By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston

MIDDLETON (CBS) – It’s an annual rite of August and a sure sign that at least informal Bruins practices are just around the corner.

Shawn Thornton’s “Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s” teed off again Monday for the third straight year. The playing slots were sold out, the charity auction had members of the “one percent” reaching for their wallets and the clear blue skies were perfect for chasing the little white ball around.

Of course, the only thing different about this year’s tournament was whether it really signaled the approach of another NHL season. Because this year the collective bargaining agreement will expire Sept. 15, and there’s definitely question marks about an on-time beginning to the season.

Thornton, who said he plans to get involved in some of the talks in Toronto later this month, isn’t too worried about a work stoppage at this point and time.

“I put a lot of trust into the committee that was put together,” said Thornton, who said he’s been working out this summer as though he’ll have to be at training camp Sept. 21 in Wilmington. “I have a lot of trust in [NHLPA director] Don Fehr. They know what they’re doing. So I’m hoping we get things sorted out by the date it needs to be sorted out by. But you don’t want to rush into those things. There’s a lot of information that we really have to sort through.”

Bruins forward Daniel Paille, who along with goaltender Tuukka Rask showed up at Ferncroft for moral support and some intra-squad competition with Thornton, is the Bruins’ NHLPA representative. He’s equally unperturbed by any public posturing that’s gone on to lead some of us on the outside to believe we’re in for a long, grueling hockey-less autumn.

“For me, for us as players, I think we have a positive [feeling] on starting the season on time. That’s what we want to do,” Paille said.

“After Sept. 15, we see what happens,” Paille continued when asked how long it would take until he’d grow concerned. “Until then, I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. For us, there’s definitely a line of communication right now, and I think that’s a positive for us to keep that going.”

The CBA negotiation is the mothership of NHL news stories hovering over all 30 franchises and their players. As far as the Bruins’ ship, the only issues are whether the same team that fell in the first round last season will be able to better that production in 2012-13 and whether Rask will be ready to replace Tim Thomas in net full-time. Thornton’s looking forward to the reboot of the “Rask Era.”

“Tuukka’s my boy, so … ” Thornton said. “I’ve talked to [Tuukka], he’s ready to go, he’s excited. He’s been waiting for this opportunity. There’s a lot of trust in him. His numbers sort of speak for themselves, as far as his save percentage and his goals against is always right up there near the top of the league. He was, I guess, fortunate and unfortunate enough to be behind Timmy. I think he’s been quite capable to be a starter probably on a lot of other teams before this. So we’re happy to have him.”

Rask’s attempt to become a full-time No. 1 netminder will be one of the key storylines of training camp. Hopefully there’ll be a venue for Rask’s ascension and other plots to play out. For what it’s worth, if Thornton and Paille aren’t panicking yet, I guess it’s all right for the rest of us to breathe at least a slight sigh until the next batch of ominous news leaks from the CBA talks.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for He and also contributes coverage to and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.


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