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Sports

January 28, 2009

O'Connell a Bruins fan again

BOSTON — Mike O'Connell was standing, inconspicuously, on the right side of the crowded commercial elevator on the ninth floor of TD Banknorth Garden after another Boston Bruins win last night.

Four Bruins executives, including general manager Peter Chiarelli and vice president Cam Neely, just got in before the doors closed.

It was hard to tell if any of the Bruins' brass, beaming after an exciting 3-2 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals, noticed O'Connell, who stood silently.

About 20 minutes earlier, before overtime, O'Connell, who was there as a scout for the Los Angeles Kings — he is listed as the Kings' director of pro development — came clean.

O'Connell admitted he is a Bruins fan. Again.

Time has healed some of the wounds from March 25, 2006, the day then Bruins president Harry Sinden announced the firing of O'Connell, then Boston's general manager.

"Right off the bat, after I was fired, it stung a little bit," said O'Connell. "But I've always been a Bruins fan. I always will."

That's a pretty big statement from the guy universally blamed for a lot of mess that permeated this franchise just a few seasons ago.

O'Connell, who was officially the general manager since 2000, caught the most of the blame after the team returned from the lockout, which culminated with the Joe Thornton trade to the San Jose Sharks (the Bruins got Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart).

Thornton went on to become an even bigger star with the Sharks, winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP his first year there, while only Sturm remains with the Bruins.

"It comes with the territory," said O'Connell.

Unlike the new regime in the Bruins management office, O'Connell is from around here. He grew up in Cohasset and played parts of 13 seasons in the NHL, six (1980-81 to 1985-86) on Causeway Street with the Bruins.

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