NHL Ready to Ring Opening Bell on Wednesday


Jun 30, 2009

Welcome to the offseason.

There are incredible highs: players being celebrated at the NHL
Awards, winning, smiling, congratulating each other, and playing poker
on Las Vegas tables for charity.

There’s the next generation of NHL players getting drafted amidst
cheers and family tears, cities rejoicing with pride for a local
prospect, and media marveling in the youthful responses of the

Proud dads — former players — pass the torch on to their
exuberant sons.

Then there are the hard-lined business dealings of free agency.
Business is exactly what it is, but it’s tough to not feel a little bit
bad for the players whose lives are up in the air.

“I didn’t know where I would be next season, so we just planned to be in Vermont during this time,” said Tim Thomas when we visited him at his alma mater, University of Vermont, last weekend.

Of course, as it turns out, Thomas avoided free agency because his
new contract came together early, and summer is now about working out
(apparently with a pretty comprehensive and complicated program
arranged by strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides) and spending quality time with the family, wherever he wants to be.

Sure, it’s business, but there’s certainly a personal element, too. Take Manny Fernandez,
for example. He said he wanted to return to Boston for maybe another
year, but that option is not there for him, so he’ll test out the
free-agency market and even consider offers to play in Europe. But
after hearing him and Thomas joke around, praise each other and talk
about how great it was to have this season to get to know each other
and work together for something so memorable, it’s easy to appreciate
their camaraderie. Luckily for them, it is now forever etched in the
Jennings Trophy. As awesome as it was, this chapter — their chapter —
is now closed.

The Bruins have been in talks with the free-agents-to-be, including P.J. Axelsson, the longest-tenured Bruin.

“We’re really lucky,” the Axelsson family had said once about being
able to live in one city for so long. That luxury may or may not end
for them, depending on what plans general manager Peter Chiarelli has in place for building next year’s team.

Then, there are the fans who open their hearts for these players.
They adore them and cheer them through the thick and thin, and commit
via a numbered jersey, tickets to games, logo’ed T-shirts and
self-created, Crayola-markered poster boards. Some cry when favorite
players are traded, unsigned, shipped out and shopped out. And for
them, perhaps it feels the most personal because of the investment
they’ve put in — time-wise, cash-wise and, mostly, emotion-wise.

But again, it’s business. And the market opens for business on Wednesday.

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