If history is any indication, these record-smashing Bruins are putting kids on the streets.
They’ll pretend they are David Pastrnak, ripping one-timers into the net and waving to an imaginary crowd. They’ll dangle through defenders, tongue wagging, like Brad Marchand. They’ll be as tough as Trent Frederic, as smart as Patrice Bergeron, as crafty as David Krejci.
They’ll strap on the pads and become Linus Ullmark, or Jeremy Swayman, scoring goalie goals and hugging it out.
Around here, it remains a way of life, especially when the Bruins are hot.
Jack Studley and his buddies, including the late Martin Richard, used to pretend they were the 2010-11 Bruins. They would bang slappers like Big Z and holler “Tuuuk!” after big saves. Their compete level was always elevated.
“Every day after school, we would run around Dorchester,” Studley said. “Whatever park, whatever side street, somebody had a net and we would just play.”
Studley, a sophomore at Fairfield University, is readying for his seventh year running Dorchester Street Hockey. He created the league to fill a springtime lull. Now, some 120 players from third to sixth grade compete at Garvey Park on Sundays in April and May. The league is free, too, thanks to the generosity of the Martin Richard Foundation.
In some pockets of the city, street hockey rules no matter how the local team is doing.
“In Dorchester, kids don’t put their sticks away,” said Mike Devlin, director of recreation for the City of Boston. “It’s South Boston, it’s the Shamrock Shootout in West Roxbury.” That’s where some 650 players take their whacks on a closed-off Temple Street.
The stick-and-ball version of hockey is on the minds of those in the NHL’s corner offices. The league recently announced the creation of NHL Street, for ages 6 to 16, which aims to start in Boston and six other cities (Detroit, Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Austin, Texas) in the coming months. It promises free equipment, provided by Stoughton-based manufacturer Franklin, and jerseys with the local team’s colors and logo. Former Bruin Andrew Ference, now working for the NHL, is running the show.
There are independent and municipal leagues all over the Boston area, but a lot of the action is still unorganized.
“Older kids, they want to play pickup by themselves,” Devlin said. “They don’t want mom and dad around.”
Given the immense cost and time commitment of organized hockey — consider how many hours and resources are needed to put a kid on the ice for 10-15 minutes per game — and the state of our climate, street hockey is more critical than ever to player development.
Boston is hardly the only northern city having milder-than-usual weather. Ottawa did not open its five-mile Rideau Canal Skateway this winter, shuttering the world’s largest outdoor rink for the first time in its 53-year history. Some 400 miles to the south, we here in Greater Boston have not had much time on the ponds. Backyard rinks have remained pools. Those of us with young children may be worrying about a pastime lost.
Those of us who grew up in Gloucester and first shuffled on double-runners at age 2 — Buswell Pond in Magnolia — still go to sleep floating on the glassy ice of Lanesville’s frozen granite quarries. The first strides of the season, hearing the spooky settling of the sheet. Then we’d throw sticks, day after day. The stuff of dreams.
If we didn’t have ice, in the time of Ray Bourque and Cam Neely, we always had a side road or a church parking lot. We would run there as soon as we were free from obligation. Our elders did the same.
“If I didn’t have hockey practice or a hockey game, it’s what I looked forward to the most when I woke up that day,” said NESN color analyst Andy Brickley, who grew up in Melrose in the Orr-Esposito era. “What time am I getting home from school, and how many guys are we going to have, are we going to play in the street, are we setting up in the tennis courts, do we need to shovel, do we have two nets . . .
“I was so preoccupied with how we were going to arrange the street hockey game for that day. If it was a weekend, you’d play all day.
“Everybody could play. Not everybody could play hockey and not everybody could afford to play hockey, but everybody could afford to play street hockey. If you were products of my generation — we were 8 and 10 when the Bruins were winning the Stanley Cups, and those guys were your heroes, the swagger, the team-first attitude, the accessibility, the personality, all that stuff impacted my generation.
“We all wanted to play hockey. Not everybody could, but everybody could play street hockey. Never were we shorthanded.”
In this space, on the 2018 occasion of the Bruins retiring his No. 16, Rick Middleton said competing in his Toronto neighborhood helped form one of the niftiest sets of hands this franchise has ever seen.
“I learned a lot of the moves . . . bouncing frozen tennis balls on your feet and up to your stick,” Middleton said. “It’s all the same except for the skating, and I swear, it morphed over onto the ice.”
Street hockey was a place to grow athletically, competitively, and of course, a place for childhood mischief.
