Four months after shutting down the 2019-20 NHL season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Boston Bruins are set to open training camp Monday at Warrior Arena to resume the season. Bruins GM Don Sweeney met with the media on Sunday via ZOOM call to discuss the team’s return to the ice. Sweeney touched on an array of topics from the expanded roster, the new CBA, the league’s plan going forward, and his expectations going forward.
“They (the players) have a final decision to make by Monday at 5:00 o’clock,” said Sweeney when asked if the just released roster was set in stone. There are 33 players on the Bruins training camp roster, they will bring 31 to Toronto for the August 1 start of play. Defenseman Steve Kampfer opted out of playing due to COVID-19 concerns, his wife and child have pre-existing conditions. Sweeney said the team is “in full support of” Kampfer’s decision and at this point in time has yet to hear from any other players.
“We may have one or two players that are still facing international quarantine rules per recommendation of our staff,” said the fifth-year GM when asked if he expects the full contingent to be present tomorrow. “Within a day or so we should be fully up and going.”
Sweeney is confident that his roster will be ready to go. He spoke highly of the team’s “Black Aces”, the back-up players that a team carries in the playoffs in case of injuries. In the Bruins case, it’s players like Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jakub Zboril. All have stepped in for the Bruins at some point this season. “We’re all comfortable that they can contribute at any point in time if they get the opportunity to jump into our line-up,” said Sweeney. “Those players have all been an integral part of what we’ve tried to accomplish throughout this year. They’ve earned the right to be here.”
“We’re comfortable where we’re at,” said Sweeney about a goaltending split between Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. “Performance dictates,” added Sweeney. He also feels the team is in a good position in terms of health, experience, and the Bruins “benefit from a strong leadership group.” Veterans like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci are expected to carry on in a business as usual fashion.
Sweeney addressed Friday’s extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to the 2026 season. The agreement between the NHLPA and NHL Board of Governors was set to expire in 2022. The salary-cap that teams operate under will stay the same for next season. “We have some decisions to make, and we have have to make some hard ones. We’re no different from any other team.”
“We’re all excited about playing hockey again,” said the GM. “Is there apprehension or nervousness? Well we always want the best for the players, the health of the players. Whether or not we stub our toe along the way is to be seen. We’re going to have positive cases throughout phase three, phase four or whatever. We have to avoid that outbreak, which would be hurtful in this situation, but the league has done a really good job of lining things up in the hub cities. Toronto (Eastern Conference) and Edmonton (Western Conference) are well prepared. We’re going to give it our best effort and hopefully we’ll carry it off.”