Making the National Hockey League is a difficult task. In addition to hockey, promising prospects must juggle many aspects of adulthood at a young age.
The pressure to perform at the highest of levels – often for one-game call-ups – and the uncertainty of what jersey you’ll be wearing or what city you’ll be sleeping in for your next game can be a lot to handle.
Boston Bruins forward Anders Bjork worked through this process and knows how challenging it is.
The 23-year-old has spent his first three professional seasons toggling between Boston and Providence on assignments due to inconsistent play at times and two consecutive season-ending shoulder injuries.
During his unpredictable stints at both ends of I-95, Bjork never really had a permanent residence during the season and often stayed at hotels on a moments notice.
“You feel like you’re all over the place, a million things in your car and stuff like that. You are basically living out of it sometimes,” Bjork said while reminiscing about prior experiences. “Not sleeping out of it obviously but it can be tough.”
Bjork noted that it comes with the territory of playing hockey for a living but it can be mentally draining. Instead of letting it get to him, the Notre Dame standout stayed level-headed by realizing how grateful he is to be playing professional hockey.
One of the things that really helped him through the growing pains was to always be ready.
“My first year I got sent down and then called back up, Boston was in Ottawa,” says Bjork. “We were on the road with Providence and luckily I had brought my backpack with my passport even though we were not even going to another country. So luckily I had it or else I wouldn’t have gotten called up.”
Now in his third season in the Bruins organization, the Wisconsin native finally has consistency on and off the ice.
Bjork’s played the last 20 games for Boston and has looked every bit the part of a top-nine forward since being recalled on Oct. 22 against Toronto. The speedster has totaled seven points during that stretch, but the biggest growth in his game has been on the walls at both ends of the ice.
Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins coaching staff wanted to see him get stronger and more responsible with the puck. Those were huge areas of emphasis in the offseason as Bjork rehabbed from shoulder surgery and they are paying huge dividends right now.
His dedication and discipline in those small aspects of the game have really allowed him to focus on his offensive-minded game because he – along with the Bruins staff – isn’t worried about his game along the walls.
“I’ve built a little bit of trust but I think my mindset kind of stays the same. I think it’s worked pretty well for me and I want to continue that and not get too comfortable or anything like that,” Bjork said. “Keep having that hunger to improve and prove myself. Each night show that I can play in this league and I think that hunger is really important.”
Bjork knows that a roster spot as well as a permanent Boston residence is not something that is given, and he plans to earn it.
“I want to be a hockey player so that’s my focus,” Bjork said as he pointed at the stalls of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in the Bruins locker room at Warrior Ice Arena. “You have to realize the other thing is having a solid secure living spot is earned too. You really have to earn that, you have to work really hard for that. It takes a while, you see the older guys and how much work they have put in. You have to respect that and try to emulate that.”