Like most New England kids, Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata grew up playing in the large contingent of MDC rinks dubbed the "rinks that Bobby Orr built," after they were erected following the Boston Bruins last run of Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972.
And like most New England hockey players, Cannata likely won a lot of fictional Stanley Cups for the Bruins in the family's driveway in Wakefield.
For an entire generation of Bruin fans — including Cannata, who was just over a year old the last time the B's played in the finals in 1991 — this is the first time that they'll remember the hometown team battling for Lord Stanley's Cup.
But unlike most New Englanders, the Bruins' matchup with the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals, which start tomorrow, is a win-win for the Merrimack junior goaltender.
In 2009, after his freshman season in North Andover, Cannata was selected by the Canucks in the NHL Entry Draft. The Canucks continue to own his draft rights while he completes his college career with the Warriors.
"A lot of friends have asked me who I'm rooting for," he said, "and I don't really have an answer. I grew up a Bruins fan so I'd like to see them win but the Canucks also took a chance on me and drafted me and it's great being with them so I'd like to see them win too. It won't be bad either way. It should be a great series to watch."
It's the same situation Bruins' winger Milan Lucic, a Vancouver native, finds himself in.
"It's a dream to be able to play in the Stanley Cup Finals," Lucic said. "It's something you dream about as a kid, but to be able to play in your hometown against the team you grew up loving makes it extra special."
One of Cannata's teammates, Brendan Ellis, doesn't have such a hard decision.
The Merrimack freshman defenseman is from Vancouver, and skated with the Canucks' development camp last summer.
"With Elly it's easy to keep tabs on (the Canucks) throughout the year," Cannata said. "If they have the late game on Versus, we'll watch it. We'll talk about them a lot, too. But, being east, a lot of it is just checking scores."
Returning to the Mack
After a junior season with a Merrimack (Division 1) record 25 wins, Cannata had the chance to play with the Canucks organization next season.
"They talked to me about signing early," Cannata said.
But, the all-time Division 1 win leader in a Merrimack uniform said he will return for his senior season.
"I like my situation (at Merrimack) and they agree," said Cannata, whose career record with the Warriors is 42-34-9. "We are in contact a lot. I'll talk with their scouts and their player development guys and we keep in touch regularly."
He continued, "I wanted to stay and they agreed so it was really easy. They have a great goaltending situation right now."
Vancouver not only boasts Roberto Luongo, one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, but Marblehead's Cory Schneider, a former Boston College star, dresses as the backup. Cannata and Schneider, a Phillips Academy grad, have been able to skate together the past few summers.
"I've learned a lot from him," Cannata said. "We took the same track. Both grew up around here and we both played in Hockey East so it's good to have someone like that to get advice from."
The Canucks were in contact with Cannata throughout the season, including their amateur scouts talking to their goalie after Merrimack games and regular contact with Director of Player Development Dave Gagner.
"They want to just see how I'm doing and they give me some feedback," Cannata said. "They took that chance and drafted me."
Cannata will stay local this summer and does not plan to skate with the Canucks' prospect development camp this summer in Vancouver. He has skated with the rest of the Vancouver draft picks and younger players in each of the last two summers.
Instead, he'll stay at Merrimack and take summer classes, while working with strength coach Mike Kamal.
"(Vancouver) knows me and I know how the camp operates so there isn't really a need for me to go out there," Cannata said. "I'm getting ahead on classes and working out all summer."
A name switcharoo
Boston Pizza is one of the largest pizza chains in Canada.
On Monday, all 62 locations in the Vancouver area changed its name to Vancouver Pizza, including new signs and logos.
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