Claude Julien returned to the bench on Sunday, leading a group of young players to a tight victory. And this was one impressive team, too.
The Boston Bruins coach was the special guest instructor for a youth team that won a charity raffle for his services. He helped direct Winthrop, Mass., to a 3-2 victory over Watertown.
"I had a lot of fun today," the 52-year-old Julien said. "It certainly brought back a lot of memories."
Julien addressed the team made up of 8- and 9-year-olds before and after the game. He also met with the other team and signed autographs for as long as it took for everyone to get items signed.
While everyone enjoyed the experience, Julien is anxious to return to his regular job.
NHL owners have locked out the players for the third time since Commissioner Gary Bettman took office in 1993, including a work stoppage that cancelled the entire 2004-05 season.
"That's something I have no control about," Julien said. "Unfortunately, I'm just a bystander like everybody else, waiting for the signal to go back to work - and that's all I know and that's all I can say.
"Like anybody else, I think the fans want to see hockey back. I'm no different and I think the people that are involved in those negotiations want the same thing as well. That should be underlined."
Julien isn't permitted to talk to his players, but he has heard about some Bruins who got "banged up" playing over in Europe. Goalie Tuukka Rask injured his groin, and Julien was asked about upper body injuries for Rask and Patrice Bergeron.
"That's going to happen," said Julien, who was coaching Montreal when the 2004-05 season was wiped out by the labour dispute. "Our players are banged up all year long. You knock on wood and you hope that nothing serious happens. Being banged up is part of the process. I wouldn't expect them to all come out of there with absolutely nothing because that means they didn't get involved much.
"What they do over there is of their choice. They have to live with the consequences and so do we. At the end of the day you hope that when we start over again everybody's healthy and we're a fresh team."
While he waits, Julien has to stay busy with other things - and Sunday he was the prize in a Bruins Foundation raffle.
"To be honest with you, for me today is a day about being here with the kids and making the most of the situation," he said. "That's what I've tried to do. [I] came in here and enjoyed a real fun hockey game. That's all you can do in these situations, is take advantage of what's given to you and for me it's an opportunity to get involved a little bit with youth hockey and give back."
The Bruins went out of their way to make the experience a memorable one for the youth players, who received Bruins shirts with their names on the back. Team strength and conditioning coach John Whiteside put the players through stretching, and the kids even had to sign a "contract," which entered them into a deal with Bruins president Cam Neely.
"This is awesome," said Steve Indrisano, the actual coach of the team that won its first game of the season Saturday and won again Sunday. "We're giddy. This is great."