GRAFTON, Mass. - Millbury Street Elementary School sixth-grader Maddie Rice strapped on a set of goalie pads Wednesday and headed for the net. She was about to play hockey with the Boston Bruins.
There was no ice, no screaming fans and, technically, no actual Bruins players. But Rice and other sixth-graders received advice on how to play floor hockey from Boston Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesider, youth hockey director Mike Dargen and equipment manager Matt Falconer during a session of the Boston Bruins I.C.E. School.
I.C.E., in this case, stands for "I Can Excel," a program the hockey team runs throughout the school year to educate its young fans about the importance of staying in shape.
"Coaching kids and coaching players, you still start with the basics," Whitesider said. "You talk with them about their lifestyle, nutrition, conditioning. You can't just expect to go out and perform. It takes a lot of groundwork."
The Grafton students enthusiastically took part in the floor hockey game, with Rice's initial hesitation in the net apparently crumbling as Whitesider assured her that her time on the soccer field gave her an advantage, quipping, "It's just like soccer, but with a lot of sticks."
The Bruins donated the nets, sticks and other floor hockey equipment to the school at the end of the lesson.