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Kevin Paul Dupont | On Hockey

It was anything but an ordinary game for Bruce Cassidy, but now it’s time to move on

Bruce Cassidy, left, has a big smile and a handshake for one of his assistant coaches after Vegas defeated Boston 4-3 in a shootout Monday at TD Garden.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Roughly a half-hour prior to puck drop, with both the Bruins and Golden Knights on the ice for warmups Monday night, Bruce Cassidy wandered down the runway from the Vegas dressing room, took a quick peek in the Garden stands, and zipped back to the room to fix his tie and pull on his jacket.

Time to go to work. Time to move on.

Game No. 536 in Cassidy’s coaching career was like none of the others. Back in Boston for the first time since being abruptly dismissed here last June, Cassidy, 57, stood behind the other bench, and coached the other team, more than 14 years after first joining the Bruins organization as an assistant coach in Providence.


When the night was over, Cassidy pinned up career win No. 311, the Knights squeezing out a 4-3 shootout victory, snapping the Bruins’ record-making 14-game win streak on home ice.

The homecoming was certified at the 8:53 mark of the first period, with the Knights already in control of a 2-0 lead. The big video board over center ice rolled snippets of Cassidy’s five-plus seasons behind the Black and Gold bench.

The sellout crowd began to applaud as soon as the first image of Cassidy popped on the board. The applause, respectful but not rowdy, lasted for the full minute-plus, until the “Welcome Back Bruce” slate popped up on the board and closed out the tribute.

“Listen, that’s something I’ll get choked up about, obviously, in about three seconds,” said Cassidy, asked post-game about the tribute, emotion welling up in his voice. “I appreciate it, it’s that simple–I appreciate it. I did what I could here to help the team win…now it’s on to Vegas and do what I can there.”

Behind the bench, Cassidy applauded, too, his way of sending back his appreciation. As it came to an end, he patted his right hand to his heart and then waved briefly to the crowd. Simple, brief, and understated.


Vegas right winger Reilly Smith, another former Bruins employee (obtained in the long ago trade of Tyler Seguin to Dallas), turned slightly on the bench and offered Cassidy a towel in case the coach was overwhelmed by emotion. Comedic relief.

“You don’t know how it’s going to be,” said Cassidy, referring to Smith offering the towel at the end of the tribute. “It was a really nice gesture by the Bruins organization. I appreciate it. All around, I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for them … thankful they did it, grateful.”

It was Smith, shooting fifth in the shootout, who won it in OT.

Smith and Cassidy traded smiles, no tears were shed, and the clock began to tick down from 11:07. Players and coaches come and go. The clock eventually always hits 00:00.

“A passionate guy,” Smith told the 98.5 radio broadcast crew between periods. “An important moment for him.”

Regardless of his depth of feeling in his return to Boston Monday, Cassidy still got an earful from Bruins' fans.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Cassidy’s Knights were without their best forward, Jack Eichel, and their best defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, but for much of the first two periods the Bruins were without their best game. A steady array of uncharacteristic turnovers by the team now coached by Jim Montgomery had the Knights cruising with a 3-0 lead with less than a minute gone in the second.

Goal No. 1 had Brandon Carlo out of position. A David Pastrnak giveaway led to goal No. 2. The third goal, the second of the night by Paul Cotter, came gift wrapped by a Derek Forbort boo-boo.


Had he still been on the job here, Cassidy would have been steamed. Much of the Bruins’ success during his time here was built on smart, efficient team defense. Previously perfect (14-0-0) on home ice this season, the Bruins were sloppy, unfocused behind their own blue line.

Getting tossed off the job hasn’t been all bad for some Bruins coaches who were sent packing.

Pat Burns was hired to take over the Devils bench for the 2002-’03 season, less than two calendar years after he was dismissed here early into 2000-’01. The ever-blunt Burns, whose style today would have half the team running to the Players’ Association to file grievances, led the Devils to the Cup that first season.

Just over a year later, Burns was canned after the Devils lost in Round 1.

Mike Sullivan had two years on the job here, helping to bring along rookie Patrice Bergeron, when Peter Chiarelli took over the GM’s job in the wake of Mike O’Connell being fired. Chiarelli dumped Sullivan, hired Dave Lewis, and it was nearly 10 years before Sullivan got another kick at being a head coach.

And, boy, did Sullivan kick it, leading the Penguins to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 17. The former BU center, now 54, remains on the job, now in his eighth year with the Penguins.


But goodbyes didn’t always turn out so sweet.

Don Cherry, perhaps the most popular coach in the club’s near 100-year history, caught on immediately as coach of the then Colorado Rockies after being cut free by Harry Sinden in the spring of ‘79. It was the same spring that Cherry’s Bruins fell to the Habs in the playoffs in the infamous too-many-men-on-the-ice game at the old Montreal Forum.

Cherry had his Bruins pedigree and big personality, seemingly a perfect fit for the struggling Denver team. His results there were small and short. Led by an aging Rene Robert, once part of Buffalo’s electric French Connection Line, Cherry’s Rockies were a miserable 19-48-13 and that was the end of his NHL coaching career.

At age 45, “Grapes” left coaching and began a long, lucrative broadcast career.

With Cassidy their third coach in franchise history, the Knights this year have been the class of the west. One third of the way into a new season with a new team, Cassidy’s methods, so good here, have been same ol’, same ol’ successful.

Head coaches in the NHL aren't normally on the bench or in the area during pregame warmups, but former Bruins head coach and current head coach of the Golden Knights Bruce Cassidy came down the runway and looked around briefly while his team was on the ice warming up Monday night.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“He’s been exactly as advertised,” noted Dave Goucher, the former radio play-by-play announcer with the Bruins and now the face of the Knights’ TV broadcasts. “Just like [in Boston], he’s been preaching team defense, holding guys accountable…”

All of which ultimately led to the end of Cassidy’s tenure here. Across the lineup, he demanded accountability, adherence to team defense. In an era when player feelings count, perhaps too much, some of them felt his messaging was too harsh. He was gone, and Monday night, everybody moved on.


“Yeah, it’s over,” said Cassidy, asked if the night brought some closure. “As I said, I really enjoyed my time here. It time to focus on … well, I have been focused on Vegas. But this game tonight …. it’s just not an ordinary game.”

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.