BOSTON, MA – When the Bruins take the ice tonight at TD Garden for the first time this season, 18 of the 20 skaters will look familiar in Black & Gold. Two, however, are expected to be donning the spoked-B for the very first time.
Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Chris Bourque are both looking forward to their first official NHL games on Causeway Street as members of the Bruins.
For Bourque, things are coming full circle.
“It’s pretty surreal right now,” said Bourque of his emotions. “I grew up in this locker room and the [Boston Garden] right next door that’s not here anymore. Me and my litter brother kind of thought we owned the place but, you know, it’s a lot different now coming in here and playing for the team so it’s exciting.
“I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, to play for the Bruins and today’s finally the day it’s going to happen. Trying to soak it all in and have fun with it and I’m really excited for tonight.”
Bourque, whose father - Hall of Famer Ray Bourque - will be in attendance tonight, was asked how many other family members will be on hand for the game.
“Too many to count,” Bourque joked. “We’ve got a crew up from Montreal and friends and family from around here. I know my dad has a box and we’ve got a couple tickets to give out to a couple buddies of mine, so probably close to 30 or so...maybe 40.”
The left winger is trying to focus on hockey, though, and block out all of the emotions and fanfare that have surrounded Opening Night.
“I actually slept a lot better last night than I thought I was going to and hopefully that continues today with the pre-game nap,” said the former Boston University Terrier. “But, honestly, it just feels like another game, that might sound a little bit crazy, but it really does.
“I’m really looking forward to it, but I’m trying to treat it as normal as possible because you don’t want to get too high or too low. Just trying to stay focused and worry about the things that I control out there and just play my game. If I do that I think I’ll be successful.”
With the New York Rangers - who some predict as being a serious contender for the Stanley Cup - in town for the opener, it’s a pretty big night to be making a debut with a new team.
“I think any time an Original Six team plays each other it’s always a big rivalry,” Bourque said. “There’s been some pretty good games with the Bruins and Rangers the past couple years so that will probably continue over this year.
“They’ve got a really good team, they’ve added some good players. We have a really good team too, with pretty much the same exact team as last year, minus a couple guys. A lot of the same faces, so it’s probably going to be the same kind of headlines, I think.”
Hamilton has been under the spotlight since he was drafted ninth overall by the Bruins in the 2011 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-5, 19-year-old said he has gotten a few texts over the last few days from friends wishing him luck ahead of his first game and, like Bourque, is ready to get the debut he calls a life-long dream out of the way.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” said Hamilton. “Just my first game, I just want to enjoy it as much as I can, just have it as a memory that I’ll always look back on and remember.
“I think a lot of guys are happy to be back here, playing again. I’m sure it’ll be fun and exciting to get the games going. We’ll just try to work as hard as we can and start up the season right.
“I’m just excited to get out there.”