August 31, 2018 | 11:00am ET
By Shawn Hutcheon, The Fourth Period

HOW BOSTON’S GRZELCYK SPENT HIS SUMMER

 
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Matt Grzelcyk, defenceman

 
 

BOSTON, MA -- This summer in Boston has been a very hot and humid one, but with September on the horizon, people throughout the hockey world are beginning to count the days to the opening of NHL training camps and a new hockey season. 

The players have been in full training-mode on and off the ice for a few weeks and it was at a rink in Tewksbury, Massachusetts where TFP and Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who was honing his skills in a 3-vs-3 pro league operated by High End Hockey, sat down and talked about his first full season in the League, his summer vacation with Jack Eichel, and expectations for the upcoming season, including Boston’s trip to China and the 2019 Winter Classic.

TFP: What were the highlights of the 2017-18 season for you as a player?
MG: For me, getting my feet wet and getting in a number of games in the NHL was always my focus. I just wanted to kind of solidify a spot for myself and was very pleased with that and once I kind of earned the opportunity, just wanted to make the most of it and try to never feel comfortable and always feel like I have something to prove to everyone and myself that I want to play in the League, obviously. It’s not easy to make it but it’s a lot harder to stay, for sure, and that’s something that my dad always told me, “Once you get the opportunity, don’t take it for granted and keep working.” I think that was the biggest thing for me and obviously, I’m really happy for the opportunity.

TFP: Which Bruin veteran had the biggest influence on you?
MG: I think it was multiple and I think that’s what made the team so successful. I think having a tight (knit) team allowed us to get through so many games where we had a lot of pride and we were down (on the scoreboard) quite a few times going into the third period and we were able to gut it out and that’s not easy to do playing the number of game we do during the regular season. I think that’s a testament to the leaders like (Patrice) Bergeron, (Zdeno) Chara, (Brad) Marchand, Torey Krug, really everyone steps up and is very vocal and is very welcoming of the young guys as well so I think that made a huge difference for us and made us feel comfortable right away.

TFP: Going into the 2018-19 season, there are high expectations for the Bruins among those who follow the NHL. Have those expectations filtered into the dressing room?
MG: We got a little bit of a sniff of it (playoff success) last year. I don’t think people expected us to do quite as well as we did. Now, the expectations are there and we welcome them. You challenge yourself day in and day out, put your best foot forward, and I think people are well aware of the success we had last year so we need to build upon it. We need to stay healthy as much as we can, I think that hit us a little bit towards the end (of the postseason run). I think just knowing that each team is going to give you their best every night we go to play them. That’s huge going into next year and I think the guys will be ready for that.

TFP: The off-season has seen a few changes to the team’s personnel. What are thoughts on those changes?
MG: I haven’t played in the NHL for too long so I’m not very familiar with a lot of the (new) guys. I just looking forward to, hopefully, having a good training camp and seeing how the team comes together. It’s a business and moves are made so that’s out of the players’ control. You just gotta go to camp and gel together and get that cohesive bond that we had last year and I think that’ll be good.

TFP: Speaking of training camp, one would think you are looking forward to going to China for the O.R.G. China Games versus the Calgary Flames...
MG: Yeah, that will be a cool experience. Never been over there. It’ll be a little bit different having training camp over there for a bit but it’ll be fun just being around the guys. I think that’ll help us be together after a long summer. It’ll be nice to visit some things you would not normally see and experience a different culture but at the same time, we gotta go over there and get ready for the season as well, so hopefully we can play well and treat those games as if they’re regular season games.

TFP: Some teammates have spent parts of their summers in China as part of an initiative between the Bruins and O.R.G. What have they said about their experiences?
MG: Yeah, I roomed with Danton Heinen (who recently returned from China). Me, him, Sean (Kuraly), Jake DeBrusk, we played in Providence (AHL) together so we’re pretty close and he (Heinen) said it was a really cool experience. I think the guys are bringing their brothers, which is cool for them. It should be cool to experience a different culture over there because it’s a lot different from over here.

TFP: You will also play against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Notre Dame. Although you played at Notre Dame while with Boston University, it will be your first time playing in the Winter Classic. That must be another date circled on your calendar.
MG: Yeah, that’s something you always watch growing up and everyone plays outdoor hockey. Since the Winter Classic came in, it’s been real exciting for fans and everyone watches on TV every year so that’ll be exciting to go to and to play at Notre Dame and being familiar with that, so it should be a fun experience.

TFP: Did you attend the Winter Classic games at Fenway Park and/or Gillette Stadium?
MG: I did. I wasn’t with the NHL when I went to see BU/BC at Fenway Park (in 2010). It was really fun so just being a part of that atmosphere kind of brings you back to playing on the ponds. It’ll be awesome especially with two original six teams. A lot of history in that game. It’s always good when the Bruins and the Blackhawks meet.

TFP: On a different note, how have you spent your summer vacation?
MG: I went on a golf trip to Kiawah Island, South Carolina with a couple of classmates from BU. Jack (Eichel) came as well and we had a lot of fun. It’s something I’d never done before so it was nice to unwind a little bit and enjoy the weather and play a couple of nice courses. No one is too good in the group but we all kind of follow the major tournaments. Other than that, just train and get ready for the year.

TFP: What are focusing on with your training?
MG: Just trying to put on a couple pounds (of muscle) here and there and see how it feels on the ice and trying to work on my shot. That’s something I can definitely improve and just use it as another weapon back there and hopefully be a little more of an offensive threat along with getting some extra ice time and hopefully use those skills to my advantage and be ready when my number is called.            

TFP: Other than winning the Stanley Cup, what are your expectations for your career?
MG: I guess I really haven’t thought about it. I just made it last year and while I’m happy to be here, I certainly want to work as hard as I can and continue to earn my spot and kind of never feel like I made it. I never really want that feeling just having something to always push towards and keep yourself motivated. I focus on earning my ice time, working hard, and trying to stay healthy and play as many games as I can.

TFP: Now that you have a full season under your belt, as a Bostonian, is playing for the Bruins everything you’ve dreamed about?
MG: Yeah, it’s really cool. You know, always having my family around for support and friends that come to the games. I think that kind of helped me during my first year just feeling a little more comfortable and not as wide-eyed. Playing in the NHL and playing that many games, it was nice to be around Boston, the city where I grew up. Just to have that to lean back on and do certain things on off-days so it definitely made it a very enjoyable experience so far and I hope I can continue to do that for many years.

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Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.
Follow him on Twitter.