There's no getting the Bruins out of Josh Hennessy's blood.
Despite being drafted in the second round (43rd overall) by the San Jose Sharks in the 2003 NHL draft, playing 369 AHL games with Cleveland (San Jose's affiliate) and Binghamton (Ottawa's affiliate), and playing 15 NHL games with Ottawa and 36 games in Switzerland, Hennessy can't deny his roots in Rockland, Mass., where the Bruins fan inside him burned strong.
So Hennessy, like every other Bruins fan, was glued to his TV, watching the team's dramatic run to its first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
But it got even better for Hennessy on July 2 when the Bruins signed him to a one-year, two-way contract. Hennessy, who has been recovering from an ACL injury and knee surgery all summer, is beyond excited that he was signed by the team he grew up cheering for just as it has captured the hearts and minds of New England sports fans.
"There were a few other teams involved, but it was a quick process because I'd say the Bruins had a leg up from the get-go because of my being from here. Then with the spring they had, I became a fan again watching them march to the Cup and felt like a 12-year-old kid again, so I'd say it was an easy decision," Hennessy said.
"I basically went from watching the parade to becoming a part of the Bruins' organization, so that was pretty awesome. It was pretty cool to tell people I signed with the Bruins given the timing."
Hennessy, 25, who attended Milton Academy, is still pushing to reach the potential he showed when he racked up 291 points in 269 games from 2001 to '05 for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. That production helped Hennessy get drafted two picks ahead of fellow QMJHL alum Patrice Bergeron, whom the Bruins took 45th that year.
Bergeron made the Bruins out of training camp the following season, and despite two concussions -- including one that forced him to miss the majority of the 2007-08 season -- he has become the consummate two-way player as well as a leader and alternate captain of the Stanley Cup champions. Although he admits to feeling some jealously of Bergeron's rapid ascent to success, Hennessy has been thrilled to see Bergeron become the player he is.
"I think it was pretty cool to see somebody that young and also that was in the same round and draft as me make it," Hennessy said. "I won't lie; I was jealous at first but it's been great to see his progression and the player he has become, which I think is one of the best two-way players in the league.
"What he's done since suffering that concussion is amazing. It was also amazing how quickly he originally transferred to the NHL in his first season and he's proven a lot of people wrong."
Hennessy has some people to prove wrong himself, in particular the teams that gave up on him. He sees one of his potential future teammates, reigning Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas, as providing an example to follow.
"That is really a huge inspiration to see guys like that who maybe had to take a long road or the hard road and even at a late age still make it. That's something a guy like me holds on to as hope," Hennessy said. "Tim Thomas is probably the extreme example of why not to give up, and I definitely am trying to emulate him and his hard work."
Hennessy's rehab from knee surgery is on schedule, and he has resumed skating in Rockland with local college and professional players. His main focus is on finding a niche within the Bruins' organization, preferably in Boston.
"I know that they kind of lean toward the best player in certain roles, and if you can fit that role, you have a really good chance," Hennessy said. "I just need to show my versatility, work hard and try to fit in as best I can.
"Working hard is eventually rewarded, and I need to keep pushing. I'm treating this with an open mind. Obviously there's spots taken, but I plan to compete for those that aren't. I'm treating this as a breath of fresh air, and maybe a new set of eyes watching my game will see what I can bring."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.