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Home is where the heart is

by Caroline Greene || AHL On The Beat Archive

Imagine sitting in front of the television as a kid, eyes glued to the screen, following the every movement of the superheroes, each trick drawing you in further than the last.

These superheroes aren’t wearing capes, but rather getting their super powers from the black-and-gold spoked "B" emblazoned on their chest.

Imagine watching these hometown heroes your entire childhood then nearly 20 years later, that team, who was just crowned Stanley Cup champions, wants you.

That’s the reality Providence Bruins forward Josh Hennessy lived this summer and still has to pinch himself over today. The Brockton, Mass., native signed a one-year contract with his hometown Boston Bruins on July 5, 2012, less than a month after he watched the black and gold hoist the coveted Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.

Hennessy’s hockey career has taken quite a circuitous path to bring him full circle, back to where he first laced up the skates. After spending a year at the Massachusetts prep school Milton Academy, Hennessy left the close confines of his home state and took his talents north of the border. Drafted 17th overall by the Quebec Remparts in the 2001 QMJHL draft, Hennessy spent four seasons with the Remparts, during which time he lead the team in scoring and captained the squad for two seasons.

During an injury shortened junior season with Quebec, the next chapter of Hennessy’s hockey career was written. He was drafted 43rd overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks. Largely considered the best draft class in recent history, Hennessy was drafted among the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards and Zach Parise, to name a few.

“There were some great players. I got drafted by a great organization and have some very fond memories of that day and being part of that group,” Hennessy reflected on being part of the historical draft class.

Pegged by analysts as one of the most talented draft classes since the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, every player selected in the first round has played in an NHL game and Fleury, Staal and Horton all saw significant playing time in the NHL immediately after being drafted.

Hennessy started his pro career with San Jose’s AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Barons, in 2005-06 after concluding his junior career with 173 assists and 291 points. Just as he did in juniors, Hennessy made an immediate impact, leading the Barons in goals and assists for 63 points in 80 games, earning him team rookie of the year honors.

However, despite his success, Hennessy remained true to his humble roots, crediting much of his success to his teammates.

“I played with some really good players who probably made me look a little bit better than I was my first year. I was playing a lot with Ryane Clowe, who is obviously a great player in San Jose, and I played with Steve Bernier, Mike Iggulden … some really good players early in my career,” said Hennessy.

Following the end of his rookie season, Hennessy was part of a three-team trade and landed with the Ottawa Senators, spending the majority of his sophomore season with the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton. He continued to put up impressive numbers, but something was still missing. His family was rarely seen in the stands and the player who always had people waiting for him following a game found himself alone in upstate New York.

However, the stands weren’t empty on perhaps the greatest moment of Hennessy’s hockey career to date.

During his second call-up to Ottawa, Hennessy scored his first NHL goal on Jan. 7, 2007, against the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite being nearly 500 miles from home, Hennessy was able to share the experience with his family. Hennessy’s sister and her friend had made the trip to Binghamton only for Josh to be called up to Ottawa before the game. Luckily the pair followed him to Ottawa because they were able to share perhaps one of the most memorable moments in a hockey player’s career, his first NHL goal.

“It was really cool that I had somebody there to share it with. I think for everyone who gets that first NHL goal, it is obviously a moment that you’ll never forget,” reflected Hennessy.

After feeling his career had stalled in Ottawa, Hennessy left the Senators organization after four years and took the biggest leap — literally speaking — of his career, signing a one-year contract with the Swiss club HC Lugano. In an injury-shortened season, Hennessy still managed to record 19 points, good enough for fourth on the club. Playing overseas was different than anything Hennessy had ever experienced.

“I had my family over there and we had a great time, but I definitely missed the opportunity of getting called up and being in the mix and competing to get called up in the NHL,” said Hennessy. “I think I still had some unfinished business and some gas in the tank to pursue that (the NHL).”

He came to an easy realization: he was ready to come home.

Fast-forward to June and Hennessy followed the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup run just as close as any other longtime fan who grew up watching the “Big Bad Bruins.”

“It was a no-brainer (signing with Boston). It is a dream come true to be part of the Bruins organization,” said Hennessy. “I grew up a stone’s throw away and I have always harbored some hope that at some point in my career I would be able to return home, so hopefully it lasts.”

On Feb. 13, he received word that he would be making the trip up Interstate 93 to the TD Garden, a trip that he had made countless times as a child growing up in nearby Brockton. This time, however, he wouldn’t be watching from the stands as he did in his youth, or on the television, as he did when the Bruins captured the Stanley Cup this past summer. Instead, he sat in a locker room stall with his name on it. He wore a Bruins jersey with his name on it. He skated in three games for his hometown team.

After a long journey spanning years and miles, Hennessy is home.