B’s spread hol­i­day cheer

Give back with shop­ping spree

Boston Herald - - SPORTS - BY MARISA INGEMI

SAU­GUS — The Bru­ins’ younger play­ers can be a pos­i­tive on the ice, with their skill and speed. But off the ice, it’s their ex­per­tise on the lat­est toys that was the most use­ful yesterday.

A ma­jor­ity of the team was on hand to shop for toys that will be de­liv­ered to hospi­tals around Bos­ton and given to more than 600 chil­dren who would other­wise 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. The younger guys 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,” Matt Grzel­cyk said. “It’s more im­por­tant to think of those things in­stead of get­ting ex­actly what it says.”

Grzel­cyk was new to the NHL when the Bru­ins con­ducted their an­nual shop­ping spree 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,” Grzel­cyk said. “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 kids 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,” Donato said. “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,” Grzel­cyk said. “Also went with Lego, 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 the night be­fore — their third straight de­feat — and yesterday was their lone off day in a threein-four stretch of games. They play at home against Toronto tonight be­fore head­ing to Ot­tawa for a game to­mor­row.

Even af­ter ar­riv­ing back from Florida in the early hours of the morn­ing, though, many Bru­ins 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 gift­giv­ing depart­ment.

“It’s nice to give back and gives you a lit­tle bit of a good feel­ing around the hol­i­days,” Grzel­cyk said. “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 Christ­mas­time.”

PHO­TOS BY JOHN HAPPEL / BOS­TON HER­ALD

SANTA’S HELPERS: David Pas­tr­nak signs a jersey yesterday dur­ing the Bru­ins’ an­nual hol­i­day toy shop­ping event at Wal­mart in Sau­gus. At right, Ryan Donato re­views his shop­ping list.

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