Patience Pays Off For High-Flying Eagle

As an undersized player at USA Hockey’s Boys Select 15 Camp, Ryan Fitzgerald was at a crossroads in his hockey career.

He felt that his physical attributes were preventing him from being noticed by scouts and would limit how far he could go in hockey. 

Fortunately for Fitzgerald, his father, Tom, a former NHL player and New Jersey Devils assistant general manager, knew that it was only a matter of time before physical stature would catch up to his mental ability to think the game and the combination would make him a standout player.

It turns out that father knows best. Fitzgerald continued to grow and would eventually become a mainstay with the Boston College Eagles and a fourth round draft pick of the Boston Bruins. 

It’s all a dream come true for the North Reading, Mass., native, who developed a passion for the game at an early age. 

“Driving to the rink, we always talked hockey,” dad recalled. “He was a throwback. He wasn’t always in front of a TV. He was always out playing.”

Whether it was his father’s NHL career or his other family connections to the game, hockey has always been a central topic of discussion around the dinner table.

“There’s always hockey talk going on,” said Ryan, whose cousins include Jimmy and Kevin Hayes and Keith and Matthew Tkachuk. “It’s one of the common denominators for everyone in the family.”

Once he matured physically, Fitzgerald’s notoriety grew. He was named the MVP of the 2012 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, and as a freshman at Boston College he led all rookies with 13 goals.

Throughout the course of his college career, Fitzgerald has demonstrated a knack for scoring big goals, perhaps none bigger than the one he tallied to send Boston College to the 2016 Frozen Four.

Legendary head coach Jerry York attributes his senior assistant captain’s ability to come through in the clutch to his off-the-charts hockey sense. 

“I think his hockey instincts take over in crunch time, and that’s not something everyone can do,” York said. “He is a mix of bulldog and figure skater, blending the two into great offensive prowess. He has definitely scored some big goals for us in his time.”

His maturity and leadership skills have also been a key on a team that sports 13 freshmen, second most in the NCAA.         

With a spot in the NHL looming, many observers felt that Fitzgerald could have suited up for the hometown Bruins this season. Instead, he chose to stay in school and have another season to play with his younger brother, Casey, a sophomore defenseman for the Eagles.

With a youth movement underway, many feel it will be an uphill climb for the Eagles to punch a return ticket to the Frozen Four, but as Fitzgerald has proven time and again, those challenges only fuel his competitive spirit.

“We still have a bitter feeling from last year,” he said. “I think the new guys have picked up on that feeling pretty quick. I hope there isn’t a lot of unfinished business when we get done this year.”

Issue: 
2016-12

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