Bruins’ Kuraly causing mixed emotions ahead of series with hometown Columbus Blue Jackets

Matt Kalman
April 25, 2019 - 7:59 am

Having known Sean Kuraly as a big-game player since he was 10, Ed Gingher had a feeling before the Bruins played Toronto in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference first round Tuesday.

“I said before the game last night, with the way he played in Game 5 and 6, you could see it coming,” the president of the AAA Junior Blue Jackets told WEEI.com by phone Wednesday. “And I said to my son, ‘he’s going to have a big one. It won’t surprise me if he scores one.’ Our whole house went nuts when he put the one in. A pretty timely goal, needless to say.”

Kuraly scored in the third period to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead and finished with one goal and one assist in Boston’s series-clinching 5-1 victory.

Now there are going to be plenty of mixed emotions throughout the greater Columbus area over the next week to 10 days that the Bruins and Blue Jackets are battling in the Eastern Conference second round.

On the one hand the Blue Jackets are in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time ever, having swept the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. On the other hand, Central Ohio’ Kuraly is one of the beloved graduates of the AAA Jackets program.

Gingher, who has been part of the program since its beginnings in the mid-2000s, coached Kuraly on the program’s under-18 team, and appreciates the player and person the 26-year-old has become. But local roots run deep.

“I hope he plays well, personally. You know I could never root against him. But we’ll be no question rooting for the Jackets,” Gingher said. “And again I think he understands that. I know his whole family will be rooting probably more for the Bruins, not as much against the Jackets. And for us, the loyalty is obviously strong to Sean, but this is where you draw the line.”

Kuraly’s status is such with the program that there might be some Bruins converts among the playing ranks with the AAA Jackets, but for the most part Gingher expects that their loyalties will be similar to his.

“You know what, there will probably be a few that’ll be mixed because of how well-respected he is within the program,” Gingher said. “But if you probably surveyed they’d probably all say something similar to what I did; he plays well and the Jackets win.”

These days the AAA Jackets program counts numerous college and pro graduates, including a handful that have reached the NHL. Kuraly, Connor Murphy of the Chicago Blackhawks and Kiefer Sherwood of the Anaheim Ducks are part of a trailblazing groups setting the standard for kids in the program.

“I guess you don’t really think about it until a time like now,” Kuraly told WEEI about being a trailblazer back when he was set to face Murphy and the Blackhawks over the winter.

Kuraly’s family still lives in the Columbus area and he returns home every summer, working out with his fellow NHLers and younger players aspiring to be the next Kuraly. The result of this series is sure to create some interesting interactions this coming summer.

Just the fact that the series is happening – a somewhat unimaginable thing considering the task the Blue Jackets had before them – will create an interesting boon to the level of participation and engagement with hockey in the area.

“The city’s abuzz. And I think not just for beating Tampa, but for the way we did it, you’re generating a lot of exposure to non-hockey fans. It’s been pretty fun to see it because you know it’s a pretty good opportunity for the hockey world to gain some ground here locally and that’s what makes it pretty cool.

“And then you throw in they’re playing the Bruins and Sean, I’ve mentioned it to a few people, it’s almost a perfect storm of what’s been happening in Columbus. It’s been pretty neat to see.”

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