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Sunday hockey notes

Longtime trainer Don DelNegro, who has treated Bruins for 29 years, looking forward to retirement

Don DelNegro's roster of treated players in 29 years as the Bruins' head trainer might be close to 1,000.Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

After a career of treating bloody noses and grisly wounds, the pain won’t stop any time soon for Don DelNegro.

He’s going golfing.

After 29 years as the Bruins’ head trainer, DelNegro will be hacking it up in retirement. This is the last playoff run for the North Adams native, who was feted before, during, and after an April 28 game against the Sabres.

The Bruins gave DelNegro a four-seat golf cart, adorned with a Spoked-B. DelNegro plans to drive it from his home to the course. He and wife Claire sold their home in Lynnfield and will decamp to Lake Placid, N.Y., where they’ve had a summer home.


He may never again pick up a roll of trainer’s tape.

“I joke to everybody when they ask me, are you going to work in retirement?” said DelNegro, 65. “I say, ‘Do you know the definition of retirement?’ ”

Rushing to help a fallen player wearing familiar winter hikers, a track suit, and waist pack with scissors, tape, gauze, and other essentials, DelNegro has helped hundreds of Bruins through the years. It can be a brutal sport, hockey, and families are always watching on TV. DelNegro placed more than a few calls to significant others or parents to let them know their beloved was OK.

“He takes care of you, first,” said Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. “That’s the biggest thing with those guys. Very often you think they’re going to think about the hockey player, but they put the human being first.”

Bergeron’s bond with DelNegro grew stronger in 2007, when the 22-year-old was left with a severe concussion and broken nose after a dirty hit from the Flyers’ Randy Jones. Bergeron has played through myriad ailments in his surefire Hall of Fame career. DelNegro, with good humor and a lack of ego, has helped him through each one.


“We all have different personalities as players,” Bergeron said. “We all have different ways of seeing things and wanting to get treated. He’s always been really good at understanding what the player wants and needs, and adjusting from one to the other.

“He has so many good stories of back in the day. He’s lived it all. You ask a question, you know the knowledge is there, so you feel safe around him. He really cares for the person, that’s the biggest thing.”

DelNegro’s connection to the Bruins came from his stint (1986-88) working at the US Olympic training center in Lake Placid. In a summer break from heading the athletic training department at Williams College, the Westfield State alum was working out at Team USA’s gym. Rumor was the Bruins were hiring a new trainer, and the new hire turned it down.

DelNegro cold-called the Bruins’ office, and a receptionist put him in touch with assistant general manager Mike Milbury. DelNegro interviewed at Milbury’s house, and he earned a yes vote from team doctor Bertram Zarins, who also was Team USA’s chief doc at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.

It was mid-August, so the Bruins were choosing from a thin pool of candidates. “I think they were under the gun to get someone quick,” DelNegro shrugged. “That helped me, I think.”

It was overwhelming, he said, going from a Division 3 program to the NHL.

“I had no institutional knowledge of how to get things done, where to get things done, who to ask,” DelNegro said. “I remember banging my head in an elevator one night in Quebec City at 1:30 in the morning. ‘What am I doing here? Why did I leave? I had a nice job at Williams.’


“Like anything else, you just tell yourself, ‘Day to day. Day to day.’ ”

Don DelNegro (left) worked 2,169 regular-season games as an athletic trainer.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

DelNegro worked 2,169 regular-season games, and entered this year with 222 in the playoffs. He estimates he’s spent another 200 in the preseason. His roster of treated players might be close to 1,000.

“I could count on one hand the players I didn’t get along with,” he said. “That’s why you stay in this sport 29 years. The players are just the best. They’re always appreciative and thankful.”

DelNegro was Team USA’s luge and bobsled trainer at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, and spent the 2006 Turin Games with the men’s hockey team. He also worked with USA Hockey at the world championships in 2000, ‘05, and ‘07.

In his first year, 1993, the Bruins brought two trainers and one equipment manager on the road. There was one doctor and one dentist for both teams. Today, teams play every game under the watch of multiple orthopedists, an internist, dentist, two emergency doctors, and an X-ray technician.

“Emergency care stuff is better now,” DelNegro said. “You’re not scrambling when someone has a concussion or has to go to the hospital.”

Like their NHL peers, the Bruins have beefed up their back-of-house roster. The medical, training, and equipment staffs include 14 people, including DelNegro’s assistants, Joe Robinson and Dustin Stuck, and a three-person performance and rehab department headed by Paul Whissel.


