In hockey, tough players are not hard to find. But it might be hard to find many tougher than Noel Acciari.
Acciari, the Johnston, RI native, has played all four of his NHL seasons for his hometown team. The hard-hitting center dedicated everything he had to the team, and played most of last year's Stanley Cup Final run with a broken sternum. On Tuesday, in a Q&A with The Athletic, Acciari expressed gratitude to New England and the Bruins organization, provided some clues as to why he signed with the Florida Panthers, and hinted at what his role will be going forward.
"I would thank them for everything and all the support they’ve given me," Acciari said. "There are no fans like Boston fans. Even now I’m getting (fans) wishing that I would be back but they still support me with my decision. I’m truly honored to play in front of them for four years. It was a special bond between the team and the fans."
Last season, Acciari posted a career year with 14 goals, eight assists and 221 hits (12th among NHL forwards).
One of the biggest reasons Acciari decided to move on from Boston, despite his admiration for the fans, was his connection to the Panthers organization. Acciari played his first three seasons in Boston with Frank Vatrano, who's now with the Panthers. He also grew up watching Shawn Thornton, now in the Panthers' front office, play in Boston. Thornton has helped Acciari get settled and provided advice about life after the Bruins, Acciari said.
As for what his role will be in Florida, Acciari plans to revel in what he does best: being a bruiser and energy guy. Except now, he'll get paid significantly more at roughly $1.6 million per year. Still, it wasn't an easy decision for the 5-foot-10 two-way forward.
"(Playing in Boston) was special. Not many people can say they played for their hometown team, and I was very fortunate. Boston and New England will always be my home and will always have a special spot in my heart. But, all good things come to an end and things happen for a reason."
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