The Best Of Times

Friday, June 21 will likely go down as one of the longest and toughest days in the life of Tommy Cross.

It was ironic, then, that Saturday was the complete antithesis.

One day after waiting around hoping to hear his name called in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, Cross, a defenseman headed to Boston College in 2008, had to wait just 25 minutes on Saturday morning before the team he grew up following, the Boston Bruins, made him part of the organization.

Cross, ranked 12th among North American skaters by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau, saw his stock fall in the weeks leading up to the Draft after injuring his knee playing baseball.

The 6-foot-3 blueliner walked around on Saturday with a noticeable limp, but says his knee feels fine now, just a couple of weeks after having surgery.

“The knee is great. It’s fine,” said Cross, who admitted that the injury might have been a reason he slipped from the first round to the second. “I had surgery a couple of weeks ago and in a couple of weeks I should be ready to go.”

Cross said that sitting around all day Friday was difficult, but pointed out that some of his pain was eased by the success of both the American and collegiate players, who were chosen in record numbers.

“Yesterday, from one point of view was tough,” said Cross. “But from another point of view it was an unbelievable event. It was a long wait, but to see my buddies get picked and what happened to them, it was great.”

Eleven college players and 10 Americans were picked in Friday’s first round.

As stressful as Friday’s opening round was for Cross, Saturday was a bit of a silver lining.

Boston had the eighth pick of the round, the 38th overall. With their eyes set on local product Cross, the team feared that he might not be available when they picked and thus worked to trade up. The Chicago Blackhawks, who had the fifth pick of the round, agreed to swap picks with the Bruins, who had to surrender their third-round pick to the Blackhawks as well.

As all of this transpired on stage, Cross realized his dream of one day playing for the Bruins might actually come true.

“You hear [that Boston] traded up and you like to think they traded up to get you,” said Cross. “When I heard Westminster School and I definitely got excited.”

Excited might be an understatement for Cross, who says he loves the city of Boston and grew up watching and cheering for the Bruins from his home in Hartford, Conn.

“I was a big Bruins fan,” Cross said. “I grew up watching NESN (Boston’s regional sports network). Always watching NESN. That was the channel.

“That’s why I made my college choice. I wanted to be in Boston . It was between BC and [Boston University]. BC seemed like the better choice. My uncle is a season ticket holder [at BC] and I’ve always been a Boston Red Sox and a Boston Bruins fan, so it’s good.”

The fact that Cross’ stock fell may be a serendipitous ending to the weekend, as there’s little chance the Bruins would’ve taken him with the eighth pick overall — regardless of the health of his knee. Still, it only slightly took away the sting that was Friday night for future Eagle.

“I got back to the hotel and turned on SportsCenter and all they talked about was the Draft, so it was like I couldn’t get away from it,” said Cross. “[My family] always has positive words of encouragement. My uncle is from Boston — from Arlington — so he was saying that the Bruins have a pick in the second round. So that worked out kind of well. They were all positive [last night]. After a while they kind of stayed away from me, but they were definitely there.”

Cross calls himself a two-way defenseman, saying that he liked to jump into the rush but not at the expense of his defensive play. He feels that his game is a good fit for the new NHL that favors offensive play.

“A couple of years ago, I could’ve said I was going to be a defensive defenseman, but in today’s game, you need to skate and contribute to the offense because it’s an important part of the game,” Cross said.

Now knowing his NHL fate, the next question Cross will face is how long before he’ll have a chance to play in the league. Boston College has had a recent history of keeping even their top players for all four years and the Bruins blueline is one area for the team that is somewhat secure, suggesting that Cross may be as much as four years away from beginning his professional career.

Though that career may be a ways away from beginning, another career according to Cross is most certainly now over.

“When I walked to the Bruins table they said, ‘You’re retired from baseball,’ and I said, ‘That’s a deal.'”

Not a bad tradeoff at all.