HALIFAX - Blueliner Andrew Bodnarchuk capped off his hockey season with a special boost.
The former Halifax Mooseheads captain got to step under the bright lights of the Staples Center on June 13 – just two days after his 26th birthday – and hoist the Stanley Cup over his head alongside some of the game’s biggest stars.
When his year with the Manchester Monarchs came to a close, the Los Angeles Kings called upon its American Hockey League affiliate to send up some “black aces,” or practice players, to help them on their road to NHL supremacy.
That included Bodnarchuk of Hammonds Plains, who was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the fifth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
From training off the ice and celebrating on the ice, the five young up-and-comers were alongside their Kings counterparts for the 2014 Stanley Cup journey.
“That last game, just before overtime started, one of the trainers came, grabbed all our gear and got our jerseys and socks,” Bodnarchuk said Monday of his stand-out memories from L.A.’s 3-2 double overtime win over the New York Rangers.
“We watched the first overtime, and second overtime, and we were half-dressed in our gear in the dressing room,” he recalled. “As soon as that goal was scored by (Alec) Martinez, it was pure mayhem.”
Although he was hesitant about lifting Lord Stanley himself, since as a younger guy “you don’t want to step on any toes or be out of line,” team veterans encouraged their black ace players to give it a go.
“I got to hoist it for a little bit there, and then it was into the dressing room for celebration time,” Bodnarchuk said. “It was awesome; I’m really glad I did it.”
Bodnarchuk’s fiancée Stephanie Bullock enjoyed the on-ice festivities with him, while proud family members watched from the crowd and on the big screen.
For Bodnarchuk, getting a taste of Stanley Cup victory is also an inspirational boost.
“I don’t think there’s any bigger motivator,” he said. “It’s just a matter of staying patient and waiting for your turn.”
Bodnarchuk has one year remaining his contract with the Kings. Los Angeles held a parade for their local NHL franchise Monday.