Charlie McAvoy is poised to rise as the next great Bruins defender

After Charlie McAvoy After his second final at Boston University in 2017, he decided to become a professional hockey player. The teenager signed an amateur testing contract and drove to Providence, Rhode Island.

“The Bruins wanted to make a model for it Zach Werenski a year earlier, “says McAvoy.” That means leaving college, playing in the AHL playoffs, getting your feet wet there, and then trying to do that next year [NHL] Team from the warehouse. “

When he showed up at the rink for his fifth game in the minor league, McAvoy was told not to get dressed. The Bruins were two of their best defenders, Torey pitcher and Brandon CarloEntering a playoff series against the Senators from Ottawa. You needed McAvoy now. He made a pit stop in his dormitory to pick up a suit and passport, and the next thing he knew he was being introduced to his new teammates. “”[[[[Zdeno Chara]], [Brad] Marchand, Patrice [Bergeron]Krug, all of these people I grew up with played hockey at a level that was crazy enough to think you’d ever get there, ”he says.

The veterans gave their newest teammate one piece of advice, “No pressure. Just play. Play hockey, that’s it. Nothing changes. Play hockey the same way you got to this point.”

“They tried to downplay the scene,” says McAvoy. “Which is difficult when your first game was in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

McAvoy was paired with captain Chara, who made his NHL debut in 1997, a month before McAvoy was born. McAvoy played the second most minutes of all skaters on his debut and ended the series with three assists, nine blocked shots and a whopping 26:12 minutes per Ice Age game. Boston lost in six games, but McAvoy got his first taste of why NHL players, coaches, and leaders often describe the Bruins’ culture as unique.

The Bruins also flew McAvoy’s parents to Ottawa for his NHL debut. And after the game, mom Jen and dad Charlie McAvoy Sr. received the same family treatment their son received.

“In the family room after the game, Charlie wasn’t sure how to introduce us,” says McAvoy Sr. “But all the veterans winked at him or came up to us and said hello. Charlie wasn’t sure how to handle himself should, but it was so clear that there were these great leaders to follow. “”

This continued after the postseason was over.

“Bergeron usually has everyone at their home at the end of the season to relax,” says McAvoy. “And he invited me, which is cool and made me feel special.”

An NHL season is a long and exhausting business. The rookie had only fought a fraction of the trip with his teammates, but that didn’t matter. That McAvoy fought at all meant he was one of them.

“The team also takes a little weekend trip at the end of the year,” says McAvoy. “I wanted to go back to school and the boys said, ‘You are absolutely invited, we want you to be there.’ That was fine for me when I saw how comprehensive they were. By the time I knew them for a week and a half, I felt so close to them. “

Life in the NHL can go fast, and less than four years later, 23-year-old McAvoy is now the face of the Bruins’ defense. The Bruins let Chara and Krug run free, hoping to convert the blue line on the fly. That made McAvoy, number 14 in the 2016 draft, the obvious number 1 on the team (in six games he averages five minutes more per game than any other teammate).

McAvoy combines the size and physicality of a prototypical shutdown defender with the speed and agility of a next-generation Blueliner. He’s already a decent puck mover, but admits that his goal for the 2021 season is to “shoot the puck more” and “challenge me to be a bigger part of the offensive”.

McAvoy is a leading candidate for Team USA and could team up with Werenski at the Beijing Olympics next year, which is slated to see NHL players returning after a hiatus in 2018. Seth Jones, Quinn Hughes and Jaccob Slavin to form one of the most dynamic young blue lines the country has ever seen. “Playing at the Olympics would be very special,” he says. “It was always a dream of mine and something I would be incredibly proud of.”

McAvoy’s rise has been steady, and he’s been facing a bigger spotlight for some time. It became apparent towards the end of last season.

“You are seeing a bit of the torch going off now, like Charlie playing more minutes and playing in all situations, things Zee did years ago in his prime,” said Boston coach Bruce Cassidy in August. “So that’s also an interesting dynamic, how they help each other. And in that respect there is really no competition, so maybe something like a big brother, a little brother.”

This is exactly how McAvoy sees it.

“Zee played the role of player-coach in a way because there were so many lessons,” says McAvoy. “We had three great years playing together which I will never take for granted.”

Chara signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals. After Washington’s first game, McAvoy immediately searched the box score online.

“I saw him play for about 20 minutes and I was so happy for him because I know the greatest thing is that he is such a competitor,” said McAvoy. “I’m not sure about the logistics [to not re-sign Chara]but I know he believes he can contribute, and to see him, to get the opportunity, I’m just so happy for him. It’s so easy to find. It will be so strange to see him on the other side, but I’ll be the first to find him after the game and give him a big hug. “

The Bruins will travel to Washington to play against Chara and the Capitals, with two games starting Saturday.

McAvoy grew up in Long Beach, New York, the former training location of the New York Rangers. His father is a co-owner of McAvoy Plumbing with his brother.

