Thornton/By S. Bradley

NHL players meet up with friends and relatives all over North America during road trips all season long.

One Bruins player is going to get that same opportunity while the team is in Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend.

Forward Shawn Thornton’s mother, Catherine, was born in Belfast before moving to Canada more than 45 years ago. She has never returned before now. Thornton bought her ticket for the trip over last week and she’ll be staying with her cousin while the Bruins prepare for their exhibition game with the Belfast Giants Select and also find time for some sightseeing.

“Hopefully I’ll get a couple hours to meet some of her family, and obviously my family,” said Thornton earlier this week.

The trip to Belfast is only the latest preseason excursion the Bruins have taken that has benefited Thornton.

“Yep, they had me in mind. I don’t know how it all came together but … I’ve been here four years now, and my first year we went to St. John’s [Newfoundland), which I hadn’t been back to since I stopped playing there [in the AHL]. And now I’m going to Belfast where my mom is from. Things have worked out pretty well,” said the 33-year-old Thornton.

As of Tuesday, Thornton said he had acquired 16 tickets for the Bruins’ Belfast game, and he would probably need to pick up more. This will be his first trip to his mother’s native land. Thornton will get to meet some new relatives and reconnect with ones he hasn’t seen in a while. And when he’s not focusing on hockey, he hopes to dig a bit into his background.

“Not as much as I should, probably,” Thornton said when asked about how much his knows about his heritage. “I think since my mom was over here at such a young age, I probably didn’t learn as much as I should have. But I’m excited to get over there and learn as much as I can in the short amount of time we have.”