Greg Wyshynski, ESPNFeb 10, 2024, 08:00 AM ET
- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy is one of the foundational players for the Boston Bruins, who have shown how sturdy their foundation is this season. After setting regular-season records for wins and points in 2022-23, the Bruins have overcome some offseason adversity to challenge for the league lead in points again.
McAvoy joined ESPN’s “The Drop” podcast this week to talk about the Bruins, potentially playing for Team USA in the upcoming Four Nations tournament and chasing gold at the Olympics, his Super Bowl pick for this Sunday and his history with football as a die-hard New York Giants fan. Enjoy!
Note: The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q. The Bruins have been one of the best stories of the season so far: Pressing for the President’s Trophy again after losing some key players and suffering that devastating loss in the playoffs in the first round. Has this season been a surprise for you at all? Or were you confident that the Bruins still had this kind of season in them?
McAvoy: I was definitely surprised. I’ll say it. I won’t hide it. We lost a lot of guys. Maybe it was the outside noise, but I think I embraced an underdog role this year. I think our team did as well. As we started stringing together our identity and winning more and more hockey games, I was kind of like, how are we doing this? And then it sort of clicked. Like, okay, this isn’t luck. We’re a really good hockey team again.
Are we built like last year? No, not at all. We’re more of a “put it in deep” team now vs. line rush. We’re more of a “wear you out behind the net” than cycling, making skill plays high. We’re doing it a completely different way this year.
But the goalie stayed the same. The defense stayed the same. We’ve got new guys up front, but those two pillars were there. There was familiarity with our structure. So it worked out really well.
Q. You’re a USA hockey guy. Big international hockey news at the NHL All-Star Game. Let’s start with the Four Nations Face-Off next season, with the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Finland. What are your thoughts on that tournament?
McAvoy: I thought it was really cool. Just really excited at the prospect of playing hockey for Team USA again. Those have been some of the best memories I’ve had in hockey, and it’s always an honor. I’ve had the dream of being an Olympian since the first time I ever watched it. In 2010, when they almost won the gold medal, I remember sitting on the couch watching that with my family and how special that tournament was. You internalize that and you’re like, “That’s where I wanna be.”
We thought we had it last go around [at the Olympics in 2022]. That was equally as exciting and then kind of equally as disappointing when it got pulled. Hopefully there’s no unforeseen stuff that could throw a wrench in this. Hopefully as long as I do everything I can, I’ll be able to play on that team.
Q. People don’t understand how close it came with Beijing. You told me you had to submit your measurements for your Ralph Lauren opening ceremonies or closing ceremonies gear, right?
McAvoy: We had gone as far as having a long list [of players]. We got on a Zoom call with the coaching staff and the general manager. So you have all these guys that are in the player pool with the prospect of making the team. We gave home addresses so they can come and drug test you — and take your measurements for ceremonies.
We made it all the way into the season, into the winter time. We were getting kind of close to February, and then I think they called it when all those [COVID] outbreaks happened. It was just cool because you’re doing all these things, and you’re getting excited about it. But it’ll be equally as exciting this time around if we get to do it. I hope we can.
As far as the Four Nations, you have Boston and Montreal, two of the best cities in the league. If I get to play, that little bit of home ice for me would be awesome.
I know it’s only four teams. [David Pastrnak] was kind of upset because the Czechs have a great hockey country. But as I understood, it was sort of just what they put together in a short time. It’ll be a first step toward World Cup of Hockey again, where everybody will be able to play.
Q. All right, here’s your chance: Please tell myself and the rest of the Americans that we’re finally going to beat Canada and win gold in one of these tournaments.
McAvoy: I’m not gonna throw that on the bulletin board right now. [Laughs] But I’ve had these conversations recently with the player pool and with the talent that USA Hockey has. You look around and there’s stars all over the league that are American, at every single position. So I think that kind of changes now. I think instead of being like, “I wonder how far they could go,” it looks like, “Hey, you know, why not us, to go over there and make some real noise?”
Q. Charlie, you were our NFL playoff prognosticator on ESPN’s hockey podcast The Drop, going 7-5 this postseason.
McAvoy: Oh, we’re plus money. [Laughs] I love football. Football was always my favorite sport besides hockey. I played it for as long as I could. I love watching college football. I love that the NFL coincides with our season. I don’t think there’s any better time in the year than that. Late August, September when you’re getting ready for football, hockey season.
Q. When you say you played it, did you play in school growing up?
McAvoy: I played Pop Warner, and then I played up until seventh grade. So when I had to go out for the middle school team, that was kind of when it was just too much. We had games every weekend for hockey all through the fall. So you’re missing those games anyway and practice doesn’t coincide with it either. I played lacrosse the longest, honestly.
Q. Was there ever a point in the multiverse where you could have been [Giants tight end] Mark Bavaro? Like, you were always going to be better at hockey, right?
McAvoy: I would imagine I would have never been Mark Bavaro. [Laughs] I was big as a kid and played like a running back and linebacker. I actually went to a Giants game with my dad, and I bought him a Mark Bavaro jersey. But I wish I could have played longer because you never know. I gave up on it too early, but I don’t think that I would’ve … I don’t know if I had the intangibles to be a football player.
Q. Okay, don’t keep the people waiting, Charlie: What’s your Super Bowl 58 pick?
McAvoy: I don’t understand how you could go against [Patrick] Mahomes in this situation. I really don’t understand how they’re underdogs to be honest. He’s just been there too many times. The record is the record. I think I picked them to lose in the divisional round, and then I find out the guy is 7-0 in the divisional round, and you’re just like “he’s a shoo-in for the conference championship every single year.” So now I’m just gonna let the numbers work for me. I think it’s really hard to go against the Chiefs here, and their defense is probably the best they’ve had — even better than last year.
I looked at the Niners. They tried every way to lose their playoff games, and they somehow got through. That’s obviously a good test. Maybe now they flip the switch, and now they’re just gonna run Kansas City out. But I don’t know. You’re gonna have to show it to me. The Chiefs had to go the hard way. So they went into Baltimore, they went into Buffalo, and they won both those games. You’re gonna have to give me Mahomes on Super Bowl Sunday.
Q. Finally, what do you think about the whole Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce thing?
McAvoy: I think it’s pretty cool. We were joking about it the other day because my wife loves Taylor Swift, and I’m not ashamed to say that I listen to Taylor Swift, too. She’s an icon. But I was saying like, man, she couldn’t have dated a hockey player? [Laughs] Someone said the revenue she’s brought to the NFL is incredible, and she’s helped her own brand along the way. But I was like, man, we couldn’t have gotten, like Jack Hughes or somebody to slide into her DMs?