BOSTON (CBS) – For Ryan Fitzgerald, the Boston Bruins’ fourth-round pick in last month’s NHL Draft, putting on the black and gold sweater is a bit of a family thing.
Fitzgerald, the 5-foot-10 standout from Malden Catholic, donned the sweater shortly after being drafted, but sported it for the first time on the ice on Wednesday at the Bruins Developmental Camp.
But he isn’t the first in his family to wear that sweater, or call the Bruins his employer.
Ryan’s father, Tom, also had the pleasure of wearing a Bruins jersey during his 17-year NHL career. Though the Billerica native would have loved to have been drafted by Boston, he was taken by the New York Islanders 17th overall in the 1986 NHL Draft. He would go on to play for the Panthers, Avalanche, Predators, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs before finally joining the Bruins in 2005-06 – his final year in the NHL.
With his father a professional hockey player, that meant a young Ryan always found himself at the rink. Because of that, he has a very good idea of what he’ll have to do going forward to succeed in the NHL.
“Growing up with a dad who played you kind of see what it takes and how he carried himself. I’ve taken a lot of tips from him and have seen what it takes to be successful,” Fitzgerald said after his first day at Bruins Camp. “Watching him do what he did over 18 years isn’t something a lot of people get to watch firsthand. There are a lot of things I took away from it.”
One thing Ryan has taken from his father was his work ethic, which was on full display as the 19-year-old took the ice this week.
“He was the hardest working guy on every team he played on,” Ryan said of his father. “He was the first person at the rink and last one to leave, and that’s something that’s been contagious with me.”
“He’s got a dad that knew what it took, and Ryan has a lot of the same attributes,” said Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney. “(He’s) really, really smart on the ice. He’s not the biggest guy, but he goes to the areas of the ice he knows he has to go to and he goes there with conviction. He makes plays; he’s a two-way player.”
“I think it’s a healthy dynamic to have that, to have your dad to be able to turn to in that situation and he’s got a wealth of knowledge of being around the game and the pro-environment,” added Sweeney. “He knows sort of the steps along the way and how hard it is. Most important, how hard is it to have that realistic approach that some kids don’t have the benefit of.”
But Ryan isn’t concerned about growing up in his father’s shadow.
“We’re two pretty different players,” he said. “Growing up, I haven’t had a lot of pressure. There are no high expectations to live up to. I just play hockey because I love it.”
Tom Fitzgerald is now the assistant GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, so holiday dinners will become a little more interesting at the Fitzgerald household. But if Ryan needs some words of encouragement from someone close who doesn’t have an allegiance to another club — especially the Penguins — he won’t have to look too far. His uncle, Steve, is Boston’s assistant director of scouting.
Fitzgerald is coming off a successful season for the Valley Junior Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. In 26 games with the Warriors, the center tallied 14 goals (second on the team) and 16 assists for 30 points (fourth on the team). He added three more goals and three more assists in the playoffs, and was received the 2013 MIAA John Carlton Sportsmanship Award, which is awarded annually to an outstanding male and female student-athlete in an Eastern Massachusetts High School or Junior hockey.
During his time at Malden Catholic, Fitzgerald was part of back-to-back MIAA Super 8 Championship teams in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Now he is wearing a Bruins sweater, but before that can become a full-time part of his attire, Fitzgerald has to fulfill another one of his dreams. That will start this fall, when he begins playing hockey at Boston College.
But he hopes it won’t be too long again before he dons the sweater with the spoked-B on the front.
“It’s definitely a big stepping stone, putting the jersey on, but I have a long road ahead of me,” said Fitzgerald. “I’ll be at BC this fall, so that’s my next step. Hopefully I’ll have a good year.”
And with the Bruins future looking so bright, he hopes to play a part of that sooner rather than later.
“They’ve come a long way from where they were a few years back. To see them progress to be cup contenders every year, and to be part of it now, is special.”