Kevin Shattenkirk has fond memories of the first time he took a spin on the TD Garden ice.
It was February 2008 and Shattenkirk was a fresh-faced freshman at Boston University preparing to play in the Beanpot. Though the Terriers lost to archrival Boston College on that night, Shattenkirk remembers the spirited crowd and electric atmosphere.
“And then I remember my first time coming back here as a pro, and it’s a lot different when you really don’t have anyone cheering for you. So, I’m excited to have my first game there on the right side of the jersey,” Shattenkirk said before making his Bruins debut in Friday night’s preseason loss to the Flyers.
Shattenkirk always makes it a point to look to the rafters where the names and numbers of legendary Bruins, including fellow defensemen Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, hang.
“I think there’s a small number of rinks in this league where you go out for a pregame skate or whatever it is, and you really understand the magnitude of where you’re playing and the people who came before you,” said Shattenkirk. “And I was really excited when I got to meet a lot of [Bruins greats] at the golf outing a few weeks ago. And when you really get to see how much pride they take in the Bruins organization, it makes it real for you to know that we are wearing a jersey that’s pretty sacred.”
It’s been a long and winding road for Shattenkirk to come back to Boston. His pro journey includes stops in Lake Erie (as a rookie in 2009) and Finland (during the 2012 lockout), and seven NHL outposts. Through those address changes, he always linked back to the city where he won an NCAA championship in 2009.
“It started when I was drafted [in 2007]. I remember having a bunch of good meetings with Peter Chiarelli, the Bruins GM at the time, and the scouting staff,” Shattenkirk recalled. “And I think I remember on draft day we really thought I was going to come here at No. 8, and my draft year got completely scrambled.”
The Bruins drafted Zach Hamill and Shattenkirk went to the Avalanche at No. 14. He was traded to the Blues during his rookie year and began a run of seven seasons in St. Louis, where he was again linked to Boston.
“I remember I was almost traded from St. Louis here. And I think it would’ve been for what would’ve been Charlie McAvoy’s pick. So that was a smart move by management on that one,” Shattenkirk said with a smile.
Shattenkirk eventually was traded to the Capitals and has had other stints with the Rangers, Lightning (with whom he won the Stanley Cup), and Ducks. Several times before signing free agent deals elsewhere, he had conversations with the Bruins. He finally landed with the organization in July, signing a one-year, $1.05 million deal.
“It’s funny how that happens,” he said. “I think when you have a few teams who I guess appreciate what you do, you kind of know that you’re always on their radar. And in this league, it’s just a matter of timing and waiting for things to line up.”
A little more than a week into training camp Shattenkirk has shown flashes of the speed and smarts that have made him a fixture in the league. He attended some pro workouts at Walter Brown Arena and the Bruins’ captains’ practice, which helped him acclimate to the organization.
“It feels great. I’m starting to really understand how they play and the systems and everything, and I’m excited to really put it into action,” he said. “They’ve put me with Hampus [Lindholm] most of camp so far. And I think playing with someone who I know from Anaheim and obviously someone who can explain things to me and get me on the right page quickly, it’s super helpful. So, camp’s been competitive. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve just been really enjoying it.”
Coincidentally, Shattenkirk’s defensive coach in Boston is Joe Sacco, who was the head coach in Colorado during his rookie season. Shattenkirk said there were some bumps in the road that first year.
“He has that same sort of professionalism and same approach to the game that he did when we were in Colorado. And I think now that I’ve grown up, there’s probably a few more things we can laugh about now that I screwed up in the past,” Shattenkirk said. “I was late for a bus once and I remember I had a pretty harsh meeting with him. I’m fortunate that he allowed me to stay up. But those little lessons stuck with me, and they allowed me to grow as a player and as a person, and I’m definitely thankful for that.”
Sacco is thankful, too, to get another go-round with Shattenkirk.
“He’s a veteran player. He’s been around and he’s a really intelligent hockey player, he sees the ice very well,” said Sacco. “He’s just going to provide us with a strong veteran presence back there, a good puck mover. Hopefully when we’re under pressure in our zone, he’s going to be able to get us out, alleviate some of that pressure quickly and make the game a little bit easier, and he’s going to be a good transition player for us.”
The Bruins were off Saturday and will return to practice Sunday in preparation for back-to-back preseason games Monday (against the Flyers in Philadelphia) and Tuesday (home against the Capitals).