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Zach McKelvie hopes to get hockey career back on track after two years of Army service

Sep 11, 2011, 8:55 PM EDT

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Rookie camps feature plenty of players trying to make difficult transitions. Most are hoping to shift from either college hockey or the junior level to the minors or even a more dramatic jump to the NHL. Boston Bruins prospect Zach McKelvie faces a challenge that most won’t experience, though: going from active duty in the Army to shaking off rust as a blueliner.

The 26 year old defenseman hopes to get his legs back under him beginning at the Bruins’ rookie camp at Ristuccia Arena. The Bruins actually hoped that McKelvie would receive a release due to his hockey contract much earlier, but new Department of Defense rules prohibited him from doing so until now.

That setback hit the “Pause” button on McKelvie’s career, but the Bruins believe that he still has time to develop – and the added advantage of his speedy skating ability to make up for some of the maturation process. Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning spoke with CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty about McKelvie’s development process.

“He’s a great skater. He hasn’t played competitive hockey in a couple of years from college, but because he’s such a good skater and he moves well out there — and he’s a competitive kid — I think his timing will be off a little bit I think to start,” said Benning. “But I think once he gets his timing he could turn out to be a good player for us.”

Benning is a keen evaluator of young hockey talent, and the B’s assistant GM believes there’s still plenty of time for McKelvie to get his groove back with no hurry given Boston’s stacked stable of D-men at the NHL level.

McKelvie spoke about his experience in the Army and the mixed feelings that came with putting his career on hold.

“It was a great experience. I was an infantry officer in the army,” said McKelvie. “More than anything it was a learning experience, and getting to know the men and women that were deployed four or five times is extremely humbling and gratifying at the same time. I definitely wouldn’t trade the two years [served] for anything.

“I thought about hockey every day and I missed hockey every day, but I also took pride in wearing the US army uniform every day.”

Zach isn’t the only McKelvie hoping to make his NHL dreams come true. His twin brother Chris is a forward who split time between the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors and AHL’s Connecticut Whale in 2010-11.

Zach McKelvie’s already taken an interesting road to even make it back to Bruins rookie camp and he faces more challenges if he hopes to eventually earn NHL playing time. That being said, there’s a chance that he might face his twin brother at the sport’s highest level some day.

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