– Brett Pesce
was raised in Tarrytown, New York, so, naturally, he grew up a New York Rangers fan.
He and his family would come to see the Blueshirts play at Madison Square Garden.
“That was always a treat,” he said.
Now, the story is a bit different. Pesce is back at the now-renovated Madison Square Garden, only this time he’s facing his childhood favorites as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Though this isn’t the rookie defenseman’s first time playing an NHL game in New York – he skated against the Islanders in Brooklyn nearly two weeks ago – this one is extra special.
“It’s just pretty surreal getting the opportunity to play them,” Pesce said with a smile.
The 20-year-old blueliner expects “around 20” family and friends to be in attendance tonight – and that’s the people he knows of. There could be more.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
And not to fret: they will be dressed appropriately.
“They’ll be wearing red and white, don’t worry,” he said. “They all used to be Rangers fans, but now they’re obviously Canes fans.”
Tonight will mark Pesce’s eighth NHL game since being recalled in late October. Especially for a rookie, butterflies are normal, expected even. Stepping onto the ice to face off against the team he grew up following might even be a little weird, but head coach Bill Peters is confident in his young defenseman.
“He’s a mature guy. He knows what’s going on,” Peters said. “We’ve had talks with all of our young D at different times. A lot of things that are going to happen this year are going to be firsts. First time playing at MSG. First time playing out in Western Canada. First NHL game. First NHL goal. First NHL point. They’re fine.”
“I guess I’ll have to see. I assume it would be a little weird at least for warm-ups and pregame,” he said. “I think once the puck drops, it’s all going to be taken away.”
After all, it’s just the same game of hockey once the puck drops.
“You’ve been playing the game forever, and it’s just another game, no matter who you’re playing. That’s how I try to think of it,” Pesce said. “I think that’s a pretty good way to approach it, especially as a young guy like me playing against the team I grew up liking. Hopefully I feel comfortable right from puck drop.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email