This story was originally published on MurphysHockeyLaw.net
After a much-needed three-day holiday break, Boston Bruins rookie sensation Charlie McAvoy and his teammates were back on TD Garden ice Wednesday night beating the Ottawa Senators 5-1. This was actually the first Christmas McAvoy spent at home in two years after being in Finland and Canada starring for the United States at the World Junior Championships. The 2018 tournament is currently being played in Buffalo, New York and in a recent interview with MurphysHockeyLaw.net, McAvoy credited his World Junior’s experiences, specifically last year, as a major factor in what has been an almost seamless transition to the NHL after just two seasons at Boston University.
After helping the Red, White and Blue to a bronze medal at the Helsinki games in 2016, McAvoy had a coming out party in Canada in 2017 with two goals and four assists in seven games, including a goal and an assist as Player Of The Game in a thrilling 5-4 shootout win over the hosts and arch-rival Canadians in the championship game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. According to McAvoy, that was one of the major reasons he seemed so unfazed by the magnitude and pressure of playing his first NHL game in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs in Ottawa last April.
“When I got on the ice in Ottawa, I had already played in what I thought was the most hostile environment I had ever played in, and probably still is,” the Long Beach, New York native recently told MurphysHockeyLaw.net. “My heart was beating out of my chest. I mean we had back-to-back shootout wins (Russia in the semifinals) with everything on the line! So I kind of felt when I got to Ottawa, this was just another game of hockey.”
By no means was McAvoy trying to be cocky as he recalled how he felt in the series against Ottawa, but rather appreciative of the confidence he had built from the World Juniors experience in Canada.
“I’m not trying to downplay it, and I was still nervous with it being my first ever NHL game as my first couple shifts probably proved that,” he said with a chuckle. “But I think that experience at the World Juniors last year helped my threshold for being nervous and timid, grow a lot. You play in that environment, you’re shaking, you’re nervous and you got all these fans who hate you and want you to lose; then you’re also playing this great Canada team or great Russian team or whomever it may be, and you’re able to combat that. You then just tell yourself:
‘Hey! I’m playing great! I’m going to use this as fire! I’m one period into the game now, I can do this! I can play in front of these fans and in this environment, so who cares if we’re down a couple goals, we’re fine and we can do this!’
We did do it and I think all of us will be better professionals from that experience. It’s tough to put a price tag on that but I think it definitely means a lot.”
The 20 year-old defenseman is widely considered — along with Coyotes rookie forward Clayton Keller and Islanders rookie forward Mathew Barzal — a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie fo the year. Some could even argue that McAvoy deserves some Norris Trophy consideration as the league’s best defenseman. He has easily been one of, if not Boston’s best overall player with five goals and 19 helpers in his first 34 regular season NHL games. While he’s enjoyed the ride here in Boston and the NHL so far, there was no hiding the pride and giddiness talking about that amazing run he and his fellow American teammates went on last year brings out in his still very young looking face.
“That’s something that will stick with me forever,” he said already in perma-grin mode. “That’s without a doubt my best hockey moment and the thing I’m most proud about to this point in my life and career is winning that tournament. It’s an extremely hard tournament to win. You play eight games in eleven days — or whatever it may be — and you’re worn down and fatigued after maybe game four. You’re already halfway through your college or junior season or wherever you’re playing, and instead of taking Christmas break, you’re there; but you’re playing for your country on the biggest stage and anyone would say that they want to be there!
So it was such a blessing for me and I’m very grateful to have played in both those World Juniors, but that one we won last year is without a doubt my best hockey memory. That team will forever be some of my best friends and we’ll have that bond forever with that group.”
Despite how busy he’s been and will be with his NHL schedule, McAvoy has and will be following from afar as USA tries to repeat.
“When they announced the team I was following for sure to see if anyone I knew or any ’98’s were on there,” McAvoy said. “I’m the biggest fan of that staff too; Coach [Bob] Motzko, Grant Potulny, Greg Brown and all the guys who were there last year, I mean, they’re awesome! I loved playing for them and I wish them nothing but the best this year and I’ll be rooting for them.”
On Friday, USA and Canada will meet for the first time since McAvoy and the Americans skated off the Bell Centre ice as world champions and they will take that rematch outdoors playing at New Era Field, the home of the Buffalo Bills, in the first ever outdoor World Juniors game on North American soil. Is McAvoy jealous that he and his teammates didn’t get that unique experience last year?
“A little bit I guess, but I’ll take my experience last year over anything right now,” McAvoy said. “I look at it like ‘I went to the top of the mountain and made it beating Canada in Canada, in front of their fans, in the most hostile environment I ever played in. When the boos were just raining down as we’re skating around after winning the world championship, with gold medals around our necks, nothing beats that!”