“And that’s pretty much what it’s all about – to have fun and teach the kids how to play hockey.” That was the sentiment from David Pastrnak and everyone else involved in this year’s Boston Bruins Global trip. The Bruins organization has been partnered with O.R.G Packaging since 2015 with the goal of growing hockey globally by bringing on and off-ice clinics to China for youth hockey players and strengthening the connection between the Bruins, China, and the Chinese communities in New England. July 23 to August 3 marked the second official visit to China by the Bruins, as goalie Tuukka Rask, defenseman Torey Krug, forward David Pastrnak, and Bruins alum Hal Gill split their ten-day trip between Beijing and Shanghai.
The trip consisted of on and off-ice clinic training for over 200 young Chinese hockey players including video breakdown of technique by Rask, and agility exercises with Pastrnak and Krug. The on-ice clinics, while not featuring the same ability level of North American youth hockey players, was still a success according to Gill: “The older kids are really skilled, the younger kids are getting there and it’s pretty impressive, a lot of the footwork that they do, a lot of stuff with coaching and teaching them, they pick up quick. It’s a promising thing over here” and Bruins correspondent Caryn Switaj, who joined them on the trip, said the kids “listen and learn quickly.” But, the hockey clinics and partnership doesn’t end in China.
During the past two seasons, the Bruins have hosted Chinese youth hockey players for clinics, to see Bruins’ home games, and explore the city of Boston. Events like O.R.G. Packaging Night at TD Garden in early 2016 involved hosting about 30 Chinese youth from the Beijing Hockey Association before a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs where a variety of fan favorite activities were done including Three Minutes of Fame, a youth hockey scrimmage done between periods. Later, in July 2016, the Bruins headed to China with forwards Matt Beleskey and Pastrnak where over 200 children attended the clinics. Keeping the back and forth visits going, in February 2017, TD Garden hosted Chinese Cultural Night with a new group of Chinese players which included the ever-exciting ceremonial puck drop with O.R.G. Packaging Chairman Zhou Yunjie.
By the conclusion of this summer’s trip, over 450 Chinese youth hockey players will have participated in the various clinics held by the team which, according to Rask, is exactly what everyone involved wanted: “We’re just trying to do our part in kinda growing the game here.” While the game is significantly growing in Beijing ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Shanghai is a bit of a different story.
Shanghai is south of Beijing and features a warm climate, so hockey isn’t as popular as in Beijing. In Shanghai, the Bruins ran clinics out of a brand new, state-of-the-art hockey rink built by O.R.G. Packaging with 100 kids participating in the clinics. The clinic was off to a good and humorous start for the Bruins with very few people knowing who they were, despite being hockey stars, “There was a couple guys last week who knew who we were and there’s one in this group who knew who we were but that’s a start” Rask said with a laugh in a recap of day one in Shanghai.
While Gill, Pastrnak, and Krug were teaching the kids scoring and skating techniques typical of non-goalies, Rask was focusing on the area that needed the most improvement with the net minders: power skating. “I think that’s probably something, that all goalies should learn… that’s something that teaches you balance, and learning how to be on your skates, learning edges. They can definitely stand there, but when you need to start moving, it’s going to be different, so that’s something I’ve tried to teach them a little bit, too, how to move and stop.” While sometimes it’s hard because they’re only with the kids for training once a year, Rask is confident the kids can commit the drills and techniques to memory, “It’s baby steps, and that’s what we’re here to do. It’s good to see that the interest is there.”
Well, the interest is there on both ends of the spectrum because, just like the Chinese youth visits to Boston involve exploring and experiencing Boston culture, the trip to China involves a lot of sightseeing, some highlights being the Great Wall, the Summer Palace in Beijing, and rickshaw rides through the city. It’s fair to say Shanghai drivers would probably make it in Boston based on Torey Krug’s observation that the drivers are “pretty reckless out there… A lot of people, a lot of cars, they just didn’t worry about it.”
A unique sight for Rask was the lights in Shanghai that are on from seven to eleven o’clock every night and light up the city like Times Square: “It’s great. I’d definitely tell people to visit this place.” Not only do the lights resemble Times Square, but the city, home to 24 million people resembles New York with skyscrapers and busy streets full of shopping which Rask called “huge” and “amazing.”
One other sentiment that pretty much sums up the entire experience and trip for the Chinese youth players and the Bruins organization was put beautifully by Rask: “Hockey is hockey no matter where it is played. The players had a great time on and off the ice.” Skills, skating, and technique are obviously amazing, but the most important part of hockey is loving what you do and the Bruins are spreading that love for the sport globally.