With the Phil Kessel saga looming over the Bruins, the team held its third annual “State of the Bruins” town hall meeting for season- and premium-ticket holders at the TD Bank Garden on Thursday night. Everyone in attendance seemed to come away satisfied and optimistic for the upcoming season.
The Bruins are once again relevant in Boston, and it was evident with the turnout for this unique event, which allows Bruins fans to connect with players and provides a platform for the Bruins to show their appreciation to fans for their investment in the team.
“It’s grown each year,” principal owner Charlie Jacobs said. “What I liked in particular sitting up on stage was that we saw a very broad range of people, and the questions ranged from what did Milan [Lucic] eat for breakfast to difficult questions about how Peter [Chiarelli] made decisions about his roster. I think that spells well for the event, because it shows different walks of life at the event — adults and children — and I think it bodes well for us in the future.
"We talked about what we need to talk about — management, player personnel — and while some of the questions may not always be that serious, coming from the children, we connected to our fans, and that’s the point.”
When the Bruins first started this event in 2007, they were coming off a losing season and had to face a small but somewhat angry audience full of questions on why the team couldn’t find success. While there was some criticism at this meeting with the fans, the overall tone of the night seemed to be positive and optimistic.
“There’s a much more civil tone, and frankly, there is a little to rejoice about this year,” Jacobs said. “Even though we lost in the playoffs, we put that away and closed the book on it. The message I got from just about everyone this year in management, and it’s one I share, is that we have high expectations this year, and we want to deliver.”
There was a Kessel question asked by one fan, but overall, the night served as chance for Bruins management and players to connect with the fans, and it appears they did just that.
“This whole event is a great process that a lot of teams in this area are starting to do,” Bruins season-ticket holder Daniel DeCristoforo said. “But the Bruins have done it the best, opening up to the fans with their thoughts and feelings. The fans get to say what their likes and dislikes are, and the management really sincerely answered their observations and questions. The fact that [four] players were there, all the coaching staff, the owners, it makes it a good outcome, and it is a special event for the whole area.”
As DeCristoforo put it, some fans have some complaints about the way the team handles certain situations, but the majority of fans are impressed with the Bruins’ efforts to explain where they stand and to connect with them.
“There are plenty of things we don’t like about the season, but too many things we do like and that is why we keep coming back,” DeCristoforo added. “They are starting to show how good they can be by getting fan favorites like [Cam] Neely involved in player personnel decisions and realizing who their true fans are.
“Sure, we’d like to have seen them find a way to keep Kessel, but that’s part of the business now, and they have their reasons. I think they’re headed in the right direction.”
Fellow Bruins season-ticket holder James Devine and his mother, Gloria, were also impressed and came away feeling connected to the players who were there — Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Derek Morris.
“I really like how the players are there interacting with the fans,” Devine said. “It shows that they care not only about their salaries but also what the fans think. Lucic was having fun and getting involved in the whole team concept thing and really reaching out to the crowd. I don’t like it when players just want their money and then go, and you didn’t get that sense from him.”
Owner Jeremy Jacobs and the management have taken their fair share of heat from the media and fans over the years, but it appears the fans appreciate the effort he is making to build a winner and show that he cares.
“I like how now you see Jeremy Jacobs is coming out of his shell,” Devine said. “He has a bad rap, but he is really trying to get rid of that reputation, and he really isn’t such a bad owner. I really like Chiarelli too. He is a great GM, and it is great to have him in Boston, and I hope he stays around for a really long time.”