TORONTO – It’s a trick that’s been played on many other rookies before.
Jamie Tardiff led the Boston Bruins out for the warm-up before Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He hit the ice running, but his teammates held back, letting him skate around by himself just a bit before heading onto the ice to join him.
“I think the guys planned it on me,” said Tardiff after Boston’s 1-0 win over Toronto. “It is my first NHL game, but I should know better than that, because I’ve been around for a while and I’ve seen that trick many times. But I was more than happy to do it.”
With about 20 friends and family in the stands, Tardiff played in his first NHL game as the Bruins shut out the Maple Leafs before a sellout crowd at Air Canada Centre.
“It was definitely an excited game—a 1-0 barn burner,” Tardiff said. “I’m happy that the first one’s over here and we’ll see what happens.
“It was awesome—a lot of support, of a lot of ‘Good lucks’, a lot of ‘congratulations.’ It’s a great group of guys here and they made me feel very comfortable.”
Wearing No. 68, Tardiff skated on the fourth line with Lane MacDermid and Gregory Campbell, logging 5:03 minutes of ice time. Boston called him up on an emergency basis after wingers Scott Thornton and Daniel Paille were injured in the Bruins’ 7-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night in Boston.
His first taste of NHL action, however, was a little anticlimactic.
“My first shift didn’t go over so well,” Tardiff said. “I think I was only out there for six seconds before MacDermid fought. But I got the bugs out and the jitters.”
“I was fairly nervous all game, but that’s expected, Never mind it being my hometown here. It was expected and I’m happy we got the win.”
Tardiff was born in Welland, Ont., just a short drive from Toronto and just celebrated his 28th birthday in late January.
It’s his eighth pro season after being drafted in the fourth round (112th overall) by the Calgary Flames in 2004. Boston signed him as an unrestricted free agent in July 2011 and he’s been playing with its AHL affiliate Providence.
“My experience in the American League helped me out,” Tardiff said. “I’m not an 18- or 19-year-old rookie coming in and playing his first game. So that helped me out a bit…I was definitely nervous in the first period, but as the game went on I felt more comfortable.”
Last season, Tardiff had 15 goals and 30 points with Providence. This season, he’s second in goals in the AHL with 21 behind only Jordan Eberle, who had 25 with the Oklahoma City Barons.
The wait was long for him to get his first taste of the NHL, but he doesn’t expect to wait nearly as long to score his first NHL goal.
“That first one will come soon enough.”