By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tuukka Rask opted out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday morning. Many in the hockey world were shocked. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was not.
“I don’t think it’s any big surprise to us, to be honest with you,” Sweeney told the media via video conference on Saturday morning. “We are privy to information maybe before the rest of the public is, and this has been a difficult decision for Tuukka.”
Clearly, Rask has been battling with the bubble behind the scenes for some time, and his postgame comments Thursday night thrust those feelings into the spotlight.
The Bruins will not try to embark on a long playoff run without their starting goaltender. Here’s what everyone had to say about Rask’s decision before, during, and after Saturday’s Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
General Manger Don Sweeney (Pregame press conference)
“We understand completely where Tuukka is coming from. And I don’t think it’s any big surprise to us, to be honest with you. We are privy to information maybe before the rest of the public is, and this has been a difficult decision for Tuukka. But the Boston Bruins are in full support of why he made this decision.”
Any indications from Rask before Saturday?
“In Tuukka’s case, he has a newborn at home along with two other young girls, and he just felt that he needed to be home with them at this particular time. You can’t control the timeline of when the playoffs resumed. Give Tuukka a hell of a lot of credit for trying to persevere through this and initiate the process to come up and be with his teammates. Because, first and foremost, that’s what he wants to do. But the priorities are in the right order and this is what he has to do at this time.”
Did you know this was a possibility before heading to Toronto?
“He didn’t really give us an indication that this was absolutely going to happen. … During the course of the time up here, it’s been increasingly, more and more different for Tuukka to mentally stay where he needs to be. And ultimately he made the decision that he had to be in a different place. I think we all understand that this is a trying time for everybody. … The priority for Tuukka at this point in time, rightfully so, has to be his family, and we support that.”
Any sense of this happening during round robin?
“He had been trying to battle through it. Mentally, as we said, this would be a difficult exercise. Again, I don’t think I was entirely caught off guard by the ultimate decision, because we had had conversations leading up to it. Obviously you’re hopeful; you know, you’re a better team when you have your better players. … We’re supporting Tuukka’s decision at this point in time.”
Was there a specific family matter that Tuukka needed to attend to?
“Well fortunately his family is safe and healthy. But with a newborn and two other young girls, it’s been challenging. And for Tuukka, as well. Nothing specific [happened]. We’re fortunate that his family is all healthy and they’re gonna have their dad back to be around on a regular basis. It’s exactly what Tuukka needs to do at this point in time.”
Did you have a conversation with Rask after his postgame comments?
“No. I mean, again, nothing specific to his direct comments. I think you can rightfully infer that Tuukka was having some tough time being away in this environment. Nothing against what the NHL has put together and the intensity of the playoffs. This is playoff hockey. I mean, let’s make no mistake about it. The stakes are high and the players are invested. And Tuukka, in his own right, felt that he needed to be elsewhere rather than being here in this current situation. And he’s the same goaltender that went to the Stanley Cup Finals and a Game 7 last year, and he’ll be the same player when we get up and running again next year. But at this point in time, the two aren’t related.”
Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara (Postgame press conference)
“I think that we found out shortly before the departure of the bus. Obviously our first concern is the health and safety of his family. That’s the most important thing we’re all kind of thinking about, and obviously we support Tuukka’s decision. There is nothing more important than your family. At this point we want to make sure that everybody else respects his privacy. And I think we all just want to wish his family the best, and that’s it.”
Bruins Alternate Captain Patrice Bergeron (Postgame press conference)
“Obviously we’re supporting him. We’re behind him and we understand. Family comes first, we’ve always said that. Obviously we’re a tight group in this locker room. We’ve been together a while, and supporting each other. So obviously we’re thinking about him and we’re supporting that decision.”
On relating to the strain of being away from family in the bubble…
“Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s obviously not easy. Thank God for technology and Facetime and having the support of your teammates. I mean, that goes a long way. I obviously miss them very much and try to reach out every day and catch up with them. But that being said, I’m … with the support of my group, I’m trying to be there for them and they’re there for me. And that’s how I’m trying to look at it. But it’s not easy. I don’t judge anyone that is making that decision.”
Bruins Center Charlie Coyle (Intermission interview on television broadcast, and postgame press conference)
“We respect everyone’s decision. We’re a team. We love each other. We respect each other. It just means someone else has to step up. Or rather that, the whole team has to pull a little more. We respect everyone.”
