The youth of Newtown got to see the softer side of the bruising, hard-hitting members of the Boston Bruins during the National Hockey League team’s visit to Newtown Youth Academy on February 18. The very next day, members of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball family came out for a fun-filled clinic at NYA. United Way served as the liaison between the Bruins and Huskies and community for these events.
Several current members of the boys from Beantown, including those from the franchise’s 2011 Stanley Cup champion squad, were on hand to sign autographs, pose for photos, and partake in fun-filled floor hockey games. In addition, the NHL’s coveted championship trophy, the Stanley Cup, was in the building to shine in its glory, finding itself flanked by fans for photo after photo.
Bruins officials had reached out to Newtown High School’s hockey team when they heard about the team’s fundraising efforts in the aftermath of 12/14. The Bruins donated an autographed jersey, which was auctioned off, and Newtown Coach Paul Esposito helped make bringing the team in for the floor hockey games and autographs. “Being a diehard Bruins fan this was a no-brainer for me,” Esposito said. “They really reached out to help us out here. It was nice to see all the guys come down.”
Members of Esposito’s team were on hand to organize and run floor hockey games for young boys and girls. They joined Bruins stars Chris Bourque, Tyler Seguin, Andrew Ferrence, Dougie Hamilton, Adam McQuaid, Rich Peverley, and Daniel Paille. Bruins Coach Claude Julien, and former players who are still in the organization, Bob Sweeney and Tim Songin, were also on hand. Esposito dug out Newtown High’s old jerseys and gave them to the Bruins representatives, and even managed to match up some of the players with uniforms with the same numbers they wear on the ice.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together again after what happened. It’s really nice to have the Bruins come out and support the community,” Newtown hockey player Brian Gregory said.
“Just watching the expressions of the kids, you know it’s working, you know they enjoy it,” added Cody Foss, special events coordinator for NYA said of the Bruins’ visit serving as yet another fun-filled event put on by the youth academy for its residents.
“It was an exciting, well-prepared event that was just a really good time for everybody — even though I’m a New York Rangers fan,” Rich DeBlasi, who attended the Bruins event with his wife Deborah and their son Nicholas, said with a laugh.
Nicholas “didn’t want to leave,” despite getting bumped with a stick during the floor hockey scrimmage, his mom noted. “His first hockey injury,” she said light-heartedly. “He was able to shake it off.”
Former UConn players Maya Moore, Rebecca Lobo, and Maria Conlon were worked with Jeremy O’Connell, coach of the Newtown high girls’ squad, and his players, to runs various fun-filled drills for children from town.
Lobo cheered on up-and-coming basketball enthusiasts as they took shots. She even picked up the youngest attendees to get them up to the height of the rim for some easy shots.
“This is definitely cool to see all of these little kids come out and play basketball, especially with Maya Moore,” said NHS player Sarah Lynch.”