BOSTON — Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will have an extra special meaning in the Grzelcyk household this year, even though three members of the family will be inside TD Garden Monday night in different capacities.
Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk will on the ice against the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NBC; live stream) while his dad, John, and brother, John Jr., will be inside the rink as part of the arena’s “Bull Gang” that converts the surface between Bruins and Boston Celtics home games and other events.
John Sr. has worked on the Garden “Bull Gang” since 1967 in the old Boston Garden, right after Bobby Orr’s arrival.
“I’m sure it’ll be special [for them], maybe a little more emotional on this stage,” the younger Grzelcyk said on Monday prior to Game 1.
Grzelcyk got to witness plenty of Bruins games growing up thanks to his father, but he was unable to attend any of the team’s Stanley Cup Final games in 2011 and 2013. When the Bruins won eight years ago he was in Ann Arbor, Mich. while with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program but managed to get home for the championship parade.
“Just to see the support that the city gave to the team, it was such a hard-fought series, just came down to dramatic fashion,” he said. “It was cool to take that in with my best friends.”
Now it’s his chance to help the Bruins win another Stanley Cup and for him to sit in a duck boat in the parade as opposed to enjoying it from a Boston sidewalk.
“Boston sports fans are quite spoiled right now,” Grzelcyk said. “Hopefully we can add to that.”
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Grzelcyk, a third-round pick by the Bruins in 2012, skated plenty on Garden ice as a child and later while playing at BU. One of the biggest moments of his NCAA career was scoring the overtime winner in the 2015 Beanpot championship game over Northeastern.
On an even bigger stage now, he’ll get the chance to live out a childhood dream.
“When I was out there playing with my friends or just out there skating by myself,” Grzelcyk said of a local rink not far from his home, “this is the moment that I definitely dreamed of playing in, but at the same time like I said I’m trying not to overhype it in my head and hopefully just make the most of it and think about it after.”
As he tries to keep his focus on doing what’s expected of him, which Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said was playing with toughness, withstanding the Blues’ forecheck and assisting in the transition game, Grzelcyk has heard from plenty of friends, ex-coaches and ex-teammates wishing him well, some of whom he may see after Game 1. The well-wishers all received a heartfelt reply.
“Texted them back thanking them,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this position without most of them. If they were a teammate or an ex-coach or just a friend along the way, it certainly means a lot.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.