BostonBruins.com – Jamie Tardif is 28 years old. He has played in the AHL for the past seven seasons – including the last two with Providence – performing well over his time in the minors. But the forward hadn’t gotten a shot at playing in the NHL until February 3, when he took the ice for the Boston against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in a Bruins’ 1-0 win.
The former 2003 fourth-round pick by the Calgary Flames never gave up on his dream of playing in the NHL, and when injuries to Boston’s Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille forced them to miss time, Tardif was the one to get the call – finally, his dream had come true.
The Welland, Ontario native was thrilled to be returning home to the Toronto area to make his NHL debut.
“I’ve been waiting for a chance at this for a while,” said Tardif, who was signed by the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 5, 2011. “I’m going into my eighth year pro, here, so I’m just fortunate. At the same time, I [was] excited, go- ing back to my hometown of Toronto, definitely very exciting.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was pretty nervous [during his debut]. [I was] anx- ious, nervous all day, right from the morning skate. It was very good. I had a little trouble sleeping in my pre-game nap, but once you get to the rink everything settles in.
“In warm-ups, the guys got me to go first, which was a little bit of a prank for my first NHL game. But they didn’t leave me out there for too long. It was maybe half a lap and then they joined me out there. It was very exciting, and I had about 12 to 15 family members out there. It was very nice.”
Boston Head Coach Claude Julien praised the many aspects of Tardif’s game that have allowed him to have so much success this season. Tardif, who was invited to the Bruins’ training camp, but did not make the team, was the second leading scorer in the AHL with 21 goals before being called up to Boston.
“I liked him a lot. He can shoot the puck, and I think he’s second in the league in goals scored, and it doesn’t surprise me because he’s really good,” Julien said before Tardif’s NHL debut against Toronto, on seeing him play in Providence.
“He’s got a really good shot. Not only that, but he’s a hard worker and works hard both ways. He’s a good fore checker. He’s a good back checker. He com- petes hard all the time, and it’s nice to see those guys get rewarded for putting all those years in the minors and finally getting a chance to play in the NHL.
“Here’s a guy who’s been around for a long time, he’s an experienced player. And, for him, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s earned it, and certainly he was the right choice to bring in for us.”
Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney talked about Tardif’s work ethic being a great fit for the Bruins’ organization and also expressed that he was happy to see that hard work pay off.
“His work ethic and his approach to the game, it’s a real professional attitude that Jamie brings to the rink,” said Sweeney. “When he signed with our organiza- tion, he hoped that he would get an opportunity to play NHL games, and now he’s seeing that realization of a dream come true.”
“It’s great to see a player like Jamie get rewarded. He’s been in the minor leagues for quite some time, he’s played over 400 games there. It’s great to see. It’s im- portant for our whole organization.
“For our younger players, to see guys continue to stick to it, to work hard and then get an opportunity. He’s rebounded from a concussion injury last year and Jamie’s been a great leader for our kids on and off the ice. He’s done a nice job while playing with Ryan Spooner for a lot of this year and he’s fitting in well with our organizational philosophy.”
For someone like Tardif, who has spent so much time in the minor leagues, it can be tough to stay driven and continue to put in the time and effort to improve. But, Tardif never gave up and, eventually, it led to him getting his shot.
Tardif says it was tough to get his chance because of someone else getting hurt, but knows that injuries are part of the game and he has to be ready in case a situations like that occur.
“It’s a terrible thing to watch a hockey game and wait for someone to possibly get hurt to get your chance,” said Tardif, who before coming to the Boston organization, spent five years in the Detroit Red Wings’ system.
“But, a lot of guys have gotten their chance that way and made great careers in the NHL. I just wanted to show the things I’ve done to be successful and let the cards fall where they may.”
Being a prospect in the Detroit system was not easy, Tardif explained, saying that with all of the Red Wings’ success over the years, there weren’t many spots up for grabs.
“Obviously, I thought about it, possibly,” he said, when asked if he thought he may never get a chance at the NHL. “Once I signed with Boston, I was extremely excited. With Detroit – I’ve got nothing but great things to say for the six years I was with them. – but, it’s a tough lineup to crack, and they have a different phi- losophy there. Here, I think it’s a great fit, it’s just my style.”
What exactly is Tardif’s style? He says he’s the kind of player that has always had a knack for scoring goals by doing the dirty work – battling and getting to the front of the net.
“In my whole career, ever since I was 16 and my first year in the OHL, I think I’ve been very successful at going to the net and finding the back of the net,” Tardif explained. “I think that’s something that I’ve done very well this year down in Providence, [there’s been] some great plays by teammates of course.
“Just having my stick down in the right place, at the right time and I’ve been the benefactor of a lot of goals around the net.”
Tardif, who was recently named to the AHL All-Star Game held at the Baby B’s own Dunkin’ Donuts Center, credits the NHL lockout for some of his success this season. Julien, Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli, and assistant GM Don Sweeney made frequent trips down to Providence during the work stoppage to check out their prospects, which Tardif thinks helped him get noticed.
The six-foot, 205-pound winger also explained that he wanted to be playing at a high level in Providence during the work stoppage in case he was needed when, and if, the NHL did come back.
“My main focus was, obviously, to have a great start in case the NHL did come back. The NHL did start back, which I was very fortunate that it did, and I’m getting a chance here. I think just staying focused and looking at the big picture helped.
“I’m considered an old guy in Providence,” he joked. “I’m 28 years old, so I’m lucky to have a shot.”