With Kevin Kennedy
I grew up in Cornwall, P.E.I., and I played hockey with the North River Minor Hockey Association. They’ve built a new rink since then, so the building is still there, but it’s used as kind of a warehouse now. It was an older rink and that’s where I had my first game and played most of my minor hockey.
Oddly enough, I can remember my first game. My parents hadn’t had the chance to get me a pair of hockey pants so I went out without them and obviously I was still learning how to skate and we were doing circles and stuff. I can remember falling a lot and with not having pants on, I got pretty bruised up.
I can’t remember the first time we went ‘off island,’ but I can remember how exciting it was to be in a hotel and have all your buddies there and play mini-hockey in the halls and run around from room to room. That was probably the most exciting thing about going to out-of-town tournaments. It wasn’t so much the hockey itself, but hanging out and going to the pool – that kind of stuff.
I got into hockey because my parents wanted to get me into something so that I could be more social. I was a bit of a shy kid so they just wanted me to play a team sport and socialize with other kids my age. My parents were awesome. They were always encouraging and never gave me any advice really – probably mainly because they were just fans of the game, but never really played too much themselves. So it wasn’t like they were ever critiquing me, they were more just there for support.
As a kid, hockey for me was just a winter sport, not a year-round thing. I maybe went to one hockey camp over the summer, but just for a couple days, not even a weeklong thing. I played soccer in the summer and a lot of badminton and basketball in school. I was always on the go and school was very important in our household.
Growing up, I originally thought if hockey didn’t work out I would try to become a gym teacher. I love all kinds of sports and loved gym class and thought I’d be a good role model for kids as a teacher, but as I got a little older I started to move more toward the business world. My father runs a real estate type of business, which was something I had some interest in and maybe something I’ll look into once my career is done. When I was a teenager I had a part-time job working at a golf course one summer and when I was younger I did a paper route, cut grass, that type of stuff.
I watched a lot of hockey as a kid and when I was really young my favorite player was Patrick Roy. Around the time he got traded to Colorado I kind of jumped ship and became a fan of Felix Potvin and Doug Gilmour. I’m not sure why, but I kind of gravitated toward goalies.
On my Ontario League draft day I was at home following on the Internet and I remember we kept hitting the refresh button. Finally, my name appeared – I was selected by the Sudbury Wolves. Being from P.E.I., I wasn’t really familiar with Ontario and didn’t know where Sudbury was. I got a call soon after from management in Sudbury and I was just really excited to get to camp and it was also a bit of a scary time, moving away from my family and friends when I was 16.
I was originally drafted into the NHL by Columbus, but was later traded to the Bruins. My last year in major junior we made the OHL final, so the season ended in late-May. A couple days later is when I found out I’d been traded to Boston and they were going to sign me right away. I got the contract faxed right to Sudbury and signed it there.
I was in the American League for two-and-a-half years and I really think the trade to Boston helped me. They really worked with me and there were a lot of areas I had to improve on, including my skating and puck skills, and they were willing to give me an opportunity. That’s all you can really ask for.
When I got the call to go up to the Bruins, it was a Tuesday night and I was just lying on the couch watching TV. I saw on my phone that it was the assistant GM Don Sweeney calling me in Providence. You always get a little nervous when you get that call. You hope it’s a positive thing, but you never know. He just asked me if I was ready and I said I was and right away I called my family.
It was only an hour drive to Boston so I drove up that night to make practice the next morning and then we actually flew out to Chicago. We had a couple days in Chicago and it worked out well because I could get some practices in and get comfortable with the team.
My parents flew in for the game in Chicago, but unfortunately I didn’t dress. I did get to take warmup, though, which was pretty neat at the time. We actually flew to Toronto a few nights later and I got in the game and I think again it worked out even better because my billet family from Sudbury and my brother, who was going to school in Ontario, all got to come see the game. I followed the Leafs a lot as a kid so it was a pretty special night.