This story originally appeared in Sunday Hockey Notes. Read the rest here.
Ex-Bruin Bob Sweeney, the face of the Bruins Foundation for going on 20 years, will take an apt bow in the spotlight Wednesday night as a “Tradition” inductee during the Sports Museum’s annual gala at the Garden.
Sweeney, who will be 60 in January, was less than a year removed from Boston College (Class of 1986) when he made his debut in Black and Gold. The guy next to him on the bench that night was Ray Bourque, the same guy who’ll introduce him at The Tradition.
“I’ll never forget, Ray turned to me and said, ‘Relax, and just play your game,’ " Sweeney recalled recently. “He said, ‘You’re here, you belong here.’ To hear that from him meant a lot.”
Raised in nearby Boxborough and a standout at Acton-Boxborough High, Sweeney was the Bruins’ sixth-round draft pick in 1982, just weeks before he began his freshman season for Len Ceglarski’s Eagles. Now 41-plus years later, more than 25 of those spent with the Bruins as a player or ambassador with the foundation, he’s proven Bourque right — he belongs.
No Boston-area kid has made such a lasting impact on the franchise, most notably his work helping the foundation to shape and expand its many charitable efforts and build the franchise’s good-will image
“Those early days,” reminisced Sweeney, the foundation’s president, “pretty much our one and only event was the Wives’ Carnival, you know, back to the old days of ripping paper tickets for the 50/50 (in-game raffle), averaging maybe $3,000 a game to now nearly $40,000 a game. A big difference.”
Bruins president Cam Neely began his charitable foundation prior to ending his playing career. Bourque now oversees the charitable foundation in his family name, which recently held its big fundraising “Captain’s Ball” to help fund ALS research in Pete Frates’s memory. The Bruins Foundation is a big slice of charitable pie.
“I love what I do now,” said Sweeney, originally hired by Charlie Jacobs in 2001 to help expand the club’s youth hockey involvement. “It’s hard to believe the number of years that have gone by, but it’s nice still to be part of the Bruins and be able to make a difference in organizations or in someone’s life. Knowing that you’re doing something good is very rewarding.”
For tickets to The Tradition, visit sportsmuseum.org
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.