Growing up in Ottawa in the ’70s, young Bruce Cassidy followed the Black and Gold. His mother, Louise, hailed from Montreal, which made her a Canadiens fan.
“And I did hold it against her,” Cassidy joked.
She was not fervent about the Habs when she sat with the boys on the family couch for Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays. Her real rooting interests: her sons, Steve and Bruce.
The latter, a year and a half younger than his brother, grew emotional when he recalled their late mom before Saturday’s game. Mother’s Day is always a time for the Bruins coach to salute Louise Cassidy, who died in 2011 when he was a Providence assistant.
“Can’t say enough about both my parents,” said Cassidy, who was a 20-year-old Chicago prospect when his father, Leonard, died of a brain aneurysm at 52. “My mother was very influential. I know with me, she was the strict parent. There were a lot of times as you get to that teenage years, get into high school, there’s stuff going on, on weekends when you have early-morning games. She was always in my ear about what’s more important.”
Cassidy, the 18th overall pick in the 1983 draft, still remembers how her guidance kept him on a path to the pros.
“‘You know how much you love the game, you’re out there every day on the street working on your shot, you’re on the outdoor rink when you were younger,’” he recalled his mother telling him. “‘Those parties and whatnot, those social gatherings will still be there. You want to be well-rested for your games.’”
Though a knee injury limited Cassidy’s playing career to 36 NHL games, he rose through the minors as a coach, reached the NHL in the short stint with the Capitals, and rose again. She never saw him coach the Bruins, but he has leaned on her memory throughout.
“She reasoned with me as well as told me, so to speak,” Cassidy said. “I always appreciated that more when I was a young adult turning pro. Now you’re playing and realize she was right. When you’re at that age, you tend to know a lot more than you really do, right? Every parent goes through it. I was very appreciative of my mother.”
Cassidy’s parents, who rented their home, owned one car and had two boys traveling for hockey. They did everything they could in what Cassidy called “humble surroundings.”
“They were always eager to make sure we had the proper equipment to play before they worried about themselves,” he said, welling up.
Today, Cassidy and wife Julie enjoy the comforts of NHL life. They convey similar messages to daughter Shannon, 12, and son Cole, 10.
“I was out with Cole this morning at batting practice,” Cassidy said. “Last night we went through it. I said, ‘Do you want to be sharp for your batting lesson, or do you want to stay on your iPad all night?’ It’s come full circle.
“As for Julie, she’s terrific. We’ll celebrate her day tomorrow. Kids are very fortunate to have her.”
Cassidy weighing backup options
A major decision for the Bruins to make next week: Jaroslav Halak vs. Jeremy Swayman for the backup job.
Cassidy will have to weigh playoff experience against the hot hand. Halak has 39 career playoff games. Swayman has shutouts in two of his nine career starts.
“At the end of the day, it’s Tuukka [Rask] first,” Cassidy said before puck drop. “We know that. We’ll deal with whatever the fallout is, if he’s not able to get it done or the schedule forces us to play two guys.
“Right now, Swayman’s done everything we’ve asked.”
This likely isn’t an easy time for Halak, 36. His contract ends after this year. The team has yet to decide how it will use him, if at all.
“We’ve talked to him a little bit about how the starts will go down the stretch here, and even that was a little undetermined,” Cassidy said, noting that Halak, who lost his spot to Swayman after a bout with COVID-19, has been a “terrific pro” while seeing just 80 minutes of action in the last month.
“I’m sure he’s disappointed he hasn’t gotten in the net more,” Cassidy said. “That would be the obvious. Where it goes from there, I don’t know. If he’s frustrated or feels that he has been overlooked or a better option, only he can answer that. I have to make the decision on what’s best for the team. Obviously Tuukka’s played well. He’s our guy going forward. And we know Swayman has come in and done a great job. He may have won the backup job. But those are decisions we’ll make next.”
Pastrnak hits scoring milestone
David Pastrnak became the Bruins’ third 20-goal scorer this year (in the team’s 54th game) and registered his 200th career goal in his 437th game (200-226—426). Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are the others … Marchand moved into third place in scoring (28-39—67), or No. 1 outside of Edmonton … Nick Ritchie won the Seventh Player Award, a fan vote for the player who most exceeds expectations. The burly winger’s second-period goal gave him a career high (15-11—26). He also has a personal-best five power-play goals. “Marchy, Cam Neely, there are so many great players,” Ritchie said. “It’s an honor that the fans chose me.” Postgame, he credited his success to “explosive skating” sessions in the offseason … After practicing with his teammates Friday for the first time since a Jan. 16 concussion, Ondrej Kase felt well enough Saturday morning to skate again. “Bodes well for next week,” Cassidy said. “Good progress.” It remains unclear if Kase can help the Bruins in the postseason … A major relief for cooped-up players, coaches and staff: the league announced it will relax the restrictions for teams that are at least 85 percent vaccinated.