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Boychuk Brightens the B's

by Samantha Wood / Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk hugs goalie Tuukka Rask, right, after Boston's 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers in an NHL hockey game in Boston on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Boston, MA -- Johnny Boychuk has a solid back-up plan if hockey doesn’t pan out for him.

“I’d probably be a Red Sox player,” he said with a laugh.

“Yeah, probably at shortstop, because I can’t really play outfield too good.”

It’s unlikely you’ll see the Bruins blueliner take the field for the Sox anytime soon, because over the past 52 games this season, Boychuk has proven himself a significant asset to the B’s, both on the ice and in the locker room.

In fact, the 6’2” 26 year-old has earned a reputation for being a cheerful touchstone.

A journeyman of sorts, Boychuk has suited up for 12 teams in his 11-year junior and professional career. But Providence and Boston teammate Trent Whitfield agreed that Boychuk’s optimistic attitude is invaluable to any team.

“He keeps things loose, always joking around,” Whitfield said. “So he’s one of those guys that you just love to have on your team because he’s just a character.

“You never know what he might say or do.”

Boychuk first laced up his skates as a 4 year-old in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The youngest of three boys, he found role models in his brothers, both of whom continue to play hockey on an amateur level.

“My older brothers, I looked up to them. They were always there, locking me outside and making me shoot pucks,” said Boychuk, beaming.

Growing up watching the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s, the young Boychuk set his sights on the one day translating his passion for hockey into a career.

“Watching the NHL, watching Edmonton when they were really, really good; those guys, just watching them play hockey, it inspires everybody,” said Boychuk. He paused and added, “Especially when they win enough Stanley Cups for one hand.”

Now in the midst of his first full season in the NHL, Boychuk has played 26 games, registering 2-7-9 totals.

On off-days, you’ll find him hanging out with fellow Edmonton native and defenseman Derek Morris or playing video games, but only war-type games -- he leaves professional sports for the real world, he said.

Former road trip roommate Adam McQuaid got to know Boychuk over the 2008-09 season they both spent in Providence.

“He’s a fun guy to be around, especially maybe when your spirits aren’t great,” said McQuaid. “He’s always there to pick you up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a bad mood.”

McQuaid remembered back to his first NHL game, which was against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 19 of this season. Boychuk, who had been in Boston several months before McQuaid arrived, shared some pre-game words of wisdom.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only hockey night in Canada! Everyone back home’s not watching!’ It’s just kind of the way he jokes around about stuff like that,” said McQuaid.

Joking aside, McQuaid said Boychuk continued, and ended up giving him the valuable advice that helped him calm his nerves.

“He said, ‘No, don’t worry about it. It’s the same game, just go out and do your thing.’ So he has a way of lightening things up,” said McQuaid.

His positive attitude and joy for the game seems to have the surprising power to transform the feel of the entire locker room. But when asked how he stays so optimistic, Boychuk said that, in life, there’s simply no other choice.

“I just do,” he said. “Just because you can’t really get down on yourself because if you keep getting down on yourself, you’re just going to get worse.

“And why would you want to do that, really?”

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