Tuukka Rask is one of the most important players to ever be a member of the Boston Bruins organization. Whether you love him or hate him, this is an undeniable truth that cannot be refuted and will stand the test of time given his contributions to the team. This is why the Bruins decided to honor Rask prior to their game against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday; a game that saw the Bruins win 8-1 in one of their most dominant performances of the season.
Though Rask definitely went through his fair share of criticism during his time in Boston, the fans at TD Garden on Thursday did their part in making him feel loved and appreciated in what proved to be a very nice and well-deserved ceremony.
Despite a lot of the backlash that the veteran netminder received throughout his playing career, his opinion of the city of Boston and the fans of the Bruins hasn’t dwindled and Thursday’s ovation definitely helped prove that the vocal minority does not speak for the entire city.
“I feel like I have a great relationship with them,” Rask said of Bruins fans. “I’m looking forward to celebrating with a bunch of them in the stands tonight and a bunch of people that are watching at home and joining them on that side now. We can cheer together and chirp together.”
This will be a lot easier for Rask as well in his retirement from NHL action as he now looks to settle into his new role with the Bruins as a brand ambassador.
“Whatever you want to call me, I’ll be hanging out with sponsors, golfing, shaking hands in suites and whatnot,” Rask said. “I’ve always been intrigued by the business side of things anyways. I don’t know what the future holds, maybe I’ll get into coaching, maybe not. For now, I’ll be hanging out with sponsors.”
The future is bright for Rask who is still only 35 years old. Whatever he decides to do, he’ll have the opportunity to explore given how successful he was during his playing career. Getting to stay close to the Bruins organization while transitioning into the next phase of his life just makes sense for all parties involved.
Rask’s Decision To Retire Worked for All Parties Involved
For some, accepting retirement may not have been an easy pill to swallow. This is especially true when an injury is what caused the derailment of what was otherwise an excellent stretch of play.
For Rask, though, the decision to retire wasn’t a very difficult one to reach. Using logic to figure out what was best for everyone involved, Rask knew that his injury and the recovery that came with it simply proved too much to handle in his quest to return to form as the Bruins’ franchise goaltender.
“I’ve always been pretty honest with myself. I didn’t want to go out there and play 60 percent and just half-ass it, so to say. At the end of the day, it was pretty easy. Obviously, it’s never easy to make tough decisions like that. If you’re honest with yourself, you can’t play at the level your teammates and the crowd expects, then why would you push it?”
Related: Bruins’ Rask Retires From NHL
The important thing for the Bruins in this scenario was that Rask came to the conclusion quickly and both sides were able to finish this chapter of their story together before moving on to Rask’s new chapter with the team.
“I’m a guy who makes pretty quick decisions anyways. So, I wasn’t weighing on that too long…it couldn’t hold the everyday grind, practicing and playing, that’s what I found out pretty quickly,” said Rask, who retired on Feb. 9 after 15 seasons with the Bruins. “I felt really good during the rehab. I was skating, started twice a week, going three times a week, four times a week. It was fine, but I was by myself or with the coach or with one guy shooting.”
The last straw for Rask came during his final game against the Anaheim Ducks – a game that saw him allow five goals on 27 shots in a losing effort.
“It’s a little different from live-action in a game or practice. Playing that Anaheim game, I kind of stretched and tweaked my groin and hip a little bit and then it just kept aggravating even more and then it was just kind of time to be honest with yourself. “I figured that I could’ve kept pushing but what’s the benefit of me playing at 60 percent and taking time off, taking a week off here, taking two weeks off, and taking a spot away from [Jeremy Swayman]? I figured it’s more beneficial for everybody to call it. I had a great career. I have no regrets.”
This is also a testament to Rask’s willingness to help the team and the players around him. Rask signed on an incredibly team-friendly contract to potentially help the team this season, but also made it clear that he was at the point in his career where he was looking to help however he could.
Taking a spot from Swayman may not have been optimal, but it was the way things were drawn up, unfortunately. In the end, it worked out for Swayman, but it still wasn’t ideal to have such a talented young goaltender playing in Providence rather than Boston.
Rask Remains a Mentor for Swayman
Rask has spoken about how talented Swayman is and how excited he was to mentor him on the ice. Things didn’t work out because of the retirement, but that hasn’t stopped Rask from being in Swayman’s corner whenever the 23-year-old needs it.
“I know what it’s like to play here as a young goalie, there’s a lot of pressure on you. I told him right after I retired, call me if you need anything, make sure you don’t get too high or too low because it’s easy to kind of snowball from that either way. That’s where I’m looking forward to helping him out.”
If anyone knows a thing or two about that, it would certainly be No. 40.
“First and foremost, Tuukka’s been a great mentor to me. He had an incredible career so I give tons of kudos to him,” Swayman told reporters in February following Rask’s retirement. “It was incredible to be (in a tandem) with him and obviously all the accolades he’s compiled over the years is pretty incredible. Hall of Fame-bound, for sure. And what an incredible mentor. I can’t have enough good things to say about him. That’s all I’m focused on, giving him the kudos. He wants what’s best for the team, so do I and so does everyone in that locker room. Whatever I can do to perform at my best and give the team the best chance to win is what I’m going to do.”
Swayman looks like the real deal through his first 42 games of NHL action. Having arguably the best goalie in the history of the Bruins’ franchise in Rask as a mentor and a confidant should only serve to help him continue on this path. For the Bruins and for Swayman, this is as good a situation as it gets.
Rask will forever be a Bruins legend and his new role with the team should help him endear himself more to those around him better than he could while staying hyper-focused on winning during his playing career.