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Part 1: Catching Up With … Wolves Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald

Earlier this month, defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald signed a contract to return for his third season with the Wolves. The Boston native missed the first half of the 2022-23 season recovering from shoulder surgery and finished with two goals and eight assists in 30 contests. In Part 1, the 26-year-old Fitzgerald talks about why he returned to the Wolves, his relationship with new head coach Bob Nardella, developing as a player and much more.

What motivated you to re-sign with the Wolves?

“The Wolves have been such a big name for so long and winning a championship with them two years ago was something special. I just love the people in the organization, love what they do and love what they put on for hockey. So, I’m just excited to be back.”

Did the fact THE Wolves will play as an independent team during the 2023-24 season play a role in your decision?

“It definitely came up. Being independent definitely was a big factor in a good way. I feel like we’re going to have a good team and there’s opportunity if an NHL team wants to sign you. But it’s pretty much just like a college team because you’re with that squad pretty much the whole year unless somebody gets hurt or whatever.

That’s exciting because I haven’t had that not coming from college and playing only Juniors so I’m excited for that. I think we’re going to have a good year. It’s a good group of guys.”

What appeals to you playing for an independent team?

For a lot of guys, if they signed elsewhere they might have to sit behind some young guys and that’s kind of just being in the developmental league of the AHL.

But it’s a good thing to sign with Chicago because they’re not going to have any of that and I know (new head coach) Bob Nardella is going to run a tight ship. I’m excited because if you play well, you’re going to play and if you don’t, you don’t. That’s the kind of hockey I was brought up to play.”

You mentioned Bob Nardella. What excites about playing for him?

It’s going to be awesome. I’ve been with him for the past three years now—including Covid—and he’s one of the greatest coaches. We’ve done some skill development the past couple years and I’m excited for him to take that head coach job. I can’t wait to play for him because he’s just a great character and has a great family.”

An injury kept you out until January, but how would you describe your ’22-23 season?

“It was a good season—I mean half-season. It’s not the best looking down from the press box for half the year. But you get a different kind of view of everything and sometimes it’s nice to sit back and watch the game from afar.

But I thought we turned it around after Christmas. It’s unfortunate that we missed out on the playoffs by a point. I thought we turned some heads and we were one of the hottest teams after Christmas. So, there’s a little fire there because you always want to play in the playoffs. I’m sure the returning guys feel the same.”

You’re fully recovered from your shoulder surgery. How eager are you to get going from Day One?

I’ve got no limitations right now. I’m just trying to get ready for camp and get ready for the start of the season because I didn’t have too much fun at the beginning this time last year and the first few months. I’m excited to get back to Chicago and start off October 14.”

In retrospect, how difficult was that time rehabbing?

“It was a little tough. It was my first big injury when I spent that much time off the ice. It was tough being away from the guys, too. You come to the rink but you’re not traveling when we’re on the road so you don’t get too close to the guys.

It took a little toll, but I have a really good support system at home with my wife, my family, my uncles and my grandparents. Everyone calls me every day whether I’m playing or not so they definitely played a big part in helping me.”

What is the next step in your development as a player?

I’m just trying to be a steady hockey player. Putting up points is nice but I’m getting up there a little bit in age so I just want to win and I think that’s what we’re trying to do in Chicago.”

When you are at the top of your game, what are you doing best on the ice?

“I’m just trying to be good in all three zones. Whether I’m on the PK or I throw a big hit or sometimes I close my eyes and shoot the puck and it goes in, all the better.

I just try to play the best I can, whether it’s offense, defense, blocking pucks—that’s all I can do.”

Are you a goal-setter?

“When you’re younger, you have a lot of goals and sometimes you hit them and sometimes you don’t. But as I’ve gotten a little more mature, while I do have some goals in mind, it’s just about doing whatever I can to help the team win and try and play the best hockey that I can.”

Coming soon: Part 2 of the conversation.