Bespoken for: Boston suits local boy Matt Grzelcyk perfectly
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Because his father John is a long-time member of the Bull Gang, the crew responsible for changing over the Garden’s floor from one event to the next, such opportunities to get close to his hockey heroes were frequent and never grew old.
“He always tried to get me over (to the Garden) when I was little,” said Grzelcyk. “Even something as simple as walking by the players warming up in the hall before a game was real cool for a little kid. It was a neat experience and my father working at the Garden is something that definitely sparked my passion.”
Maybe someday very soon a young fan will have a similar wide-eyed experience and one of the players wearing the black and gold will be Grzelcyk, a standout senior defenseman at Boston University who was selected by his hometown team in the third round of the 2012 draft.
“Any kid growing up in Boston wants to put on the spoked ‘B’ one day,” said Grzelcyk of the desire to put on a Bruins’ jersey.
Grzelcyk (pronounced GRIZZ-lick), who grew up in the city’s Charlestown section, almost did not get the chance to pull a Boston jersey over his head at the draft.
After two years with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program the then-18-year-old was not expecting to be drafted, let alone by the Bruins. He therefore had no interest attending the event, which was held in Pittsburgh. However, at his parents’ urging he decided to make the trip.
“I am lucky that my parents convinced me to go and I definitely could not have been happier with what happened,” he said. “I would have been glad to have been picked by any team, but this was obviously a huge honor and something you grow up dreaming about. It was probably one of the best days of my life.”
Grzelcyk has since had many fine days at BU, an elite Hockey East program that a year ago advanced to the final of the Frozen Four where the Terriers lost to Providence. The experience of playing four seasons for a home town university where passion for the game is off the charts has been one that is second to none.
“Growing up in Boston, college hockey is so special with things like the Beanpot,” he said of the prestigious tournament between area rivals BU, Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern. His goal in overtime against Northeastern last year won the tourney. “It was my dream to come to one of these Beanpot schools and I am glad that BU took a chance on me and gave me a scholarship. I could not have been any happier with how everything has worked out.”
The 5-10, 175-pound blue-liner has honed his considerable skills under coach David Quinn, including that of quarterback on the power play. Though he missed a handful of games earlier this season with a knee injury, Grzelcyk has eight goals and eight assists in 18 games heading into Friday’s game on ASN at New Hampshire.
Among accolades Grzelcyk received last season were All-Hockey East first team and CCM First-Team All-American. He was fourth nationally in points per game (0.95) among defensemen despite battling a torn ACL during the Terriers’ run to the doorstep of college hockey supremacy.
The hope among Grzelcyk and his teammates is ninth-ranked BU can take that final step come April in Tampa and enjoy a victory lap with the championship trophy. Experience has taught him it will be a grind.
“It feels like postseason hockey now with so little separation between the top teams in Hockey East,” he said. “It is obviously exciting when it gets to be this time of year. I feel good (health wise) and as a team we are ready to take care of business.”
Regardless of the Terriers’ postseason fate Grzelcyk will soon embark on a professional career that could have him wearing the same jersey worn by Bruins greats that his father grew up idolizing.
Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, both Hall of Fame defensemen and cherished Beantown icons, awed fans with a style of play that inspired Grzelcyk.
“As a kid growing up in Boston I watched video of guys like Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, a couple of my dad’s heroes who were real mobile defensemen and liked to join the rush,” he said. “I think growing up as a kid I wanted to be like those guys as much as I could and take bits and pieces from their game.”
To this point it is hard top how things have played out for Grzelcyk. After all, can you draw it up any better to be a kid from Boston who was drafted by the Bruins and enjoying a top-shelf collegiate career close to home at BU?
“No, definitely not,” he said. “It has been a great experience.”
Above and middle: As always, Boston University's Matt Grzelcyk found himself in the middle of the action on Feb. 1 against Northeastern in the Beanpot Tournament semifinals at TD Garden Boston. The Terriers won 3-1. (Photos by Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images courtesy of Boston University Athletics)