By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — From the time he learned he would require an ablation to correct his irregular heart rhythm through the day he had the procedure nearly two months later, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy handled the uncertainty about his health with same aplomb he’s always handled the puck against aggressive forecheckers.
In fact, general manager Don Sweeney singled out McAvoy’s ability to block his upcoming procedure from becoming a distraction as what impressed him the most about the 20-year-old during his unique situation.
“That is what’s probably been one of the most amazing things, is how well he has handled it knowing that this was on deck and going out and playing at the level he was,” Sweeney said a week after the Jan. 22 procedure. “It says a lot about him.”
While McAvoy was going about his business with the Bruins, his family in New York was similarly confident all would be well. Combined with the natural concern any parent has for a child when even the slightest health concern arises, Charlie McAvoy Sr. was comfortable with the way his son and the team were handling the situation.
Dating back to the younger McAvoy’s time at Boston University the family had been assured that McAvoy’s condition wasn’t life threatening and the racing heart rate might not reoccur, even if he didn’t get the ablation done. When McAvoy, his family and his doctors decided the procedure would still be the best path forward, the elder McAvoy was able to remain calm. In addition to the best doctors’ advice, the McAvoy family was also able to consult with a few athletes who had a similar procedure, including U.S. National Soccer Team captain Clint Dempsey.
“They let Charlie know that they were back on the field in two weeks, you know,” McAvoy Sr. said. “So it made us feel very comfortable too, not knowing that much about it, what was going on with it, other than the fact that it was not a risk just to live with it or to have it done.”
Within a week McAvoy was back on the ice and in less than two weeks he returned to game action Feb. 3 for the Bruins. The NHL schedule worked out fortuitously for the elder McAvoy because the Bruins visited the New York Rangers on Wednesday and he was able to see his son’s third game back in the lineup.
Once a Rangers season ticket holder when McAvoy was in grade school, the elder McAvoy has been to MSG countless times, including earlier this season when his son played there for the Bruins. This time around, though, was a little more special because of what his son has been through and come back from over the past month.
“It was terrific to see him,” McAvoy Sr. said.
McAvoy Sr. said he still gets chills every time he sees his son take the NHL ice.
“That’s something we don’t take for granted, that’s for sure,” he said.
It was easier for the family to stay calm leading up to and after McAvoy’s procedure because of how much poise he showed handling his situation. McAvoy’s assurance, whether he’s making a quick first pass or blocking out health concerns, is something that’s grown naturally in him and also been preached to him by his family.
“He doesn’t get rattled that easily, he takes one step at a time, handles things as they come,” McAvoy Sr. said. “We taught him never to get ahead of yourself, stay grounded. Because a lot of things happen out of our control, so he has always maintained stay where your feet are, don’t get too ahead of himself in any way. That’s when you really start to get in trouble. He doesn’t show much panic and that’s a great feature that he has.”
It’s a feature that brought him through what could’ve been a disconcerting time, and now should help McAvoy continue to succeed through the rest of his NHL career.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.