Today’s work week includes hours of e-mails and data processing about dozens of player medical situations. Contrast that with his pre-Internet, pre-cellphone days. After practice on the road, DelNegro would use a pay phone near the Zamboni to call GM Harry Sinden with injury updates. DelNegro waited many an hour to connect with Sinden or Zarins.

“You’d stay at the rink all day and sleep in the training room,” DelNegro said. “If you had players back home who were injured, they had to see Dr. Zarins — well, he was in surgery all day. He would say, ‘Call me at 3,’ but he’d run late. So you’d stay here all day.”

This was a time when players would protest DelNegro’s advice to stretch by retorting, “I’ve never seen somebody score a goal from that position.”

Trainers now treat the ailing with $6,000 Hivamat machines, which send electrostatic vibrations into muscles and tissues to break down metabolic waste, reduce swelling, and eliminate pain. They use acupuncture, lasers, and blood-clotting gels.

As long as they drop the puck, hockey players will get hurt. And some recovery methods remain tried and true.

“Ice,” DelNegro said, laughing. “It’s still the most commonly used tool we have. And hot packs.”


Haula had difficult time in Carolina

Erik Haula (left) has some difficult memories of his time in Raleigh.Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

Erik Haula was leaning on a white concrete wall near the Bruins’ dressing room at PNC Arena, chatting in familiar environs.


“This place is … an interesting place for me,” he said before Game 1 against the Hurricanes.

Raleigh is where Haula arrived for the playoffs as the Bruins’ second-line center. It is also where, in 2020, hockey took a mental backseat to the loss of his and wife Kristen’s unborn daughter.

“It was probably the hardest year of my life, coming off injury and being so excited, coming to a new place, and obviously very different from Vegas,” Haula said. “The excitement of being pregnant and becoming a father.

“It affected me as a person, and I really struggled with that. Through support of family and friends, people that you can talk to, the resources, just praying or whatever it is that gets you through that, that part of it … but it’s hard. It was really hard. It took a long time to get over.”

Haula loved Las Vegas, where he went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 with the original Golden Knights. Recovering from a devastating knee injury the next season, he was traded to Carolina for cap relief in June 2019. More knee issues held him out of Rod Brind’Amour’s lineup.

Weeks after dealing with the devastating family loss (Dec. 30, 2019), he was healthy-scratched in Carolina’s last game before the All-Star break. Haula (12-10–22 in 41 games) was shipped to Florida at the trade deadline. The Hurricanes got Vincent Trocheck in the deal.

For that, and other online chatter, Hurricanes fans know Haula as the guy who supposedly wanted out. There were rumors of a rift with certain teammates, a disagreement between him and the coach. Haula was content to let that water rush under the bridge.

“There was a lot of speculation. There shouldn’t have been any,” Haula said. “When I was here, I gave it my all. Things didn’t work out. It was beneficial for both sides to part ways. All the other stuff is more or less complete lies. I can’t get behind that.”

That doesn’t mean he was uncomfortable with the reception in Carolina.

“The booing, they can boo me all they want,” Haula said. “That means I’m doing something that’s [ticking] them off, which is good. If they don’t like me, too bad.”

Off the ice, life is good for the Haulas. Their son, Henrik, is 16 months old. He attended Bruins games this season in a “DADDY 56″ jersey.

Henrik swings at balls with his hockey stick and his golf club. He likes cars. He loves to read books. He’s crawling around, trying to walk, steadying himself as he gains the courage.

“Just enjoying everyday life with him is awesome,” Haula said.

He will never forget his time in Raleigh.

“Yeah … you know, coming here, it’s there,” Haula said. “Things happen in life. I believe things happen for a reason. Now we have a beautiful boy. We’re very fortunate.

“Things are looking up. I’m very happy. Hopefully keep growing the family.”


Canadiens are looking out for No. 1

Kent Hughes and the Canadiens caught a break as they look to rebuild the franchise, starting with the top pick in this year's draft.Paul Chiasson/Associated Press

The hottest puck party this summer will be in downtown Montreal.

The Canadiens, who won the lottery last week, last had the No. 1 overall choice in 1980, when they landed Doug Wickenheiser. They’re the first team to host the draft and hold the top choice since Toronto in 1985 (the Maple Leafs took heart-and-soul forward Wendel Clark).

Draftniks say this year’s class doesn’t have a Connor McDavid- or Auston Matthews-like talent. The primo prize is center Shane Wright, of OHL Kingston. Billed as a three-zone center — he models himself after Patrice Bergeron — Wright put up a 32-62–94 line in 63 games this season.

