BOSTON, MA -
When 74,554 fans packed Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, MIchigan to watch the University of Michigan and Michigan State hockey teams play out the "Cold War" in the open air of October 2001 (a 3-3 tie), young defenseman Matt Hunwick, a future Wolverine Captain, was just starting a two-year stint with the United States Under-18 Team and playing in the NAHL.
Fast-forward to the present day and Hunwick finds himself with four varsity letters from Michigan, a 6-22-28 line in 66 NHL games, a new contract, the same Black & Gold jersey and the opportunity to play an even more exciting outdoor hockey game on the field at Fenway Park in Boston.
"I think it’s something probably every player has circled on the calendar," said Hunwick via conference call. "I think it’s something everyone wants to be a part of whether you like the cold or not you want to be a part of that game.
"I think it will be in a unique environment.”
It's all quite unique for a guy who was taken out of Wilmington's Ristuccia Memorial Arena on a stretcher after pregame skate during last spring’s playoffs. In a scary juxtaposition, instead of hitting the ice with his teammates, that evening doctors had to remove a ruptured spleen from the young B’s blueliner.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice,” said Hunwick, who sounded as if he no longer wished to dwell on his injury. “Things obviously ended rough for not only our team, but for myself, just to have the playoffs cut so short in such a quick period of time.
“I’m really looking forward to going out and carrying on and what I started last season and really becoming the player that I think I know I can become.”
As he spoke to the Boston hockey media, Hunwick explained why he thought the B’s were so strong throughout the 2008-09 campaign.
“We took it one game at a time and we really felt like we were never going to lose,” he said. “We never looked too far ahead in those games we were playing.
“And it was just one of those things where we couldn’t quite keep it going in the playoffs, but I think everything’s in place and it’s just a matter of going out and doing it now.”
Last year’s Bruins club prided itself on not looking back, too.
So Hunwick and the B’s understand that they will have to work even harder to maintain their top positioning in the Eastern Conference.
Because of the injury, Hunwick has had to work harder than most.
"I think from the moment I got home…I started training," said the hard working Michigan native. "I took my rest when I was in the hospital and from that point on I’ve been slowly coming back.
"Probably since the middle of June I’ve felt 100% in as far as I have my wind and…there’s absolutely no limitations right now and I’m training just as hard if not harder than I was last summer.”
During all of that training and throughout his brief free agency period, Hunwick had his heart set on returning to the TD Garden.
"Boston is where I wanted to be," he said. "There are no more passionate fans out there than Bruins fans…it’s always exciting to come to the rink and to put on the Black and Gold jersey
“It never really crossed my mind as far as going somewhere else."
Except maybe Fenway Park?
Author: John Bishop | BostonBruins.com