Homecoming for Hayes, Jimmy that is
“Just playing in the NHL is quite an accomplishment,” Boston College head coach Jerry York said earlier this week at Hockey East media day in the spiffy and revamped Legends. The Bruins were also holding a practice session where one of his protégés was skating a day after making his preseason debut against the Devils.
For York, who has sent a bevy of Eagles to the big sheet, this week marks a special occasion with two former players also hailing from the same household – as well as just a slap shot down the Expressway in Dorchester.
We’ll save the “sibling revelry” theme for feature coverage a few months down the calendar road when the Bruins and Rangers meet the day after Thanksgiving. That meal at the Hayes’ household should have a few extra courses of banter, not to mention the length of the caravan up the Expressway the next day when Jimmy and younger bro’ Kevin square off for two points.
Kevin enjoyed a breakout rookie season last year on Broadway with 45 points in 72 games.
Thursday night was Jimmy’s first TD Garden appearance in Black and Gold (No. 11), compliments of GM Don Sweeney’s fore into the trading pool this past summer when he shipped Reilly Smith to Florida for the 6-foot 6 and 221-pound left winger.
Two years in the Sunshine State put a cloud over Hayes’ future as a Panther when he had but 18 points in 53 games in 2013-14, and 35 last year in 72 games.
He helped lead the Eagles to the national championship in 2010, the middle year of his three-year run on the Heights from 2008-2011 after Toronto took him at No. 60 in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Thursday night, Hayes cracked the starting line-up at forward with Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly, playing nine shifts in the first period over 7 minutes and 10 seconds. His final tally would be a respectable 18:44 in the 4-3 shootout final by the home team after spotting the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
“It’s a moment that I always envisioned happening,” Hayes told NESN in July about coming home to play in Boston. “I just didn’t know when, and didn’t know it would happen this soon, so happening now, when I’m 25, is just a huge opportunity for me.”
Unavailable for post-game interviews Thursday night, Hayes will be counted on to produce offensively, especially with a new three-year $6.9 million contract barely dry since the trade.
After Kevin netted the Rangers’ third goal Thursday night, it appeared Jimmy would match that point with an assist on Boston’s second goal, however, that was withdrawn by the official scorer.
York’s thoughts about the pressures of Hayes playing in his backyard — and the return of BC alums to TD Garden?
“Jimmy’s got no problem with playing in his hometown,” he said. “His personality will allow him to handle that. For some people, it’s a problem, but he’s fine.
“For sure, it’s exciting for all of us when an alum plays for the Bruins. We watch all the Bruins’ games, regardless.”
York will be joined by legions of BC followers and Dorchester neighbors on November 27 when brothers Jimmy and Kevin meet up for some post-holiday bragging rights.