After graduating from Boston University in 2017, Charlie McAvoy decided to become a professional ice hockey player. The teenager signed up for an amateur race and headed to Providence, Rhode Island.
The Bruins were looking for a model that Zach Werenski had made the year before, McAvoy said. You leave college, play in the AHL playoffs, get your feet wet there, and then try to get an NHL team out of camp the following year.
When he showed up at the rink for his fifth minor league game, McAvoy was told not to change clothes. The Bruins’ top two defensemen, Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo, are in the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. They wanted McAvoy now. He stopped by his room to pick up his suit and passport, and suddenly he was introduced to his new teammates. Zdeno-Chara], [Brad] Marchand, Patrice [Bergeron], Krug, all those guys who grew up watching hockey at such a high level that it was crazy to think we would ever get there, he says.
The veterans gave some advice to their new teammate: No pressure. Just play. Just play hockey. Nothing changes. That’s how you got here, playing hockey.
They were trying to restore the place, McAvoy said. Which is hard to do when the first game is in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
McAvoy was paired with Captain Chara, who made his NHL debut in 1997, a month before McAvoy was born. McAvoy was the second-fastest skater in his debut, finishing with three assists, nine blocked shots and an impressive 26:12 minutes of ice time per game. Boston lost in six games, but McAvoy got a first glimpse of why players, coaches and NHL officials often describe the Bruins’ culture as unique.
The Bruins also took McEvoy’s parents to Ottawa for his NHL debut. And after the game, Jen’s mom and dad Charlie McAvoy Sr. got the same family treatment as her son.
In the family room after the game, Charlie wasn’t sure how to introduce us, says McAvoy Sr. But all the veterans winked at him or came to say hello. Charlie didn’t know how to act yet, but it was so clear that there were these great leaders to follow.
This continued even after the end of the post season.
Usually at the end of the season, Mr. Bergeron invites everyone to his home to blow off steam, McAvoy said. And he invited me, which is cool and made me feel special.
The NHL season is a long and uphill battle. The rookie fought only a fraction of the way with his teammates, but it didn’t matter. The fact that McAvoy fought means he was one of them.
The team is also making a short weekend trip at the end of the year, McAvoy said. I wanted to go back to school and the boys were like: You’re absolutely invited, we want you there. It was good for me to see how inclusive they are. I had only known them for a week and a half and already felt so close to them.
Life in the NHL can move fast, and in less than four years, the 23-year-old McAvoy will be the face of the Bruins’ defense. The Bruins let Chara and Krug go in free agency, hoping to revamp the blue line. McAvoy, ranked No. 14 in the 2016 draft, became the team’s No. 1 player (he played an average of five more minutes in six games than any other teammate).
McAvoy is 6 feet tall and weighs 90 pounds. He combines the size and physical attributes of a prototype defender with the speed and agility of a next-generation Blue. He’s already a good puck player, but he admits his goal for the 2021 season is to hit the puck more and challenge himself to be a bigger part of the offense.
At next year’s Olympics in Beijing, where NHL players are expected to return after the 2018 hiatus, McAvoy is the top contender for the U.S. team and could team up with Wierenski, Seth Jones, Quinn Hughes and Jacob Slavin to form one of the most dynamic young blue lines the country has ever seen. Playing at the Olympics would be very special, he says. It’s always been a dream of mine, and I’m incredibly proud of it.
McAvoy’s rise was steady and he had been ready for the big day for some time. This came out at the end of last season.
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Now you see Charlie passing the torch by playing more minutes, playing in every situation, things Z did years ago in the prime of his life, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said in August. So it’s an interesting dynamic too, the way they help each other. And in this respect there is no competition, so maybe something like big brother – little brother.
That’s exactly what McAvoy thinks.
Z played the player-coach role in a sense because there were so many teachable moments, McAvoy said. We played three great years together and I will never take that for granted.
Chara signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals. After Washington’s first game, McAvoy immediately went online to find the box score.
I watched him play for about 20 minutes and I was so happy for him because I know the main thing is that he’s such a competitor, McAvoy said. I don’t know exactly what prompted the decision [not to rewrite Chara], but I know he believes he can contribute, and when I see him get the chance to do that, I’m really happy for him. It’s so easy to encourage him. It will be very weird to see him compete on the other side, but I will be the first to meet him after the game and give him a hug.
The Bruins travel to Washington on Saturday for a pair of games against Chara and the Capitals.
Chara] took on the role of player-coach because there were so many opportunities to learn, McAvoy says. We played three great years together and I will never take that for granted. Dan Hamilton-USA Sports Today
McAvoy grew up in Long Beach, N.Y., in the former training base of the New York Rangers. His father owns McAvoy Plumbing along with his brother.
My grandfather started the business in the 1920s, says McAvoy Sr. My dad worked for all the Rangers players and coaches, the old guard, which was pretty impressive.
