By Brian Smith
Beyond his work in the NHL, Boston Bruins Principal Charlie Jacobs is also an accomplished equestrian and show jumper and has served on the United States Equestrian team during international competitions.
That explains why on Thursday, August 19th Jacobs, as well as Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton and goalie Tuukka Rask attended a unique event at the InterContinental Boston to help promote the Putnam Boston Jumper Classic an equestrian competition to be held at the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, Massachusetts on September 10-12.
Thursday's event, as well as the Jumper Classic, will benefit The Fisher House, an important not-for-profit organization that provides Veterans and their families with a "home away from home" while their loved one has a recuperative period at the Veterans Administration Medical Center.
"The Fisher House is a brand new facility in West Roxbury and it almost is a 'Neely House' for veterans that have come home and have had trouble acclimating to life back home," said Jacobs. "These are people who have really given the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their country and it's nice to know that they can come home, so to speak, to the Fisher House and live there for, in some cases, six months or longer if they need be."
Jacobs also spoke of his excitement about the upcoming competition, the first of it's kind to be held in Boston.
"Today is about the Boston Jumper Classic and Putnam Investments," said Jacobs. "They were kind enough to put up a big purse to attract some Olympic-style show jumping here in Boston, which is something we've been missing for a number of years.
"You usually have to travel out of state [to see such a high-quality competition], and it's nice to have something in-state to do that and celebrate [the sport]."
Jacobs, who has been involved in show jumping for over 30 years, was impressed with the level of talent that is going to be on display at the inaugural event.
"A lot of the top end riders in…the world…will follow the larger purses as they move around the country," Jacobs said.
Speaking to the credit of the riders in the competition, Jacobs noted the of the amount of dedication to training both the athletes and the horses must have to achieve such an elite level.
"The horses in particular will need probably 30-45 minutes of heavy work every day in preparation for a class like what we will see here in September," the Boston College alumnus said. "It would take the rider, I would say, an excess of probably 10-15 years of experience before he would try to navigate a large course of jumps [like this one]."
Thornton and Rask, who turned out support the Fisher House, also spoke to the importance of the charity.
"What those men and women sacrifice for our country, you can't really say enough about them," said Thornton. "It's pretty nice that somebody's put something together like that.
"I think it's a great institution, a great cause and I think this little bit, coming out and getting the word out there, is great."
While Thornton is known to do his fair share of fighting on the ice, he reiterated his admiration for soldiers from the United States (and his home country of Canada) who fight for their countries.
"I don't claim to be a military man by any means," said the B's enforcer. "The sacrifices those guys make are above and beyond anything we go through at any point in time."
That said, Thornton appeared to have found something that put fear into the usually unshakable skater.
"I don't know if you saw, but I'm not that comfortable around things that are that much bigger than me -- [and] with four legs," said Thornton, with a laugh. "The first time I saw a horse [close up] was a year ago, in person.
"I'm still getting used to them."
Rask echoed Thornton's feelings about their new four-legged friends.
"I don't know if I am anymore, but I used to when I was a kid," the B's netminder said of his allergies to horses. "I was long gone when [the horse] turned his head and tried to lick me.
"I didn't want to take any chances there."
Rask also took notice of the relationship that was required between the rider and their horse during the jumping display; an impressive athletic feat that involves intricate timing between the pair.
"They have to create some kind of bond between each other," he said. "You really have to be under control of the horse because if he's going you're going too, there's not question about that. It's really fun to see."
Despite their trepidation , the players were glad to be helping out the Fisher House and getting a taste of a new sport, while bonding with Jacobs.
"I've never seen anything like this. It's amazing to see it live and people jumping those," said Rask. "It's a really interesting sport and maybe someday I'll try it."
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski