Bruins’ Shopping Spree Spreads Holiday Cheer
By Marisa Ingemi
SAUGUS -- The Bruins’ younger players can be a positive on the ice, with their skill and speed. Off the ice, it’s their expertise on the latest toys that was the most useful on Friday.
The Bruins’ annual shopping spree was in Saugus this year, where the majority of the team was on hand to shop for toys that will be delivered to hospitals around Boston and given as gifts to more than 600 children who were otherwise going to be without.
Some of the veteran players -- like David Backes and Tuukka Rask -- have kids of their own to give advice on the season’s latest and most trendy items. For the younger guys, they had strategies of their own.
“Try not to be too specific, just go back to when we were kids, what would excite you as a gift,” said Matt Grzelcyk. “It’s more important to think of those things instead of getting exactly what it says.”
Grzelcyk was new to the NHL when the team took part in this event last season, but this time around he had a little more veteran-savvy of what to look for.
“Last year was a little scrambled around, trying to get exactly what was listed,” said Grzelcyk. “It’s going better this year for sure. I kind of know what kids would want.”
Ryan Donato was one of several young Bruins to partake for the first time, and while he heeded advice from the players with children or who had been there last year, he had his own ideas, as well.
“The PlayStation is one of those things when I was a kid, all the outside toys like baseball, footballs, basketballs,” said Donato. “Those type of things were really cool.”
Before hitting that section of the store, the Harvard alum picked through toddler toys, where he admitted he needed a little more help.
“I’ve got some teething, some light-up toys, just basics, things that play music like instruments,” he said. “Just the basic little kid toys. I’m pretty uneducated with the baby toys, but as we get to young adults I can help a little more.”
He and Grzelcyk are two of the Bruins who grew up locally and have some perspective of what their community efforts bring to the team. Donato in particular knew plenty about the surrounding area.
“We’re doing this across the street from the old Hockeytown, something I’m pretty familiar with being around this area,” he said. “It just goes to show how tight the hockey community is to affect people that need it, it’s pretty cool.”
Grzelcyk, who grew up in Charlestown and attended Boston University, also recognized the opportunity to help the surrounding community.
Like Donato, he’s young enough to remember some of what he would be seeking out in the holiday season, and focused on those kind of gifts.
“We went heavy on the board games, I think that’s something I really liked growing up and still like to play now,” said Grzelcyk. “Also went with the Lego kids, that was a big thing when I was a kid, that was a big hit. Also some Harry Potter stuff, that’s something I can see myself still playing.”
The Bruins were coming off a loss in Tampa Bay the night before -- their third straight defeat -- and Friday was their lone off-day in a three-in-four stretch of games. They play at home against Toronto on Saturday night before heading to Ottawa.
Even after arriving back from Florida in the early hours of the morning, though, many on the team had this day circled on the calendar as a bonding experience, and an opportunity to give back -- and, maybe, get some early ideas in the gift-giving department.
“It’s nice to give back and gives you a little bit of a good feeling around the holidays,” said Grzelcyk. “I have a bunch of nephews and a niece, and they’re really close with me and being here makes me think about them. It also gives me better ideas for them going into Christmas time.”