New Jersey, Arizona, Seattle, and Philadelphia, rounding out the top five, have strong options.

The best available winger is Slovak sensation Juraj Slafkovský, who plays for Finnish club TPS Turku. A 6-foot-4-inch left wing, he was about a month shy of his 18th birthday when he scored seven goals in seven games at the Beijing Olympics. Pittsburgh-bred center Logan Cooley, of the US National Team Development Program, is considered one of the most dynamic players. The top defenseman might be Simon Nemec, of Slovak club Nitra.

The Bruins will sit out the Day 1 proceedings, having flipped their first-rounder (and second-rounders in 2023 and ‘24) to Anaheim in a March deal for big blue liner Hampus Lindholm.

The draft, July 7 and 8 at the Bell Centre, comes to Montreal for the first time since 2009, John Tavares (Islanders), Victor Hedman (Lightning), and Matt Duchene (Avalanche) went 1-2-3, and the Bruins spent their first-round pick (25th overall) on Jordan Caron.

Caron chipped in 28 points in 134 games as a spare forward in Boston, the last of three straight first-rounders (Zach Hamill, eighth overall in 2007; Joe Colborne, 16th overall in 2008) that didn’t distinguish themselves in Black and Gold.

Loose pucks

Tony Amonte scored 416 goals as a speedy winger, but the Hingham product might have been going a little too hard on the forecheck during an NBC Sports Boston segment after Bruins-Hurricanes Game 6. Noting that Bergeron’s former agent, Kent Hughes, is now Montreal’s GM and that Bergeron “grew up watching the Canadiens,” Amonte claimed Bergeron will finish his career with the Habs. “I’ve heard a little bit,” Amonte said, sounding less than confident in his take. “Rumblings have been going on. People have been talking a little bit.” There’s a better chance Tom Brady finishes his career with the Expos … Bergeron, who grew up in the Quebec City suburb of Charny, was an ardent Nordiques fan as a kid … Bruce Boudreau will return to Vancouver for 2022-23, thanks to a team-held option year. A bit of a raise may have been warranted, given his performance (32-15-10, a 106-point pace) after taking over for Travis Green and the market (Philadelphia, Detroit, the Islanders, and Winnipeg have openings; there are interim coaches in Chicago, Edmonton, Florida, and Montreal; and Dallas’s interest in bringing back Rick Bowness is unclear) … Could see Winnipeg leaning into the hard-to-play-against style of Barry Trotz (who, yes, hails from Dauphin, Manitoba). No team with a vacancy could use Trotz more than the Flyers, who have lost their way … A first-round exit was a stinger for Minnesota, which got seven goals in six games from budding superstar Kirill Kaprizov but couldn’t get past the Blues. Roster-wise, the Wild are in decent shape, with a fair amount of good contracts around Kaprizov (47 goals, 108 points in the regular season). No better example than center Ryan Hartman, who delivered 34 goals and 65 points at a $1.7 million price tag. But GM Bill Guerin might be hamstrung by last offseason’s buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, whose combined cap hit jumps to more than $12 million next season (and $14 million in 2024 and ‘25) … Busy offseason for the Premier Hockey Federation, which named Reagan Carey its new commissioner, brought on retired Team USA defender Kacey Bellamy as a scout and player relations liaison, and has seen players sign increasingly healthy contracts (reigning MVP Mikayla Grant-Mentis reportedly inked an $80,000 deal with Buffalo). The league has yet to announce its full plans for expansion, but The Ice Garden reported that Providence (and previously known Montreal) are the new franchises … AEW wrestling star CM Punk, a Chicago Blackhawks superfan, after ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski asked him where he stands on Brad Marchand: “If I stood on Brad Marchand, it would make me 7-foot-2.” Punk, who is listed at 6-1, went on to refer to Marchand as “a legend, a freak, that guy will do anything to win.” … Had forgotten that Pierre McGuire spent this season in the Ottawa front office. The ex-NBC broadcaster, who disappeared from public view as vice president of player development, was dropped by the Senators after one year … Watching the playoffs always brings to mind a favorite quote from former Bruins scout Tom McVie. “You’ve got to go to the net if you want to score,” McVie would say. “Willie Sutton was probably the world’s most famous bank robber. One day someone said, ‘Willie, why do you keep robbing banks?’ And he said, ‘Well, it’s where they keep the money, don’t they?’ ”

Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.