Although Charlie Jr. was born three years after the 1994 Stanley Cup Rangers, he watched their championship on VHS for hours as a child.
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McAvoy Sr. was a major player in road hockey and played daily with John Ferguson Jr. the son of a former Rangers coach and manager who now happens to be the Bruins’ general manager. McAvoy Jr. grew up with his father as an idol.
His attitude and approach to life was everything. I saw how hard he worked every day to give our family everything we needed, says McEvoy Jr. It’s something I appreciate all the more as I step back and grow.
McAvoy has three sisters, whom he calls my biggest fans and best friends. He proudly announces that his older sister Kayla is getting her own master. Her younger sisters, Heather and Holly, are twins and older. While Holly is still pondering her plans for college, Heather has agreed to play hockey in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Anselm, New Hampshire.
It’s really cool because it’s only an hour away [from Boston] and I can go there on Friday or Saturday if we’re not playing and watch their games, he said. According to his father, McAvoy Jr. tried to broadcast his sister’s games last season.
McAvoy always felt sorry for others. In second grade, one of his classmates saw his father kill his mother. The girl was the only child with unimaginable trauma. The professor called McAvoys and asked if Charlie could take care of the girl and help comfort her. It was great, says McAvoy Sr. All year he sat beside her and never left her side.
Hockey is a family affair in the McEvoy family. Thanks to the McAvoy family.
McAvoy has been trained by his father since he was five years old. He did all kinds of sports and hung out with all the kids in the neighborhood, but hockey was always his favorite. I came home from work and his hockey bag was at the door, McAvoy Sr. said. That’s him: Dad, Dad, we have to go to the rink. McAvoy has always been an excellent skater, and the older he got, the more he stood out.
He is starting to get attention and dreams of playing for Team USA. However, he was not invited to the first camp in 2013 for 44 players as part of the U.S. National Team Development Program.
The list was published when the father and son were on their way to Canada for the tournament. When McAvoy read the list of the other players who had passed on, he was mortified.
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It was heartbreaking for him, McAvoy Sr. said. I said: Charlie, don’t worry. Just keep working hard and everything will be fine.
McAvoy played well in the tournament, with many scouts in attendance. Meanwhile, USNTDP coach Don Granato was getting calls from a friend, Pat Dapuzzo, a longtime NHL player and Maple Leafs scout.
They missed the kid around me, said Dapuzzo of New Jersey. This guy is phenomenal.
Within 24 hours, Granato received another phone call from someone monitoring McAvoy in Canada. Another call for support. A week later, the player dropped out and McAvoy was added to the list.
He’s been on a path to stardom ever since.
Charlie’s personality was easily recognizable at a young age. Thanks to the McAvoy family.
The Bruins have a long tradition of No1 defenders, from Eddie Shore (four-time Hart Trophy winner) to Bobby Orr (the only defender in league history to win the scorecards twice), Brad Park and Ray Burke (both Hall of Fame winners) and, of course, Chara. That McAvoy is next on the list is not something he takes lightly, and it helps a lot that he is represented by Orr’s agency.
McAvoy first met Orr in Florida in 2016, before his year of service. To me, he’s larger than life, the best defender to ever play the game, McAvoy said. And I couldn’t believe what a gentleman he was and how kind he was.
McAvoy hopes to continue this tradition of modesty, even if his playing is not exactly discreet. Take, for example, the first round of last year’s playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes. When Boston trailed (2-1) in the third period, McAvoy put pure – albeit crushing – ice over Canes’ captain Jordan Staal, which changed the game and helped spark the Bruins’ comeback.
Boston’s second defeat against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the last in double overtime, was painful. The team reached the 2019 Stanley Cup final and last season won the President’s Cup for best record in the league. But given the post-2020 season results, it was clear the aging core was running out of time. Chara and Krug are gone, and David Krejci’s contract expires after this season.
All I wanted as a kid was to win the Stanley Cup, McAvoy says. Being so close and not winning was incredibly heartbreaking. Experience is something I know I’m going to rely on. I am so motivated to work and go back.
McAvoy is in the second year of a three-year bridge contract worth $4.9 million per year. He bought a condo in Boston in October 2019, and when the season was interrupted six months later because of COVID-19, he felt like he finally had time to do chores around his house. He is… like many of us… also practiced on the yoga mat in the living room.
It was pretty easy to look at it from a different angle because there were no trips, nothing, just out of the house, McAvoy says. So in terms of training and nutrition, it was really easy. I went to the grocery store, I planned all my meals, I did everything I needed to do to be a good professional. This can be difficult when you’re on the go and feel like you’re constantly moving.
And when he returned to Toronto after the bubble, he had time to reflect on how far he had come – and how far he still wanted to go. After all, McAvoy seems to have made his Ottawa debut just a few months ago. McAvoy Sr. will never forget to greet his son after the game.
Dad, his son said with a smile, holding his breath a little. I just played in the NHL.