BOSTON — A great deal of the population of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will be tuning into today’s Boston Bruins game with Carolina with a little more intense interest this afternoon.
Winger Byron Bitz, recalled from Providence (AHL) for the first time today, is scheduled to make his NHL debut against the Hurricanes. Bitz’s parents, Brendan and Louise, even made last-minute reservations to come to the Hub and take in the contest.
Now it’s up to Bitz to represent his province well.
“Everyone competes so hard growing up, it’s almost bred into you – guys like Jeremy Reich,” Bitz said in the TD Banknorth Garden hallway before the game. “There’s a lot of guys from Saskatchewan that play a physical brand of hockey and I’ll try to live up that reputation, I guess.”
At Providence, Reich had been playing on a physical line with Reich and Wacey Rabbit. With Boston, he’ll probably be cast in the same role. From the time he started his pro career at the start of the 2006-07 season until now, Bitz has found his niche.
“Everything’s gone pretty good. The coaches down at Providence – Rob Murray and Bruce Cassidy – have worked a lot with me on just different things – protecting the puck,” the 6-foot-5, 215-pound former Cornell star said. “I’m a big a guy; I’ve got to be strong on the puck and play to the strengths of my game. And that’s kind of what they said coming up here, ‘just keep playing the way you’re playing.’”
Bitz said he got the news of his recall Friday when Murray called him into his office. He thought the coach wanted to go over video but instead was surprised to find out he was ticketed for Boston. Now the 24-year-old will get to live the dream of every up-and-coming hockey player.
“I can’t wait to get out there and warm up and get my feet wet, get that first shift out of the way. I’m very excited. It’s a life-long dream.”
Go about 42 seconds into the below clip to see Bitz hold his own during a line brawl against Portland.