New Bruins forward Steve Begin made his first appearance at the team's practice facility in Wilmington, Mass., on Wednesday. Begin is hoping to go from villain to hero when he first steps on the ice as a Bruin at the Garden later this month and when the regular season commences on Oct. 1.
Of course, Begin is best remembered for a cross-check from behind he delivered as a member of the Canadiens to Marc Savard down the stretch during the 2007-08 season. Savard ended up missing the remainder of the season. The following preseason, Shawn Thornton tracked Begin down on the ice to exact some revenge in a fight. But boys will be boys, and according to Begin, that's all water under the bridge now.
"This is a great rivalry and when I was with the Canadiens, we played hard games against the Bruins where things happened, but it's all part of the game and we're teammates now," Begin said after a good first skate with his fellow B's. "I'm on the other side of the rivalry now and I'm excited to be in it as a Boston Bruin."
The native of Trois-Rivières, Quebec, was taken by Calgary in the 1996 draft but spent the majority of his last five seasons playing for the Habs, the team he and his family grew up cheering for. When he signed with Boston on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent, his friends and family told him that they would make the transition to being Bruins fans. He also doesn't know what to expect from the Montreal faithful in front of whom he became a fan favorite for his up-tempo and hard-working style.
"I don't know what will happen," he said when asked about his eventual first visit back to Montreal. "My family said they're Bruins fans now, but we'll see. The fans, they used to like me in Montreal, so that might change a bit."
But none of that mattered to Begin, a prototypical third- or fourth-line grinder who prides himself on hustle and physical play, when Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli called him on July 1.
"Usually guys like me don't get called until days or weeks in (to the free-agency period), so when they called me on the first day, I was like, 'Where do I sign?'" he said with a laugh. "To know they wanted me that bad was nice."
The Bruins, of course, are familiar with Begin from playing against him for the past five seasons. But head coach Claude Julien, who coached Begin for almost two seasons in Montreal, knows him very well. Begin said that Julien was definitely one of the factors in signing with Boston.
"I know him well and loved playing for him," Begin said. "He is the type of coach that is always going to get the best out of his players. I saw that when I played for him and also playing [against] the Bruins since he's been here."
Begin said he could see Julien's stamp on the team develop during the 2008 first-round playoff series with Boston in which the Bruins erased a 3-1 Habs' series lead but lost in seven games. He watched it all come to fruition for them last season.
"It's a fast team that never quits," Begin said of the Bruins. "They want to win. They like to have the puck and be involved. I know because I had to play them so much. You could see in that series when they came back [from] 3-1 down, they have a never-say-die attitude and they got better from there."
Begin said Bruins fans should expect the same type of player they grew to hate when he was with Montreal.
"I'm not a big talker on the ice. I'm pretty quiet," Begin said. "I talk with my shoulders. I'm in your face. I just go skate, hit, block shots."
Now Bruins fans just need to grow to love that player. Will they take to him right off the bat?
"I hope so," Begin said. "I know they're passionate fans and I'm excited to play for them."
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