By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
When former Boston University defenseman Colby Cohen decided to forego his senior season to pursue an NHL career, he dreamed of winning a Stanley Cup. He never expected to win it one year later back in Boston.
“Obviously I had hopes to win the Stanley Cup and be able to raise the Cup,” Cohen said. “It’s just I thought I’d do it with Colorado.”
And why not? Cohen left BU to join the Avalanche organization, which drafted Cohen in the second round (45th overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft. Cohen played in three NHL games during the 2010-11 season with Colorado before he was traded to the Bruins on Nov. 29 for defenseman Matt Hunwick.
Cohen was immediately assigned to the Providence Bruins, where he played in 46 games and earned 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) and a plus-5 rating while impressing the Boston brass enough to earn himself a call-up for Boston’s playoff run.
Cohen’s experience in the postseason was atypical for what people would expect from a Stanley Cup champion. As a member of a playoff practice squad called the Black Aces, Cohen did not play in any games for the Bruins and dressed only to take the ice with the team for the Stanley Cup presentation ceremony. His name will not be inscribed on the Cup, but despite his minimal role with the team, Cohen said the Bruins veterans made him feel every bit included in the celebration.
“The team just won the Cup and I got to be a part of it and stand on the ice,” Cohen said. “I’m standing there [after Game 7] and Shawn Thornton hands me the cup and [Thornton] says ‘Put that thing over your head, you’re just as much a part of this team.’ It was obviously quite the experience.”
Thornton was not the only player to show his appreciation for Cohen and the Black Aces. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara thanked the Black Aces for their contributions earlier in the playoffs.
“He pulled some of us aside and told us how much he appreciated the hard work we put in behind the scenes, whether it’s on the bike or on the ice, and our commitment to the greater goal as a team,” Cohen said. “Those guys – him and Recchi and Shawn Thornton, guys like that who have been around for a while were just so appreciative and made it so much easier for us to do what we did and be a part of it.”
While the Bruins’ Stanley Cup win was Cohen’s second championship in three years, his experience winning a championship with the Bruins was markedly different from when he won with the Terriers.
Cohen scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the Terriers, but watched Game 7 from a suite high in Rogers Arena with the other scratches, Bruins ownership and management personnel. He said it was harder to watch Game 7 than it was to play in overtime of the 2009 Frozen Four final.
“In ‘09, I knew we were going to win the game once we tied it,” Cohen said. “But I was more nervous when I was watching Game 7 than I was playing overtime just because I knew in ‘09 that I could influence the game for good or for worse. For me personally, that takes the nerves right away because I like those kinds of situations.”
Following the Stanley Cup win, Cohen took part in celebrations similar to those he experienced after winning the NCAA championship with BU. The biggest difference between the BU and Stanley Cup celebrations, Cohen said, was how involved the players’ and organization’s families were.
“It was really cool how involved they got to be in that,” Cohen said. “Looking back on the ‘09 championship, it would have been cool to have the families a bit more involved in the duck boats and the locker room celebration and stuff like that.”
Cohen described the locker room celebration in Vancouver as a madhouse, but it paled in comparison to the rioting going on outside. Cohen said he first became aware of the rioting when the team’s staff cut the celebration short in order to get the Bruins to the airport safely. Cohen did not sleep on the red-eye back to Boston, and he did not have time to rest when he returned to Boston as he had to prepare for his second duck boat parade in three years.
“Our [BU] team parade was definitely something special and I’ll never forget it,” Cohen said. “The time I played at BU, those were some of the best years of my life, but this is definitely the next step up. The duck boats, there was over a million people there and I saw quite a few BU jerseys, which was awesome.”
A day after the parade through the streets, Cohen and the Bruins boarded the duck boats yet again to make the rounds through Fenway Park. The Bruins and Red Sox players socialized before the game, and then each player on the Bruins playoff roster threw out a first pitch.
“[The Red Sox] thought it was cool that we were there with the Cup and we thought it was so cool that we just got to be around those guys,” Cohen said. “I took a picture with Big Papi which was awesome.”
Although the day at Fenway was the last time the Bruins were all officially together with the Stanley Cup, the celebrations do not end there. Each player on the roster gets a day with the Cup, and Cohen said he expects to have a turn with it this summer. His hope was to split a day between Philadelphia, where his family is from, and Boston, where he wanted to bring it to BU to enjoy with his former coaches and teammates.
And although Cohen now has an NCAA title and a Stanley Cup on his resume, he is still hungry for more championships.
“It doesn’t get old, I promise you that,” Cohen said. “Coach Parker taught me when I was a freshman that you play to get better but you play to win championships. Winning a national championship was amazing but every kid really dreams of winning a Stanley Cup. It was every bit as exciting as I thought.”