It has been an incredible summer for Don DelNegro, the longtime Boston Bruins athletic trainer.
Just a few weeks after the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup championship in 39 years, DelNegro learned he'd be a member of this year's Westfield State University Athletics Hall of Fame.
"Obviously winning the Cup is big, and to get into the Hall of Fame is an honor," DelNegro said. "It's two kind of different honors, but they both mean a lot."
A 1984 graduate of Westfield State, DelNegro will join five others in the Hall of Fame's 2011 class to be inducted in October. As a student trainer for the Owls, the Lynnfield resident worked with sports team for more than 1,800 hours during his undergraduate years.
"Westfield State gave me clinical experience that a lot of other schools didn't offer at the time," DelNegro said, noting that the chance to work in both football and ice hockey provided invaluable experience.
"It's kind of like when you want to be an emergency room doctor, you need to work in the emergency room. You see injuries in football and hockey that you just don't see anywhere else."
After working as head of sports medicine at Williams College, DelNegro joined the Bruins, and he's felt at home ever since. Heading into his 19th season with the Boston, he and the Bruins reached the top of the mountain in the National Hockey League when the team topped Vancouver in Game 7 of the Finals to win the Stanley Cup.
"It's something you always think about and wish and dream that someday you can win the Cup," DelNegro said. "After 18 seasons, you kind of scratch you head a little and wonder if it's ever going to happen. When it does, it is something special."
On July 12, DelNegro enjoyed his personal day with the Stanley Cup. It's an NHL tradition that members of the Cup-winning organization — players, management, training staff and others — enjoy, and that tradition is one of the things that makes the Stanley Cup magical.
"The Bruins have done a fantastic job, above and beyond what I think any organization would do," DelNegro said. "I really appreciate the NHL and the whole program of giving the staff a day with the Cup, especially when you can share it with your family."
For DelNegro, that day came in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he makes his summer homer with his wife, Claire, and daughter, Renee — who had one special request of the Cup.
"All she wanted to do was have an ice cream sundae on it. That's what she wanted, and we made sure we did it. She was ecstatic," he recalled.
DelNegro's day was a special occasion for the entire Lake Placid community, which felt connected to the 2011 Bruins because the team spent time there during their first-round series against Montreal.
On the team's championship DVD, several Bruins noted that the team bonded during their time in Lake Placid, and it helped galvanize the club.
"I saw it happen," DelNegro agreed. "The town felt a huge connection to the team; all throughout the playoffs, friends and acquaintances were texting me about the team. They felt like they were a part of it."
As a Westfield State Hall of Famer, DelNegro joins another Stanley Cup winner in Flyers coach and 1986 Owl alum Peter Laviolette. He was also humbled to join his mentor, former Owl trainer Rich Pierce, in the hall.
"Rich was one of my mentors and still is. I credit him with encouraging me to go out and do it — he believed in me and gave me the opportunity at a young age. He was always there if I had questions, and he's always been a good friends."
A renowned trainer, DelNegro was head trainer for the United States men's hockey team at the 2006 Olympic Games as well as in multiple world championships. He was also the athletic trainer for the U.S. bobsled and luge teams at the 1992 Olympics and for the U.S. wrestling team at the 1991 Pan American Games.
DelNegro also always takes time to give back to the Westfield State community and aspiring trainers, meeting with student athletic trainers both in Boston and on campus at career workshops.
"You always want to give back — it's important for everybody, no matter what you do, to give back. As a student, you want to listen and learn as much as you can from the people ahead of you and gain knowledge from their experience," he said. "I really enjoy the opportunities I have in that regard — I wish I had more."