On Sunday afternoon, the third stop of the Boston Bruins Fan Fest Tour rolled into the parking lot of Jefford Hall on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington, VT. Bruins fans from across Vermont and New England turned out to show support their favorite team.
“We want all of New England to know they can feel they are a part of the Bruins organization,” said Bruins Content Administrator Eric Russo.
The event started at 11 am, but that did not prevent some fans from arriving early. One Bruins fan, in particular, waited in line since 9:30 am so in he could be first in line to meet his favorite players. One family, who was on vacation in Vermont and from Manchester, NH and thought they had missed their opportunity to see their favorite. As fate would have it, they were driving around and spotted the Bruins trailer and knew they had to stop by.
On hand for the event were Bruins players Zach Senyshyn and Trent Frederic, who were at the first two stops in Portland, ME and Manchester, NH. Just like in the first two stops, NESN TV personalities Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley joined them. The fans were also treated to a surprise as Bruins alum and RDS hockey analyst P.J. Stock was also on hand.
Both players signed autographs, took photos, and even answered fan questions on stage. They were both amazed by the fan turnout and support throughout the first three tour stops.
“It has been awesome. It is crazy, what are we three and a half-four hours away, how many Bruins fans are still out here. It’s pretty cool to see,” Trent Frederic told Boston Hockey Now.
“It has been incredible. It’s one thing to see the fans in Boston. But to come to these neighboring cities has been awesome,” said Zach Senyshyn. “Seeing how passionate and loud they get here(Burlington), Portland, and Manchester has been unbelievable. It has been an honor to be a part of.”
While the autograph lines were long for Frederic and Senyshyn, they were nothing compared to the fans waiting for Jack and Andy. “The lines for Jack and Andy are always long and people just love these guys,” Russo added.
Besides the TV personalities and players, the big mission of the tour was to grow the game of hockey throughout New England. The Bruins teamed up with Pure Hockey to outfit kids with hockey equipment, who signed up for the Bruins Academy Learn to Play Program. The kids who are a part of the program get the right equipment at a reasonable cost for their parents at $140, which normally retails at $500. Not only that but the kids get four weeks of ice programming.
“Approximately 5000 kids have signed up for the program utilizing 85 rinks across New England,” said Mike Dargin, the Director of Youth Hockey and Fan Development
Dargin showed Boston Hockey Now the process of sizing the equipment for each child to play hockey. It all starts with a phone app where the family has to log in. This is where they will enter the size for each piece of equipment needed from shoulder pads all the way through skates. Once the order is played it goes straight to Pure Hockey’s warehouse in Holliston, MA. The kid can expect to receive his box of equipment within two weeks.
As one family put it the Bruins have streamed line this process. Dargin did not disagree by adding, “you got to with so many kids.”
At the end of the whole process, the kid gets to sign a contract to be a part of the Bruins academy. After signing autographs and taking questions from the fans, Stock went over to the Learn to Play tents. There he helped kids sign their official contract to play hockey.
The Bruins Academy Learn to Play program is not just limited to boys hockey, girls can participate too. As a matter of fact, through the program girls under the age of 8 in Massachusetts increased by 7.7 percent to 3,173 players. The Bruins Academy holds another Learn to Play program in the spring just for girls to get introduced to hockey.
All in all, it was a success for the Bruins as the fans are ready for the 2019-20 season to get underway.