“My grandfather started the business in the 1920s,” says McAvoy Sr. “And my father worked for all of the Rangers players and coaches, the old guard, which was pretty neat.”

Although Charlie Jr. was born to the Rangers three years after the 1994 Stanley Cup, he spent hours as a child fascinated by watching their championship over and over on VHS.

McAvoy Sr. was a huge fan of the street hockey scene, playing daily with John Ferguson Jr., the former Rangers trainer and manager who now happens to be a Bruins manager. McAvoy Jr. grew up and adored his father.

“His working attitude and approach to life were everything, and I saw how hard he worked every day to give our family everything we needed,” says McAvoy Jr .. “It’s something for that I have an even greater appreciation when I gain perspective and grow up. “

McAvoy has three sisters whom he calls “my biggest fans and my best friends”. He is proud to report that his older sister Kayla is getting her masters. His younger sisters, Heather and Holly, are twins and seniors in high school. While Holly is still thinking about her college plans, Heather has signed up to play hockey at St. Anselm, New Hampshire.

“It’s so cool because it’s an hour’s drive [from Boston] and I can zoom in there on a Friday or Saturday when we’re not playing and watch their games, “he says. According to his father, McAvoy Jr. was busy streaming his sister’s games last season.

McAvoy always felt sorry for others. In the second grade, one of his classmates saw her father kill her mother. The girl was an only child dealing with an unimaginable trauma. The teacher called the McAvoys and asked if Charlie would take care of the girl and comfort her. “It was amazing,” says McAvoy Sr. “He sat next to her all year and never left her side.”

McAvoy was trained by his father from the age of 5. He played all sports and hung out with all the kids in the neighborhood, but hockey was always his favorite. “I would come home from work and his hockey bag would be on the door,” says McAvoy Sr. “He would say, ‘Papa, papa, we have to go to the rink.'” McAvoy was always a tough skater, and he started getting noticed as he got older.

He was slowly being noticed and dreamed of playing for Team USA. But he wasn’t invited to the US National Team Development Program’s first 44-player camp in 2013.

The list came out when the father and son went to a tournament in Canada. When McAvoy looked through the list of other players who had made the cut, he was dejected.

“It was heartbreaking for him,” says McAvoy Sr. “I said, ‘Charlie, don’t worry. Just keep working hard and everything will be fine.'”

McAvoy played well in the tournament, with many Boy Scouts. Meanwhile, USNTDP coach Don Granato received a call from one of his friends – Pat Dapuzzo, a longtime NHL lineman and scout for the Maple Leafs.

“They missed a child near me,” said New Jersey-based Dapuzzo. “This kid is phenomenal.”

Within 24 hours, Granato received another call from someone watching McAvoy in Canada. Another confirmation. A week later, a player was eliminated and McAvoy was added to the list.

Since then he has been on a star track.

The Bruins have a long history as the # 1 defender, from Eddie Shore (four-time Hart Trophy winner) to Bobby Orr (the only defender in league history to win two titles) to Brad Park and Ray Bourque (both Hall of) Famers) of course to Chara. It is not easy for McAvoy to be next in line and it is very helpful that he is represented by the Orr agency.

McAvoy first met Orr in Florida in 2016, prior to his design year. “Bigger than life in my eyes, the best defender who has ever played the game,” said McAvoy. “And I couldn’t believe what a gentleman he was and how nice he was.”

McAvoy hopes to continue this tradition of humility even if his game isn’t exactly subdued. Take, for example, last year’s first round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes. With Boston 2-1 deficit in the third half, McAvoy scored a clean – albeit devastating – goal. Open ice check on Canes captain Jordan StaalThis shifted the energy of the game and sparked a comeback for the Bruins.

Boston’s exit on the second lap to the Tampa Bay Lightning, with the last defeat in double overtime, stood out. The team had made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2019 and won the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record in the league of the previous season. But after the results of the 2020 postseason it was clear that the time was ticking for the aging core. Chara and Krug went and David KrejciThe contract expires after this season.

“As a kid, I just wanted to win a Stanley Cup,” says McAvoy. “Getting that close and not winning was incredibly heartbreaking. I know I can count on this experience. I’m just so motivated to work hard and get back there.”

McAvoy is the second of three years that earns him $ 4.9 million annually. He bought a condo in Boston in October 2019, and when the season suspended six months later due to COVID-19, he felt like he finally had time to do things around him. Like many of us, he did all of his workouts on a yoga mat in the living room.

“It was pretty easy to look at it from a different lens because there was no travel, there was nothing, there was hardly any leaving home,” says McAvoy. “It was really easy from a workout and diet standpoint. I went to the grocery store, planned all of my meals, and did whatever it took to be a good professional. It can be difficult when you’re on the go and feel like that you move all the time. “

And when he got back from the Toronto bubble, he had time to think about how far he’s come – and would still love to go. After all, it seems like McAvoy made his debut in Ottawa a few months ago. McAvoy Sr. will never forget to say hello to his son immediately after the game.

“Dad,” said his son, grinning and a little breathless. “I just played in the NHL.”

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