Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

A former NHL tough guy’s influence on Bruins forward Colby Cave

Matt Kalman
December 19, 2018 - 8:25 am

Former 1970s Bruins forward and North Battleford, Saskatchewan native Gregg Sheppard scored 205 goals in 657 NHL games.

Current Bruins center and fellow North Battleford native Colby Cave now has 204 goals to go to catch Sheppard.

In his 13th NHL game Cave scored his first goal, a second-period score in a 4-0 win at Montreal on Monday.

There have been a handful of high-end talents from the fifth-largest population center in Saskatchewan (population around 14,000), but a younger Cave may have been most influenced by one of those natives that did most of his on-ice work with his fists.

Wade Belak scored just seven goals but had 1,263 in 549 NHL games. His career ended after the 2010-11 season and he was tragically lost in August 2011 at 35 years old. It was later revealed he had been suffering from depression.

Belak went to high school with Cave’s uncles (his mother’s brothers) and Belak’s father worked for a bit with Cave’s dad. Belak’s sweater hangs in the local Boston Pizza, according to Cave. He was a local legend.

When Cave was 7 or 8, Belak gave him one of the greatest gifts a NHL player can give a young, aspiring hockey player – a chance to meet his heroes.

“My first NHL game I got to watch [live] he actually brought us down, me and my family, to introduce us,” Cave recently recalled to WEEI.com. “We were in Edmonton so he brought us down. And it was cool. I got to meet all the guys that I was growing up watching, like [Mats] Sundin and [Tie] Domi and Pat Quinn, all these big superstars.”

Cave obviously didn’t follow Belak’s exact track (Cave’s career high for PIMs in a season is 52) through professional hockey, but the Bruins rookie respected what Belak did to make it to the highest level of the sport and how he still had time for people from back home.

“He made a living doing it. He was a fighter on the ice but off the ice he was the nicest person,” Cave said. “It was just one of those things ... once I met him, it kind of made hockey make sense to me. When you’re that age you’re kind of learning the ways around hockey. I don’t know if you really understand that role when you’re 7, 8 years old at that point, but it’s like ‘well if this guy is the nicest guy ever and showing us around, who am I to him really?’ So it was really great.”

Sadly, Cave never got to know Belak better. But as Cave builds off his first lengthy NHL stint and his first NHL goal, he’ll always have Belak’s influences helping him along the way.

“[Belak] was definitely someone that I could look up to in the sense of professionalism, I would say. It was really cool just at that age to learn, you’d watch him on TV every week,” Cave said. “You think, well, they’re athletes and you never see them, it was kind of like a unicorn. It’s something that I will never, ever forget. He’s a guy that will be missed.”

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