By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
Adam McQuaid was a mess of emotion during Bostons Stanley Cup parade.
On that sunny Saturday in June, with over one million people bearing witness, McQuaid felt overjoyed, blessed and . . . awkward.
At first it was almost uncomfortable, he said. Just being up there in front of so many people. . . . People screaming and stuff.
Candor is one of his most endearing qualities.
The Bruins defenseman just finished his first full season with the Bruins. He had 19 points (3 G, 16 A) in 67 regular season and 23 playoff games. He finished plus-30 before the postseason started to lead all rookies in plus-minus. One month after winning the Stanley Cup, the 24-year old signed a three-year extension with Boston. General Manager Peter Chiarelli called McQuaid the poster child for Bruins development.
It is the stuff of pond hockey dreams. The realization nearly embarrasses him.
It definitely was amazing to see the reaction of the city. Especially . . . you know . . . at the parade and even . . . I would go all season long just walking around town and going to different restaurants and whatnot and no one had a clue who I was, he said.
Then I was only in town for a few days after the parade, but people would be coming up and saying congratulations and whatnot. It was definitely a little different, but . . . I don't know . . . it's nice to see the support that we had.
The words dont come easily. Not because McQuaid isnt well spoken he is. And its not because he hasnt taken the time to think about all thats happened this year he has. He gropes for a reaction because, in some ways, he cant get his arms around the whole thing.
Its even more fantastical than the kid on the pond could imagine.
I still think that I don't realize just how big, you know, it is, he said. Really the course of the year just so much has gone on with, first off, playing a full season, and winning, and a new contract again. There's been so much going on it's been kind of hard to grasp everything.
McQuaid is a small town kid.
Cornwall, Prince Edward Islands last reliable census data comes from 2006 and marks a population of 4,677. This number is something like 126-times smaller than Bostons 2006 total. For excitement, residents travel 11 kilometers to Charlottetown a treasure trove of five outdoor rinks and public skating facilities (two dollars for adults; five for families).
Harsh winters on P.E.I. make the sport a natural, if not a default, focus. School and hockey, said McQuaid. Thats it.
So he dreamed like all the rest of skating in the National Hockey League.
After a year of major midget in Cornwall and two years with the OHLs Sudbury Wolves, the Blue Jackets drafted him in 2005s second round. He went back to Sudbury after the draft and played another two years before Columbus traded him to Boston for a fifth-round pick. The Bruins signed McQuaid to a three-year deal and sent him to Providence.
Still in the AHL, he was on guard in the third year of his deal.
I felt like it was a make or break year, McQuaid said. I hadwatched a few guys go up and down. It's a fairly small window of opportunity and I knew it was going to be a big year for me. I tried, really, not to worry too much about the call-up situation when I was sent down. So I had to work hard that, if there was going to be an opportunity for someone, I would be hopefully at the top of the list.
As it happened, his opportunity was the result of other mens injuries.
Three Bruins D-men Dennis Wideman, Mark Stuart and Derek Morris all went down in December 2009. McQuaid came up. He celebrated the what and not the why.
When you're all in the same organization, you're all teammates and friends and stuff, you never want to see someone get hurt. But it happens. I just really wanted to make sure I left it all on the table and no regrets. You can put too much pressure on yourself, too, and I just tried to focus and put my best foot forward.
Kids got a big foot.
The 6-foot-5 blueliner played a physical game in Providence. Knowing NHL ice time is precious he also led with the body in Boston. By throwing down with guys like Raitis Ivanans and Troy Bodie both 6-4 he hoped to at least fulfill a basic need for the Bruins during his first NHL weeks.
Its classic thinking for a defensive defensemen like McQuaid. But the funny thing? Hes not a confrontational guy. Teammate Andrew Ference once remarked on the character discrepancy, calling McQuaid cool and calm as can be.
Its startling to watch him fight.
When he fell during a November tangle with Rod Pelley, he got back up, ripped of Pelleys helmet and finished the bout. A month later he forced veteran Matt Bradley to the ice with purpose. In his ninth fighting major of 2011 (he finished with 12), McQuaid pulled a Cam Neely-esque move on Brian Sutherby, pulling the Dallas center in by the jersey to pop him a couple in the face. Days later referees held McQuaid back from Max Pacioretty the rooks arms were still a flurry and he had fire in his eyes.
Hes a monster.
No. He looks like a monster.
It's something that I've had to, to be honest, kind of work at it, McQuaid said. It's not really something that comes natural. I've just kind of come to the realization that I want to have a career in the NHL, so it's one of those things where I had to learn how I needed to play if I wanted to make it.
What he is, is thoughtful. It seems nothing escapes him without some analysis or reflection. Most experiences lean toward the positive, what doesnt he can at least reconcile.
Was extended time as a healthy scratch frustrating? No, McQuaid said, he benefited from practicing with the Bruins.
At what point did he know hed won teammates confidence and trust? Actually, McQuaid said, security came from having confidence in his teammates to support him.
His maturity is impressive, especially under the bright lights of the big city, Stanley Cup at his side. The first-year service award is there, too. Its just tough to see in the shadow of a three-foot chalice.
I definitely know how fortunate I am this early on to have won. If nothing else, for me right now, it was such a thrill to win.
There he stopped, searching.
Now you know how hard it is. You know how good it feels to do it and it gives you more of a drive to want to do it every year.
Another active pause.
Obviously, that's not realistic -- you're not going to win every year . . . But it keeps you motivated to want to do it again.
How many athletes say when not in defense of failure they cant win every year? They all know its true, as do the fans who cheer them and the writers who cover them, but who wants to hear it? What kind of guy is calmly grounded in reality within the fantasyland professional sports often seems to be at 24?
A small town kid. Those Cornwall roots run deep.
Moments after the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup Adam McQuaid stood on Vancouvers ice with the most important people in his world: mother Dianne, father Mark, brother Chad and sister Michelle. Dianne, in a black and gold sweater set, didnt even reach Adams shoulder. He kept his left arm wrapped around her for the entirety of a CBC interview.
It was important.
I moved away when I was 16 and that was tough for my parents to see me go, he said in retrospect. I was 20 hours away and I could only get up to Cornwall once a month. There was a lot of sacrifice on their part as well, so I wanted to make sure they were as much a part of the celebrations as possible.
All that joy and overwhelm. And with so much still ahead.
The Bruins believe McQuaid will continue to develop as a hockey player. Both sides want him to turn into a top-four defenseman who plays big minutes. The new three-year deal could give him that time to foster shutdown ability.
The emphasis is on growth, not change. In McQuaid, Boston has a bright, thoughtful young talent whos committed to learning all he can.
The awkwardness? Simple sincerity.
I'm going to do everything in my power to make it look like a great move on their part, he said.
In a lot of ways, it already does.