By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff ReporterFollow @mary_paoletti
There's something about Dennis Seidenberg you might not know.
If hockey was his first love, it wasn't his one and only.
"When I was 17 I stopped playing hockey," the Bruins defenseman said. "I was pretty good at tennis back then."
How good? He says he could have legitimately pursued a career in pro tennis. He lists "professional tennis player" in the media guide as what he'd be doing if not locking down Boston's back end. It's a good thing for the team his young interest got redirected and he was steered back toward the ice.
"I got invited to the hockey national team that was under 18 back then and I decided I wanted to give it a try again. So I went to the international tournament with Germany. After that I decided to stick with hockey and keep going."
Though being a hockey pro wasn't his lone aspiration, he gave himself a good chance at achieving it. Seidenberg started playing hockey in Schwenningen, Germany at age four. His father was a physical therapist for a local team and toddler Dennis tagged along to the rinks. It didn't take long for him to end up in skates.
And look at him now: Cup champion. Not Davis, but Stanley, Cup champion.
Seidenberg thinks of his mother when considering his accomplishments.
"She was the one who always drove us to practice -- me and my brother Yannic, 26, who plays for the Manheim Eagles in Germany -- and she mostly worked so I think she would be a main part in me being where I am today," said Seidenberg. "Not only financially, but also how time consuming everything is. I mean, my mom sitting in the car every afternoon, the whole afternoon driving us to practice. I think that's the most sacrifice you can ask for."
Family seems important to the 30-year old. As he talks about his hockey journey, you don't get the impression he did it alone -- he started because of his father, persevered because of his mother and is often reminded of his brother. Now a father of two girls, he sees things in perspective of his children. His first, Story, became a sister to Noah Grace on October 6 while the Bruins were in Prague.
What can two kids provide a professional athlete? Balance, says Seidenberg.
"They definitely help take my mind off of hockey because I really focus a lot on hockey being the ultimate goal," he said. "Especially when we lose, I think about it all night and all day. But having the girls in my life definitely helps me to think of something else and getting my mind off it."
Happy distractions were needed even before the girls were born.
Seidenberg's body hasn't always cooperated with his ambition. The lacerated forearm tendon suffered in April, 2010 was only the most recent setback in his now eight-year career.
He was drafted by the Flyers in 2001 and made his debut in 2002, playing 58 games. The next season Seidenberg saw action in just five because of a broken leg. He fell victim to concussions as well as groin, wrist and ankle injuries in the years that followed.
The forearm tendon tear ended his first Bruins season after 17 games. He had surgery three days after the incident, but missed Boston's last three regular season contests and playoff run. With just one month of service in Black and Gold, GM Chiarelli said Seidenberg "fell between the cracks" that year.
Fallen between the team's floorboards, he was good as gone to fans. So when it comes to Dennis Seidenberg there's probably a mess of things you don't know.
He's aware of this. It makes him thankful for being able to help the Bruins through 81 regular season and 25 playoff games.
"It's just very satisfying for me that I got to stay healthy for one year," he said. "When you get injured you always try to battle back into the lineup and that just kind of fights against you. It's just tough to battle back from that."
There, he paused.
"I can't really complain because my brother has had five or so knee surgeries and he's got problems walking around every day and I've got no problems. I did have my injuries, but I feel fully fine right now and I can't complain about anything."
He could begrudge the missed opportunities, he just doesn't. An important aspect of the nickname NBC's James O'Brien gave Seidenberg -- "Pain Sponge" -- is the ability of the defenseman to wring out the negative experiences he absorbs.
Resilience was one of Seidenberg's qualities that the Bruins noticed despite his small sample size of playing time in 2010. That June the Bruins locked himup for four years, 13 million.
He was thrilled to stay.
"Everyone welcomed me really nicely," he said. "It was easy to get adapted to everybody, getting to know everyone. It was just a good and easy adjustment. And I would say that as soon as I stepped into the locker room I felt like a Bruin."
So nobody brought up his role on the Carolina team that bounced Boston from the 2009 playoffs? Not one person mentioned his assist on Scott Walker's Game 7 game-winner?
"Well, couple guys mentioned it back then," Seidenberg laughed. "But it wasn't really a hard time. A couple guys said that's why they got me, so that was good."
He's in on the jokes with this crew. He's content here, honeymooning with the city's people. Bruins fans especially. And his teammates, too, of course.
A lot of athletes prefer not to compare teams, whether to avoid burning bridges, avoid offending former teammates, or to avoid taking the time on yet another question. But when asked what sets the Bruins apart from Philadelphia, Phoenix, Carolina and Florida, Seidenberg answered immediately.
"It's the confidence we had in our team. No matter what the standing was in the series or in a game we always knew we were able to come back if we put our minds to it. In the Stanley Cup finals we were down 2-0, but we just knew if we put our game on the ice that we were gonna win that game and series.
"I think this team is like no other because of that confidence that we can win every game if we play our style. "
The team has confidence in Seidenberg. His average ice time shot up from 23:32 during the regular season to 27:37 in Boston's playoff run. On average, only captain Zdeno Chara played more -- two-tenths of a second more.
Unsurprisingly, Seidenberg just rolled with it.
"It wasn't really pressure," he said. "Playing in the playoffs the lastcouple months was fun. I really enjoyed having that challenge, that time on ice every night. So when I left every night, like I said, I was having so much fun I wasn't really thinking about the pressure. It was more about the challenge of shutting down the other guys and helping our team win."
He did win. The Bruins won hockey's most coveted prize in 2011 and Seidenberg had a lot to do with it. Peter Chiarelli stressed that point during the team's post-Cup decompression, saying the team started its run with the blueliner's acquisition.
That's one hell of a nod and Seidenberg knows it.
"It just really makes me happy to hear such words out of our GM," he said. "Again, it always goes back to confidence, but you need it to play hockey and you need it to feel comfortable on the ice. I can't ask for more."
Well, maybe another NHL championship. For as much as he relished the first, it's time to move on; this season's training camp kicks off in less than eight weeks.
"The celebration stopped a while ago. It's always nice to talk about it, but right now it's everyday life again. I'm working out, getting ready for next season. Our goal is to do it next year. I think everybody wants to party like we did at the end of the season and wants to do the same thing again because it was so much fun."
Dennis Seidenberg is happy "everyday life" for him is that of a hockey player. Of a Bruin.
But that's one thing you probably already knew.