Grzelcyk, Fitzgerald share local ties as B's products

Grzelcyk, Fitzgerald share local ties as B's products
July 12, 2013, 9:15 am
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WILMINGTON – There’s something pretty reassuring about the quality of hockey players being produced by Massachusetts when a pair of lifelong buddies with Charlestown roots can sit across from each other in the Bruins dressing room during summer developmental camp.

Charlestown native Matt Grzelcyk and North Reading native Ryan Fitzgerald, who made it to the suburbs by way of Charlestown, had lockers on opposite sides of the Bruins dressing room at Ristuccia Arena, but they’ve known each other for their entire lives as members of diehard Boston hockey families. Both grew up with the TD Garden as their playground, Grzelcyk’s dad, John, a longtime member of the Garden’s bull gang crew and Fitzgerald the son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald.

Grzelcyk was drafted by the Bruins in 2012 as a third round pick with the US National Team Development Program on his resume, and a career at Boston University just about to start up. Fitzgerald starred at Malden Catholic and then for the Valley Junior Warriors where he posted 14 goals and 30 points in 26 games before the Bruins selected him in the fourth round a couple of weeks ago in New Jersey.

So Grzelcyk has been through the Bruins Developmental Camp drill once before.

“They still keep you on your toes and mix things up, but you definitely feel a little more comfortable when you’ve been through it before,” said the 5-foot-9, 171-pound Grzelcyk, who posted three goals and 23 points in 36 games as a standout freshman defenseman for the Terriers. “The biggest message from the Bruins that I take is how hard you need to work to make it at this level. They really stress training off the ice, and stuff like that. That’s what I’m focusing on. But I think the notion that it takes hard work to be a Bruin is what I’m coming away with.”

That’s a good message for the smooth-skating defenseman to take out of the week-long summer camp, and one would expect it’s the same tones being heard by the son of a hard-working forward like Fitzgerald.

He’ll be at the Heights this season, and already lives on campus while getting ready to be an impact player as a freshman for Boston College. So once again the two buddies will be linked together in the greatest college hockey rivalry there is, but for now they were enjoying a little summer practice time together with the beloved Spoked ‘B’ jersey on their chest.

“I’ve gotten to know a few of the kids, and I knew a few of the guys [like Grzelcyk] from before. So it’s been easier to adapt,” said Fitzgerald. “Going in you had a few jitters, but you go through it and get used to it. I’ve been living here for the last eight years ever since my dad came back here to play [for the Bruins], so I’ve been here a lot.

“I remember being on the ice with him skating when he was out here practicing, so it’s a little weird being on the other end of it. But it’s also great.”

The elder Fitzgerald finished with 4 goals and 10 points in 71 games for the 2005-06 Bruins team that’s also known as the season that Boston traded away Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks. That was the final season of a 15-year career where Fitz topped 1,000 NHL games split largely between the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators.

Those kinds of bloodlines are something the Bruins clearly don’t mind investing in, particularly when 18-year-old Fitzgerald is also the nephew of Bruins assistant director of amateur scouting Scott Fitzgerald.

“I think bloodlines -- history dictates that a lot of those guys have success. I think he’s got a dad [Tom Fitzgerald] that knew what it took and Ryan has a lot of the same attributes. [He’s] really, really smart on the ice,” said Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he goes to the areas of the ice he knows he has to go to and he goes there with conviction. He makes plays. He’s a two-way player, but I think it’s a healthy dynamic to have that, to have your dad to be able to turn to in that situation.

“He’s got a wealth of knowledge of being around the game and the pro environment. He sort of knows the steps along the way, and how hard it is. Most importantly, how hard it is to have that realistic approach that some kids don’t have the benefit of.”

The mature answers and even-keeled approach to what must be a surreal situation for Fitzgerald and Grzelcyk certainly show the good, solid, grounded hockey families that both Boston prospects hail from as they keep on climbing the ladder in the great, big hockey world.