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Bruins, fans excited about season

Alexis Crews, 8, of Austin, Minn. struggles to get through all the layers of equipment as she gets to dress in hockey gear during the Austin Bruins Kick Off Bash Saturday September 22, 2012 at the Austin Area Y in Austin, Minn. Helping out are Bruins goaltenders Nick Lehr from Roseville, Minn. and Jason Pawloski from Omaha, Nebraska.

The Austin Bruins home opener is coming up, and to celebrate the team held a kick-off bash Saturday morning at the Austin YMCA, speaking to young fans about the upcoming season, the game and life choices.

"The whole Bruins team talking about healthy habits, bullying and hockey 101," Bruins account executive Stephanie Bowe said of the event's focus.

The team, with mascot Bruiser, came in to its signature music and applause of attendees at the free event on the tennis courts. For many fans, it was an introduction to a largely new roster of Bruins, which not only boasts players from Minnesota, but Sweden, Maryland and California, as well.

"They're still learning to go on their own," said Bruins head coach Chris Tok, drawing parallels between the young players and the kids at the event. "It starts at a young age. There’s lots of choices out there that you can make that are good for you and lots of choices you can make that are bad for you."

Tok touched on getting fruit in a Happy Meal instead of fries and going outside to play instead of sitting in front of video games. Exercising the mind also came up, as Tok encouraged young fans to read every day and talk to their teachers if they wanted Bruins players to come read in the classroom, one way the team gives back to a supportive community.


"They definitely supported it," Tok said of attendees' enthusiasm for the hockey franchise. "You can tell by our jerseys with the name of Austin we want them to have ownership of it. We want them to be proud of them (the players), and it starts by getting them out in the community."

To keep giving back to the community, the Bruins have added anti-bullying to their Healthy Habits program, a partnership with McDonald’s and two medical doctors.

"Bullying’s not good for anybody," Tok said. Even at their age, Bruins players get talked to about hazing, he said.

The Healthy Habits program consists of a punch card that, when 10 punches are reached for healthful choices, can be turned in for a student ticket to a Bruins home game, a Happy Meal and a tooth brush.

After meeting the team and the coach’s talk, fans got the chance to get pointers from players at skills stations for slap shot, shooting and puck handling. There was also an obstacle course on the running track, a chance to tour the team bus and autographs.

"Never played hockey," said 10-year-old Carter King. "I’m going to try them all (stations.)"

King, a fifth-grader at Pacelli, has gone to several games, and his brother once rode in the Zamboni for his birthday. Even though he’s never played hockey, King is one of the many Austinites won over by the Bruins.

 "They’re fun to watch," King said.

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