time out of their busy schedules to coach VJW teams. They
have a unique insight into what these professional players are going
through and how they were able to achieve their personal and team goals.
"Until the third period they have been close
and it has been a good series," said Sweeney, who was drafted the
Boston Bruins out of high school in 1982 and who currently serves as the
director of development for the Boston Bruins Foundation. "The home
team has been the better team at their venue. In Vancouver the games
have been a lot closer, but the home team has had the advantage when
they are on the ice so the Bruins are going to have to figure out how to
win on the road which is always challenging, especially in this
Sweeney has been a fixture in the VJW
program for years, most recently as the head coach of the VJW '00 Elite
squad. There is no one who knows better what the Bruins players are
going through. After all, Sweeney played for the Bruins for six seasons
and led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1988 and 1990. Following a
15-year professional career, Sweeney has maintained his connection to
his home team (he is a Bay State native who enjoyed a successful career
at Boston College) as president of the Boston Bruins Alumni Association.
He has been joined over the years by Leach
and Carpenter. Leach was a 1984 NHL Draft choice of the Washington
Capitals who - over theå course of his six-year career - played for the
Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators,
Phoenix Coyotes and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has been a mainstay with
the VJW '99 Elites for several years. He - along with VJW Director of
Player Development Fred Devereaux - currently serve as scouts for NHL programs.
There are few who also don't know of Bob
Carpenter, who joined the VJW staff in 2006. The former VJW director of
program development who now serves as an assistant coach for the Junior B
squad, was the third overall selection in the 1981 NHL Draft and the
first U.S. player ever to be selected in the top five. Carpenter set a
record for American-born players with 53 goals and 95 points in his
fourth season and was named to the NHL All-Stars and Canada Cup teams.
Carpenter also captured three Stanley Cups (1995, '00, '03) while
playing for New Jersey Devils.
All three coaches realize that the Stanley
Cup run by the Boston Bruins is not only good for the area, but it is an
opportunity for the young players to watch great hockey.
"When you get to the playoffs and then to
the Stanley Cup Finals the intensity is over the top," said Sweeney, who
just returned home from Vancouver. "The message you try to give the
kids is that every shift you are out there, you have to make a
difference and be aware of where you are at every moment. Obviously,
that concept gets magnified at the professional level because the games
are so tight and intense."
One lesson that some players have learned
recently is that team comes before anything else. Sweeney's team had to
miss part of the playoff run due to a scheduling conflict with their own
Valley Spring League game. In true "Warrior" fashion, those players
took care of their own business - they have won four of their five
Spring League games - before returning home to cheer on their home team!