The Bruins are back in Boston, their mystery team-bonding excursion over and everything set for the start of their Stanley Cup defense.
The team spent Sunday and Monday on their annual team-bonding retreat. This year, the coaches didn't tell the players where they were going, and the surprise locale turned out to be Diamond Cove on Great Diamond Island, just off the coast of Portland, Maine.
Despite some wet weather, the Bruins were pleased with the time they were able to spend together strengthening the bonds between the returning players and welcoming the newcomers to the fold.
"It was challenging, but it was also a lot of fun," Bruins coach Claude Julien said in a conference call Monday. "I think everyone enjoyed it. We just feel coming back from there that our group really enjoyed it, but also got a lot accomplished as far as what we need to do this year to be competitive again and put ourselves in a contending spot for hopefully a Stanley Cup at the end of the year."
The Bruins were an extremely close-knit team last season, and they believe that camaraderie, chemistry and willingness to sacrifice for each other was a big reason for their success. They began last season with a team-building retreat to Vermont before leaving for Europe, and wanted to try to replicate the experience this year.
"It's always a nice thing to do before the season," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "Obviously we do have the same group of guys coming back from the last couple years, but there's always things you can improve on and work on. It's very important for the season. I thought one of the reasons we accomplished what we wanted last year, which was winning the Stanley Cup, was because we were all pulling together in the same direction and were all so close together as a team and the chemistry was so good. We do have to give credit to these types of activities that help us build that."
Julien agreed that the Bruins shouldn't mess with the formula that produced such success last season. He also noted that these team-building exercises could be even more important this season, as the Bruins won't have any long road trips to bond on early in the year with 13 of their first 17 games at home.
"I think our guys enjoy spending time together," Julien said. "Especially this year, we've got a lot of home games here in the first part of the season. So we're not going to get that much of a chance to spend time together as a group and get real comfortable. When you're at home you go your own way. You have your family. You have your agenda and it's harder for guys to bind together. But this is a great opportunity to start off on the right foot. Certainly it's something that every year has worked well for us, so if something works well for you, you don't ignore it. You keep building on it."
The Bruins are turning the page on last season to start a new quest for another title, but they won't ignore what they learned from last year's Cup run.
"I think one of the things that our group feels so good about is that we have a continuation from last year," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "We have so many players back. We have so many things that we worked on last year, whether it be systems or whether it be just the relationships on the team. We have a very tight unit here and that's one of the big advantages that I feel we have over some other teams."
That unity helped fuel the franchise's first championship in 39 years, and the Bruins feel that if they continue to stick together and support each other, the wait for the next title could be a lot shorter.
"We have such a good tight-knit group right now," Julien said. "We're not a group that has egos, and we don't plan on having egos. We just want to make sure we're all on the same page here before the puck drops."