Hackett: Bruins are proof dreams can actually come true for hockey-loving kids

Jim Hackett
April 25, 2019 - 9:53 am

Dedicated to David “Doc” O’Connor, Newton North High School Hall of Fame Inductee -2019 for Hockey & Lacrosse. A humble, kind, star youth athlete and great lifelong friend who left us far too soon.

I was very fortunate to attend the Game 7 series-clinching victory for the Bruins at a wild TD Garden Tuesday night. The third period was explosive and the crowd never let up as the energy on the ice matched the enthusiasm in the stands. As is often the case at the Garden, the crowd was filled with kids young and old dawning the black and gold jerseys of their favorite players of yesterday and today. 

It got me thinking of my friend Doc, a great hockey player in his own right and so many like him that started in the local rinks here around Boston and dreamt of going pro. The greatest thing about hockey is that in these parts, unlike all of the other major sports, that actually happens with great frequency. 

The local roots of hockey are like no other sport and it’s not close. Today, as the 2019 Boston Bruins get set to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, four players on the Bruins roster were born and bred right here. Noel Acciari of Johnson, RI. Chris Wagner of Walpole, Charlie Coyle of Weymouth and Matt Grzelcyk of Charlestown. I’ve never met any of them, but I imagine they rooted for the Bruins as kids and here they all are wearing that same black and gold uniform they cheered on and dreamt to play for throughout their childhood. For many, hockey is the fourth sport in this town, but for those who put hockey first, their community is like no other and the payoff for the local supporters truly stands alone.

I’m not a hockey first guy, but I am surrounded by many in my life who are and always have been. It’s truly a great community and the passion bleeds through the skin and stains the clothes. When you’re around it you just want to be a part of it. For those who play and make it all the way to the professional ranks, the connection to that community never dies and it’s been like that for my entire lifetime and probably longer. Guys like Bob Sweeney come to mind; a locally born player whom I remember watching play at BC with my dad, then seeing him play for the Bruins teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s. I followed those teams so intensely and they came so close so many times. Now Sweeney is the Executive Director of the Boston Bruins Foundation and continues to do great work within the hockey community and far beyond. 

The tie that hockey people have with hockey never ends and he’s just one of many examples.   

Thinking of those late ’80's and '90’s Bruins teams, I recall so vividly the hopes and expectations that they would someday acquire locally born and bred stars Tony Amonte and Jeremy Roenick. It never seemed right that neither of those guys made it back to Boston during their playing days and the Bruins could’ve used them both in any given year of their storied careers. More local talent, not just making the pros, but making a huge impact at the highest level. In what other sport do you see that?

There are too many to count but just off the top think about the level of talent that’s been produced here locally, it’s astounding and miles ahead of any other of the four major sports. Mike Milbury, Bobby Carpenter, Andy Brickley, Keith Tkachuk and his son, Shawn McEachern, Jeff Lazaro, Keith Aucoin, Corey Schneider and Joe Hulbig to name a few. When you add in those who played their collegiate hockey in the area this story could be a novel. Charlie McAvoy will have a huge role tonight and throughout the series. He is a New York kid but his star like so many was made at Boston University, so we can claim him too. Again, too numerous to count.

So on the day of the NFL Draft where so many people (myself included) will sound off about players that they probably know nothing about, here’s a stick tap to the many Boston born players we should be lauding for the exceptional performance and dedication to their sport, hockey; it’s truly like no other.  

For the young players who will be in the stands cheering on their favorite team and players tonight, dream big, because in hockey those dreams are clearly attainable. Go for it.

Related: Complete schedule for Bruins vs. Blue Jackets