BOSTON — Once upon a time, Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes was one of the kids enjoying visits from pro hockey players who ventured out into the surrounding community to spend an afternoon playing street hockey with the local kids.
Wednesday afternoon, therefore, was a bit of a role reversal for him. This time, he was the pro hockey player wearing the Bruins jersey and teaching the local kids a thing or two about the sport he loves.
“That was awesome,” Hayes said, after he and new teammate Matt Beleskey hosted a street hockey clinic with about 20 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Charlestown at the Puopolo Basketball Courts in Boston’s North End. “I remember being a young kid and having pros show up to play street hockey with you, and it was just a dream come true as a young kid. Having kids from the same community I’m from, and just giving back, is always awesome.”
For both Hayes and Beleskey, Wednesday marked their introduction to the community as members of the Boston Bruins. Beleskey — who hails from Ontario and spent the last six-plus seasons with the Anaheim Ducks before signing a five-year contract with Boston last week — is a bit less familiar with his surroundings than Hayes, but Wednesday afternoon was still special for him nonetheless.
“It’s great to get out into the community here,” he said. “It’s my first time here — [I got to] meet some kids and see how excited they are about the Bruins and about playing hockey, so it’s always fun to get out there.”
The fact that Wednesday marked his first opportunity to don a Bruins sweater made it even more fun, even in the 86-degree heat.
“It was great to put on the jersey,” he said, then joked, “Might have thought I was in TD Garden, the first time I’d have it on, but it was great to be out here and put it on and get a stick in my hand, and have that feeling.”
Both Beleskey and Hayes have been all over the Boston community for the last couple of days. Hayes was already spending his summer in Boston’s Seaport District when he was traded from Florida to Boston one week ago, but Beleskey flew in on Monday, then spent the day touring his new city with his wife.
Since then, both of them have met with the Boston media for the first time. They have visited Fenway Park and were honored on the field prior to Tuesday night’s Red Sox game against the Marlins.
Wednesday’s street hockey clinic was the perfect way to cap off the trip.
“It was great to get out here with the kids,” Beleskey said. “You see how excited they are — they’re all smiling and having fun playing hockey, and that’s really what it’s all about. I remember being that kid, going around and playing road hockey, so it was a great feeling today.”
Having the opportunity to get acquainted with his new city alongside Hayes has made the experience even better.
“Jimmy — the pride of Dorchester,” Beleskey said with a grin. “It’s been fun walking around with him and seeing the excitement about him coming back to Boston, and I’m excited for him to have his family be able to see him play in the Bruins jersey as well.
“I think he knew half the people at Fenway last night, so it’s been good so far, for sure.”
David O’Brien, the Social Recreation Director of the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club, was just as happy to welcome both Hayes and Beleskey into the fold as they were to be there.
“It was great, having the kids out here,” he said. “It was great for them to meet Jimmy, who’s a local guy, and having him back in Boston is going to be great. The kids were all excited about Matt as well.
“Obviously, Charlestown’s a hockey community, so it was great to actually get some of the kids from the community out here. They had a blast. They were all out there having a good time, so that’s what it’s all about.”
Though Hayes spent the first four years of his professional career outside of Boston, he is obviously familiar with the culture of his home city, and having the opportunity to get out into that community as the newest member of the hometown hockey team marked the perfect way to kick off his Bruins career.
“[Giving back] is something the Bruins pride themselves on,” he said. “There are locals everywhere, and the kids in the city love it, and people outside the city love it as well. It’s just an awesome feeling to be a part of the community, to give back and to have an opportunity to make a kid smile for a day.”
Just a few weeks ago, Hayes joined Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the unveiling of the newly renovated Garvey Park Street Hockey Rink in Dorchester. One brief whirlwind later, he had the chance to get out into the Boston community again, except this time, he did it wearing a Bruins jersey.
How quickly things can change over the course of a few weeks.
“To be able to walk in for the first time with the Bruins jersey on was a really cool experience,” Hayes said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing, and now to have the real jersey on is amazing.”