Charlie McAvoy reached the doorstep of championship glory in just his second full NHL season, leaving the Long Beach native hungrier to bring the Stanley Cup to his beloved hometown.
Moments after McAvoy’s Boston Bruins dropped a decisive game seven of the NHL Stanley Cup finals 4-1, to the St. Louis Blues on June 12, the distraught 21-year-old defenseman told reporters how much the loss stung. Two weeks later after falling one win shy of hoisting the cup, McAvoy’s disappointment lingered as he refocused on returning to the ice this fall to renew the grind.
“I don’t ever want to have the feeling I had after game seven,” said McAvoy, whose NHL debut came in the 2017 playoffs just two weeks after his final college hockey game at Boston University. “It’s going to fuel me for the rest of my career knowing how close we were.”
McAvoy was an integral part of the Bruins postseason run after a concussion sidelined him from mid-October through early December. During 23 playoff games, McAvoy netted eight points on two goals and six assists. He helped keep the Bruins’ season alive in a must-win game six of the finals when he swatted a puck out of mid-air that appeared destined for the net when the Bruins held a 1-0 lead midway through the second period.
The Long Beach community rallied behind McAvoy throughout the playoffs with Bruin flags sprouting up across the barrier island and locals flocking to sports bars to root on one of their own. The Long Beach Fire Department posted a Facebook message inviting him to ride one of its trucks and spray water from the hose if he brought the Stanley Cup home.
“Charlie is an extraordinary talent, and he comes from a great Long Beach family. Whether we were Islanders or Rangers fans, all of Long Beach was pulling for him,” said City Council President Anthony Eramo, who attended a Bruins game in Boston with his family earlier in the season. “Fortunately, for Charlie, his career is just starting out, and hopefully he’ll have another shot at the cup.”
Junction, a popular sports bar and music venue on Park Avenue, had about 150 people turn out to show their support for McAvoy during the final game, said manager John Hamlet, despite the well-known rivalry between New York and Boston.
“Everybody was rooting for Boston,” Hamlet said. “It was pretty somber in here after they lost.”
“We had great support for Charlie at Junction,” added co-owner PJ Kavanagh. “The town is so proud of him and look forward to supporting him next year. There are a lot of Long Beach kids who are big Bruins fans now.”
While he hasn’t lived in the area full-time since age 15, the hometown support gave him a huge lift 225 miles away in Boston, he said.
“It meant so much to me that the people in Long Beach supported me the way they did,” said McAvoy, who attended Long Beach High School his freshman year before transferring to Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when he joined the USA Hockey developmental team. “It’s incredibly special.”
Although he is unable to visit Long Beach as often as he’d like, McAvoy did surprise his two younger sisters at their Long Beach High School lacrosse practice in March when the Bruins were in the area facing the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. He remains in close contact with his family who travel often to Boston or attend nearby road games against the Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils to watch him play.
“My family support is incredible,” said McAvoy, who was selected 14th overall of the 2016 NHL draft and was a standout member of the U.S.’s gold medal-winning team at the 2017 World Junior Championship. “I’m very thankful to have them in my life.”
While the Stanley Cup finals loss will always linger, so will the fond memories of the special bonds he built with his teammates during the 2018-19 season and witnessing the passion Boston fans expressed throughout the playoffs, McAvoy said. He is already eager for his third NHL regular season to get underway in October and is determined to put in that extra mile so that the journey once again takes him all the way into June.
“I was looking forward to bringing the cup to Long Beach,” he said. “Hopefully I will have many more chances to make my dreams come true.”