Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien is giving his players the green light to mix business with pleasure in Belfast.
That doesn’t mean an open license to indulge in the black stuff and painting the town red won’t be on the agenda either.
What Julien wants is for his players savour their trip to Northern Ireland and see more than just their hotel and the Odyssey Arena — where they will face a Belfast Giants select team tomorrow night, before heading to Prague to start their regular season next weekend.
“What you’ve got to keep in mind is that we’re here, number one, for business,” said Julien.
“Those four points in Prague are going to be very precious for us. They mean a lot to us, those regular season games so it’s important to get off to a good start.
“At the same time you’ve also got to make sure you enjoy the opportunity that we have to come to Belfast and then Prague.
“A lot of guys haven’t done that before and you’ve got to make sure it’s a good experience for them. It’s not all business, it’s about being able to separate them when they’ve got to be separated.
“If I get a good effort on the ice and full concentration and guys come in and play hard there is no reason why they can’t go out and explore a little bit and enjoy the scenery because where we are is beautiful, we noticed that on the way in and we want to make sure that the guys get the most out of this trip.”
Bruins defenceman Shawn Thornton isn’t a man who usually hogs the limelight in Boston, but he is all of a sudden their most high profile player, given that his mother Christine was born in Belfast — and she will be at Saturday night’s game.
A delayed flight meant that the arrivals of mother and son on separate planes didn’t happen within a few minutes of each other — as had been the plan — but that won’t dampen the excitement of being in Northern Ireland.
“I think there is no doubt that Shawn was the happiest guy in the locker room when he heard we were coming here. This is going to be his claim to fame,” said Julien.
“It’s his mother’s home town and I could see the excitement on his face over the last few days before we got here.
“I told him that he’d enjoy watching the game from the stands and watched the smile disappear from his face for a few seconds before he realised I was joking around.”