Saturday

Don Sweeney

For years Don Sweeney had been overlooked by hockey fans and the hockey media. A master shot blocker, Sweeney preferred it that way. He was an unassuming person who took great pride in his work but no interest in any glory for his efforts.

"It's my character to be quiet and try to be unassuming," said Sweeney, an assistant captain. "I just go about my business."

Sweeney comes from a different hockey background. He is one of the few long term NHLers out of New Brunswick, St. Stephen, NB to be exact. While he grew up in the Canadian hinterlands, he didn't play junior hockey. Instead he played US College hockey. And not just any college either. He attended the very top of all ivy league schools. Don Sweeney is a Harvard man playing the most brutal of games. Very well, I might add.

Despite his Harvard degree in economics, Sweeney has earned a living the old fashioned way, albeit in the glamorous world of pro sports. He, more than any other Bruin especially in the late 1990s, embraced the team's lunch-pail approach to the game. His work ethic and dedication were a true throw back to earlier eras.

"He's a true professional in how he approaches everything: the game, his life and his dedication to whatever he does," says Bruins captain Ray Bourque. "He's a hard-working guy, on and off the ice. He prepares really well and he's a smart kid."

Bourque would know. He played with Sweeney much of Sweeney's career. Sweeney helped make things a lot easier on Bourque, one of the game's all time greats.

Many defensive defensemen rely on strength and size to last in the National Hockey League. Not Sweeney. He is all of 5'10" tall, though is very strong and sturdy. He was a shrub in the forest of NHL defensemen, but as new statistics point out what NHL forwards already know, he was a hard hitting body checker. He added some nice mobility to his repertoire, and possessed great hockey sense. All in all, he was a very clever hockey player, and incredibly underrated.

"I've always felt like I've been up against the wall -- I don't want to say overachieve -- in terms of finding a way to battle despite my size and such," says Sweeney. "I've learned to play within my limitations and to try to be a better player."

His limitations in the defensive zone were few in far between. The offensive zone was a bit of a different story, as Sweeney rarely contributed there. That was not so much because of a lack of offensive skills, but more because of his dedication to defense.

The only thing he was more dedicated to is the organization itself.

"He loves being a Boston Bruin," said former teammate Marty McSorley. "I really get that feeling. He'll do whatever he can to keep playing here and stay a Boston Bruin."

2 comments:

Marco,  3:05 PM  

It's a shame he doesn't get the respect due. He was incredibly consistent in his play, rarely injured, deceptively quick, and a tough SOB. Probably one of the smartest guys to ever play the game.

Thom Mason,  1:03 PM  

A personal favorite of mine while he was with the Bruins. He played the defensive position the way it should be played.He also had an excellent choice of University Degrees to fall on(Economics.) He was underatted for sure.

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