“When cars would come by we’d say time out, and we’d try to pass the puck through the car’s wheels,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery remembered of his days on Paisley Street in Montreal. “Wasn’t that hard to do.”
“My parents would never agree this happened,” Brickley said, “but late at night, we’d go up and cut the tennis court nets down [to make street hockey nets in the garage]. We did it every time we got locked out of the tennis court. We’d find the right time to do it. I think people knew it was us, anyway.”
Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo and his crew in Colorado Springs blocked cars from their cul-de-sac on Sawleaf Court so they had uninterrupted games. In Lerberget, Sweden, Hampus Lindholm’s squad wouldn’t stop when they saw one.
“They’d have to wait until the play was over,” he said, “and then you’d let them through.”
They were too busy mimicking their heroes, taking scenes from the TV and applying them to the asphalt. Even today, when kids have the universe streaming in front of them, there’s still room for them to ditch the screen and let off steam.
For the youngest of the stick-carrying tribe, these Bruins have no doubt inspired.
“I’m sure we’ll see it when our season starts this year,” Studley said. “Everyone’s going to want to be as good as they are.”
After Ullmark scored against the Canucks recently, Studley posted the video on his league’s Instagram.
“We haven’t had a goalie score a goalie goal yet,” Studley said. “Is that going to change this year?”
Marchand was once part of trade talk
Brad Marchand has become an all-time Bruin. It seems inconceivable he would ever wear another jersey. But even he has, at times in his career, looked over his shoulder at the trade deadline.
“Wayne Gretzky was traded,” he said. “Anyone can be moved. I never felt that was off the table. Even when I had a no-move [2017-22], if they had come to me and said they wanted to move me, you don’t want to play for a team that doesn’t want you.”
Marchand has provided some of the best value of any deal in the league. He has made $6.125 million per season since 2017-18, on a deal that ends in 2025. In the six seasons Marchand has made that kind of coin, the only winger with more points than him (474 entering the weekend) is Artemi Panarin (487). The only winger with a better points-per-game average than Marchand (1.21) is Nikita Kucherov (1.39).
When his deal began, Marchand was the 18th highest-paid winger in the game. He now ranks 37th. His value is a significant reason the Bruins have been able to build such a strong team.
The Bruins didn’t always love how Marchand fit in their scheme. In the summer of 2014, Marchand was said to be on the move. He was starting a four-year, $18 million deal ($4.5 million a year) and was coming off a postseason (0-5–5) when he was hardly the playoff performer he had been in 2011 and 2013.
When he started the season in a funk, the rumors — swiftly shot down by then-general manager Peter Chiarelli, of course — had Marchand heading to San Jose for a 34-year-old Patrick Marleau. How close it was to happening, Marchand still does not know. But it weighed on him.
“I didn’t have a good start,” he recalled. “That was nerve-racking. I think that was maybe a lack of concentration, at one point, with what I felt I had to do coming into the season. That’s the last time I ever let that potentially affect where I’d be playing. I made sure every summer I came in and did what I had to do to be part of this group.”
Assessing deadline deals
Quick takes on the trade deadline, in which most of the action happened in the five weeks prior: Right now is the right time for the Oilers, who should love having Mattias Ekholm’s two-way game in the lineup. The path to the Stanley Cup Final: 1. avoid Colorado, and 2. lean on two of the five best players in the world, including No. 1 with a bullet, who can change a series. The East might beat itself up for four rounds, and Connor McDavid and Co. could be left standing . . . Liked Carolina’s move for Jesse Puljujarvi. Not much offense from the big Finn, but he could be their version of Valeri Nichushkin, a snake-bitten forechecking demon who started producing once shipped from Dallas to Colorado . . . Nashville has long needed a reset. With Ekholm, Tanner Jeannot (Tampa Bay), and Nino Niederreiter (Winnipeg) off the books, it’s here. David Poile, the only GM the Predators have had, will step down after this season. Barry Trotz, the first coach Poile hired there (1998-2014), will replace him . . . Expect a nice tribute to Poile, 73, at the draft, which is being held June 28-29 in Nashville (the awards show also is in town, two days earlier) . . . Lightning GM Julien BriseBois, who shipped five picks and a prospect (Cal Foote) to the Predators for Jeannot, knows draft capital won’t help his current crop of potential Hall of Famers win another Cup. Under BriseBois and predecessor Steve Yzerman, the Lightning have traded eight of the 10 first-round picks they’ve used, dating to 2010. Only Andrei Vasilevskiy — 19th overall in 2012 — and last year’s 31st overall pick, Isaac Howard, remain in the system . . . The 2010s were forever ago. Like the Capitals and Blues, the Kings have started dealing pieces (Jonathan Quick) of their Stanley Cup core. The Penguins are hanging on. The Blackhawks are well into their rebuild. The Bruins, well, they’re doing fine . . . Los Angeles has the pieces to make a run in the West. The goaltending tandem of Joonas Korpisalo (ex-Columbus) and Pheonix Copley should deliver results. Ex-Blue Jacket Vladislav Gavrikov, once a Bruins target, makes the Kings stiffer on the back end . . . Dylan Larkin’s eight-year extension in Detroit worth $8.7 million annually came in slightly ahead of Bo Horvat ($8.5 million). Larkin may have been of interest to the Bruins — who need big-time centers for the future — but not in recent weeks. They were more concerned about putting David Pastrnak’s name on a deal.
