After Charlie McAvoy finished his sophomore finals at Boston University in 2017, he decided to become a professional hockey player. The teenager signed an amateur tryout agreement and drove to Providence, Rhode Island.
“The Bruins were looking to do a model that Zach Werenski did a year before,” McAvoy says. “Which is to leave college, go play in the AHL playoffs, get your feet wet there, then the next year try to make the [NHL] team out of camp.”
When he showed up to the rink for his fifth minor league game, McAvoy was told not to dress. The Bruins were down two of their top defensemen, Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo, entering a playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. They needed McAvoy, now. He made a pit stop to his dorm room to pick up a suit and his passport, and the next thing he knew he was being introduced to his new teammates. “[Zdeno Chara], [Brad] Marchand, Patrice [Bergeron], Krug, all these guys I grew up watching playing hockey at a level that was so crazy to think that you would ever get there,” he says.
The veterans imparted one piece of advice to their newest teammate: “No pressure. Just play. Play hockey, that’s it. Nothing changes. Play hockey the same way that got you to this point.”
“They tried to play down the scene,” McAvoy says. “Which is hard, when your first game was in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
McAvoy was paired with the captain, Chara — who made his NHL debut in 1997, a month before McAvoy was born. McAvoy played the second-most minutes of any skater in his debut and finished the series with three assists, nine blocked shots, and a whopping 26:12 minutes per game of ice time. Boston lost in six games, but McAvoy got his first experience of why NHL players, coaches, and executives often describe the Bruins’ culture as so unique.