“We all want Tuuks here, but we want what’s best for his family. And we obviously respect his decision. But yeah, Tuuks is such a huge part of this team. We all know that. He’s been here for such a long time. But we respect it. That’s how it is. That’s what’s done. And from then on, we’ve gotta move forward. We’ve gotta come together, band together, and everyone’s got a little more responsibility on their shoulders. But we’re capable of that. But Tuuks is a hard guy to replace. He’s our goalie. But we have full confidence in Jaro and the other two [goalies] that we have here as well. So we’ve just gotta take more responsibility on each other, but that’s something we can handle for sure.”
Former Bruins Goaltender Tim Thomas (In an interview with The Eagle Tribune’s Bill Burt)
“I support Tuukka’s right to make whatever choice he thinks is best for him and his family. Sometimes other things in life are more important than a game. I understand hard decisions.”
Bruins Goaltender Jaroslav Halak (Postgame press conference)
“Well obviously we are here as one family. There are obviously more important things than hockey in life. So he’s going to be at home. I just support his decision. I wanted right now to step in and help the guys. And I think they’ll do the same for me.”
Could you tell Tuukka had been struggling with this decision, and did that sit in the back of your mind that you might become the starter?
“No, obviously not. We are all in the same situation. Obviously he’s my teammate and a great guy. I just support any decision he makes. Like I mentioned, we are here as one team, one family. We understand what’s going on. But now we’ve gotta focus on hockey. I think today was an example that we just need to get out there and try to win a game. … We still have to win a couple more. It’s going to be hard. … It won’t be easy.”
Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy (Postgame press conference)
“How I found out, I found out this morning through Donny. I think Tuukka went and spoke with Cam [Neely] and Donny about his decision. He relayed that to me. So, we’re not going to change the way we play, but it is a bit of a shocker at first. It’s your starting goaltender. He’s a terrific goaltender. But Jaro, we have faith in.”
On whether he felt like this decision was in the making for some time with Rask …
“I think I have a good relationship with the players. I think we’re a tight-knit group. All the wives and the children. That’s the unfortunate part about one of the unique situations here this year with the playoffs is we’re not all together. And that is one of the — I think — rewards of making the playoffs is you get the families, the kids, the wives, they’re all together and in it together. And there’s good memories from that for everybody.
“But with Tuukka I was aware, I know he had his third daughter this spring and it was on his mind leaving here. And he wanted to get some things settled at home. But after that, it’s his business, and I don’t get into it unless he wants to discuss it with me. I think every player is a little bit different that way. I certainly talked with Tuukka through training camp, et cetera. But he made the decision to come [to Toronto] so I assumed everything was good at home. But you know deep down that there may be a possibility, as Donny said.
“But you can’t dwell on that. We have a team to get ready. I know it sounds cold, but the professional part of it is you’ve gotta get a team to get ready to play for the Stanley Cup, and then still be there for Tuukka for whatever he needs. So that’s what we’re doing. And today we got a win. We need two more to win the series, and that’ll be our focus. And I will certainly find time to reach out to Tuukka at the appropriate time and make sure that he’s doing well and his family’s doing well.”
On the possible positive spin of the Bruins now knowing their goalie is 100 percent invested …
“Yeah I think there’s validity in what you’re saying in that now that the situation has finality in it and that Jaro’s our guy. And again we’ve gotta get a backup ready for Jaro. There’s been a little bit of competition there. But at the end of the day you want to try to trust your player’s professionalism, they’ll be ready to play. And I thought Tuukka practiced hard, played well for us in the first two games against Carolina. That part of it you gotta be a little bit careful as a coach with a veteran guy who’s been in the league, had the run he had last year, Vezina Trophy nominee. He’s a good goaltender, he’ll get stuff squared away and use his time wisely to do that here. But again, family comes first, and that decision was made.
“So, yes, then we move on. I know it sounds cold but on the professional part of it, we have a job to do here. We move on. It’s Jaro in net. And then be there for Tuukka, as I said earlier. So that’s our game plan right now. Happy for Jaro, and I’m sure Tuukka is as well. They have a great relationship, and I’m sure he’s happy for his teammates, Tuukka, that we got the win. So it’s not like there’s an animosity there. He’s just trying to take care of his family, and we’re trying to take care of business here in Toronto.”