Game 7 comes full circle for Heinen, Canucks fan turned Bruins winger

The Bruins and Blues are one game away from lifting the Stanley Cup, an opportunity that both teams are not taking lightly.

BOSTON — Danton Heinen doesn’t have any trouble recalling where he was the last time the Boston Bruins played a Game 7 for the Stanley Cup.

Or… what he was feeling, thinking and wearing.

“I was a Canucks fan growing up,” said Heinen. “During 2011, I was rooting for the Canucks.”

The Langley kid was lucky enough to attend three games of that Canucks-Bruins final, and on June 15, 2011 he was in the Rogers Arena stands for Game 7 wearing his blue Canucks sweater and a V-logo hat when future teammates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand scored two goals apiece in a 4-0 Boston win.

That Vancouver team is the best Canada has seen during the country’s 26-year Cup drought. Heinen shared in the disappointment felt across British Columbia and beyond when they fell just a hair short, but he didn’t leave the rink early.

“I remember being up there and watching a lot of these guys,” he said. “We stayed to see them lift the Cup.”

Heinen will have an even better view of Wednesday’s Game 7, stationed alongside Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle on the Bruins’ third line against the St. Louis Blues. It’s the first winner-take-all game for the Stanley Cup since 2011, which only seems fitting given how Boston has tried to channel the energy of that run throughout this spring.

Framed pictures from the post-Game 7 celebration in Vancouver have hung inside the team’s dressing room both at home and on the road.

There’s one of a heavily bearded Zdeno Chara letting out a big roar moments after being presented with the trophy by commissioner Gary Bettman, one of Krejci kissing the Cup above his head and another of Tuukka Rask getting splashed with a beer waterfall out of its bowl.

Not shown is the one of a 15-year-old Heinen lifting a makeshift Cup while standing beside the Canucks bench before the game started.

But even if his current Bruins teammates haven’t seen it, they’re aware he was in the building that night to cheer for the other team.

“It’s crazy. It’s crazy, you know?” said Krejci. “Just like a regular kid, sitting in the stands and a few years later he’s going to the Final with us. Any kid out there, you know, it’s possible for anyone if you put the work in. Just like Heinen did or all of the other younger guys, too.

“There’s so many hockey players out there, but if you put the work into it, anything’s possible.”

Bergeron recalls Heinen mentioning his childhood Canucks fandom after becoming a full-time member of the Bruins in 2017, but finds it uncomfortable to think about the coincidence in it all.

It was suggested that the Bruins could make up for the dose of disappointment they handed Heinen eight years ago by sharing a Cup celebration with him now.

“Yeah, let’s do that,” said Bergeron.

The reality is that childhood allegiances are on the long list of things the vast majority of players have to put aside long before ever finding themselves in a position to lift the Cup. There are only a small handful of guys like Coyle, who grew up living and dying with the Bruins in East Weymouth, Mass., or defenceman Matt Grzelcyk, whose father John used to get him ice time at TD Garden because he worked on the building’s bull gang.

Zach Sanford, the St. Louis winger, grew up a Bruins fan and remembers running a victory lap around his neighbourhood in Derry, N.H., when they won the Cup in 2011. On Wednesday night, he’s putting everything on the line for a result that would keep people here from celebrating in a similar fashion.

For Heinen, the switch from loathing the Bruins to loving them came naturally after he was drafted 116th overall in 2014. He’s had to work hard for everything he has and was grateful just to be part of a NHL organization when he was selected out of the BCHL.

“There’s that rivalry there because of the [2011] Final, some bad blood, but right when I got drafted it was just excitement,” said Heinen. “Happy to be part of the organization. It’s been great ever since.”

The 23-year-old has developed into a conscientious depth player on this Bruins team — one who helps drive possession, kills penalties and is rarely on the ice for a goal against.

Heinen’s been supported throughout this long playoff run by his parents Rick and Veronica. They’ve travelled to several games and will be in the building on Wednesday. He’s also got a bunch of family and friends back home in Canucks country now repping the black and gold.

“I don’t think they ever thought they’d be Bruins fans, either,” said Heinen. “There’s definitely a few. I don’t know if all of them came over my way, but there’s a lot.”

A visit from the Stanley Cup this summer could change a few more minds.

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