Lopusanova, 15, ahead of her time
Happy birthday to Nela Lopusanova, one of the best prospects in the world of any gender.
On Feb. 26, her 15th birthday, the Slovakian junior put up 10 goals and nine assists for Zilina in their 24-1 win over Kosice. She had 19 shots on goal and was a plus-17, all records in the Women’s Extraliga.
In that league, she was up to 28-21–49 in eight games (yes, eight). With the Slovakian boys’ under-16 league, she had 18-25–43 in her first 13 games.
Her road is likely to include time in the Slovakian men’s league, if not a higher level of European competition, before jumping to the NCAA. She’s in ninth grade now, listed at 5 feet 7 inches and 146 pounds. What will her options be when she’s ready to turn pro? Based on what she’s shown, consider it a non-zero possibility she could wind up in a North American men’s pro league.
To date, the only female skater known to have done so is Hockey Hall of Famer Angela Ruggiero, the Harvard product who played a game with the CHL’s Tulsa Oilers in 2005. Canadian Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser played for a third-division men’s team in Finland. A handful of goalies, Manon Rheaume famously first among them, have stopped pucks in men’s games.
Nela Lopusanova picks up her own rebound OUT OF THE AIR to get @HockeySlovakia on the board! U18WomensWorlds pic.twitter.com/8sY3W8W5Ks— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 14, 2023
Lopusanova is roasting every netminder she sees. At the Under-18 World Junior Championship last month in Sweden, she scored a lacrosse-style goal without hesitation, tying a game with the host nation. She was an easy choice for tournament MVP.
“Not that it was the least impressive, but it wasn’t the most impressive goal that she scored in that tournament,” Canadian Olympian Sarah Nurse said of the lacrosse goal, which she called “the smoothest ‘Michigan’ I think I’ve ever seen.
“I think it’s pretty incredible to see the skill she has and that she was confident to display it at 14 years old.”
Boston University product Shane Bowers, acquired by the Bruins from the Avalanche in exchange for third-string netminder Keith Kinkaid, is an interesting prospect for AHL Providence. The 23-year-old forward, a 2017 first-rounder (28th overall by Ottawa), has size (6-2, 195) and likes to shoot from the left circle on the power play. As a developmental talent, he’s a decent bet. Kinkaid, 33, was sparkling in his only game for Boston: 30 saves on 31 shots in a Nov. 12 win against the Sabres . . . Joe Thornton hasn’t played a game since last May 23, but until he officially files his papers, he remains the last active NHLer born in the ‘70s. Dwayne Roloson (retired 2012) was the last of the ‘60s, Kjell Samuelsson (retired 1999) the last of the ‘50s, and Chico Resch (retired 1987) the last of the ‘40s. Two players born in the ‘30s (Carl Brewer and Bobby Hull) hung ‘em up in 1980, as did one from the ‘20s (Gordie Howe) . . . The oldest current NHLer without a Stanley Cup title: Toronto’s Mark Giordano (39), with Dallas’s Joe Pavelski and Ryan Suter (both 38) right behind. Carolina’s Brent Burns (turns 38 Thursday) is in that mix . . . Patrice Bergeron (37) and David Krejci (36) are the 10th- and 15th-oldest players in the league . . . Harvard captain Henry Thrun, having a strong season with the Crimson (5-21–26 in 28 games), declared he would not sign with Anaheim when he eventually turns pro. Thrun must have taken the same course as Jimmy Vesey and Adam Fox, both of whom refused to sign with the teams that drafted them. The Ducks traded Thrun, of Southborough, to the Sharks (who have a thinner prospect pool) for a third-round pick. He can still become a free agent on Aug. 15. Don’t expect the Bruins to get in the mix. Thrun wants to be part of a rebuild.
Matt Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.