BRIGHTON, Mass. - The first Bruins practice session in four months lasted for about 45 minutes and left everyone involved feeling pretty hopeful about the future for both the team and the NHL as the league embarks on a return to play plan over the next few months.
It's going to take many things going right for the NHL to pull off the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs amidst a global pandemic. That much is obvious.
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But the Bruins went through a high-paced practice on Monday morning that felt, well, like old times as they ramp up for the next few weeks. Both David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were missing as they finish off the self-quarantine protocol after traveling back to Boston, but, aside from the coaches wearing masks and an empty building aside from a handful of media, things felt almost normal at Warrior Ice Arena in Monday's first Phase 3 training camp practice.
"Really good [to be honest with you]. I thought our guys had excellent pace. The execution was pretty good for a first practice. I know a lot of guys have been working and skating, but as a group with a lot of bodies out there I thought the willingness to work was excellent," said Bruce Cassidy. "The guys were in a good mood. It reminded me a lot of our practices during the year. Guys were working hard and taking care of business, but they are also having fun and chirping each other.
"So it was kind of like where we left off in terms of the mood. I thought the overall rating of it, I really liked it. And the guys in the other sense of it were really happy to be back together. They enjoy each other and obviously were looking forward to getting back to work."
The players also mentioned "normalcy" as a key word once they get on the ice on Monday after spending the last month skating in smaller groups at voluntary practices. Now they are on the clock with their full team and they'll be headed to Toronto in a couple of weeks to begin playing games once again.
Patrice Bergeron had a perma-smile on his face that never went away during a Zoom call with reporters, and the joy was obvious at getting back to what they love to do for even a single day.
"100 percent. It was great to be back out there. Mask, no mask in the locker room, it doesn't matter. It was nice driving to the rink knowing that it's going to be more than 12 guys at the rink and that the whole group is coming," said Bergeron. "We have dates set now so it's a lot easier when you know you're leaving on the 26th.
Normalcy is something we're all seeking through this pandemic and it was hard for everyone. I'm talking about just life in general. It was hard for a lot of people and it affected a lot of people in different ways. It's one step toward a little bit more normalcy, I guess.
It wasn't exactly the same for Bergeron as he skated with normal linemate Brad Marchand and Karson Kuhlman with Pastrnak missing from the proceedings for now.
But let's all hope that normalcy continues as the Bruins keep practicing as they add the rest of their roster players while building toward playing games in just a couple of weeks.
First Bruins practice a step toward 'normalcy' for Patrice Bergeron originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston