Nashville Predators forward Nick Bonino is ready to move on to the next chapter in his National Hockey League career.
But Pittsburgh will always hold a special place in his heart after recently winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins.
“We won a lot of games, we did what we did and made memories that we’ll have forever,” Bonino said. “I’ll always be thankful to the organization, and the fans were great. It was a really fun time.”
Bonino helped the U.S. to bronze at the 2015 MWC
Bonino closed that chapter of his career when he received his second Stanley Cup ring in October following the morning skate on the day the Predators met the Penguins in Pittsburgh, a rematch of last season’s Stanley Cup Final. It’s a side Bonino doesn’t often show now after signing a four-year, $16.4 million contract with the Predators in July.
“The result was different, but [Nashville’s] season was just as long and the emotions were just as high,” Bonino said. “It’s something I don’t talk about too much because it’s still a pretty emotional, raw feeling. I’m appreciative of how welcoming [Nashville] has been.”
Bonino played high school hockey at Avon Old Farms, an all-boys Connecticut boarding school which has produced multiple New England championships and NHLers like Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch and Los Angeles Kings star goaltender Jonathan Quick, among others.
Bonino, who played with Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson at Avon Old Farms, twice took the Stanley Cup to his former school during a public event.
“It was great and Avon was very accommodating,” Bonino said. “I’m very thankful they let me bring it there because it was a lot of fun. I met a lot of people who really enjoyed seeing the Cup. It was definitely a memory I’ll have, walking into the gym at Avon two times and celebrating with some local fans.”
Both times, Bonino also raised money for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, as fans paid to take their picture with the Stanley Cup. The decision to raise money for the hospital came after the birth of Bonino’s daughter Maise, who became an internet sensation during the Penguins’ run to the Stanley Cup.
“Once I had my daughter, it became that much more real,” said Bonino, whose wife Lauren also played college hockey at Boston University. “We can do all the visits we want to children’s hospital, and you see that first hand, but when you have a child, and you imagine what it would be like if they were there, it makes you want to help. I’m just very thankful the community around my hometown in Connecticut donated and we raised some good money.”
Bonino said his skating improved as he grew older under Avon Old Farms legendary longtime coach John Gardner, and that advanced his career.
“I’d always been able to think the game and make plays with my hands,” Bonino said. “As my skating got better, more avenues opened up to me … college opened up to me, the pros opened up to me. Don’t stop working on your game, because no matter how old you are, you can always get better.”
That helped Bonino win the Stanley Cup twice and enjoy priceless memories with the cherished trophy both times. That includes eating angel hair pasta with tuna fish sauce from the bowl of the Stanley Cup.
“It’s something my grandma makes every Christmas,” Bonino said. “Everybody eats everything out of it, so it was pretty cool to share that with my grandparents.”
Winning the Stanley Cup was special for Bonino, but now he’s ready to continue his career in Nashville.
“It definitely seems a little bit surreal, and it’s something I’ll remember,” Bonino said. “I had a child [in Pittsburgh], I won two Cups [in Pittsburgh], and it will be one of my favorite places, but you have to turn the page.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.