Son captures what father could not

BOSTON -- An already emotional day on Saturday was made even more special for longtime NHL player and Boston-area native Tom Fitzgerald.

The assistant to Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, Fitzgerald was able to see his oldest son Ryan honored with the John Carlton Award, a prestigious honor given annually to top student hockey players in the Boston area.

Ryan Fitzgerald, 18, a senior at Malden Catholic High School and member of the Valley Jr. Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, will be attending Boston College in the fall.

Tom Fitzgerald was also a top high school player when he was growing up, and award winners included future NHL players like Ted Donato as well as Tom Glavine, who would go on to a stellar baseball career.

"I remember my senior year in high school. I didn't get it, and I was ticked off," Fitzgerald joked.

The parameters for the award have been broadened to include not just high school hockey players but those playing at other levels, so to see his son earn the recognition makes the honor even more impressive.

"They opened up the field, so it's a big deal," Fitzgerald, the father of four boys, told ESPN.com. "I'm very proud of him. It's a big day for our family."

The award was presented between the second and third periods of Saturday's game between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. The award is named for John Carlton, a former Bruins scout, and was presented by Boston GM Peter Chiarelli.

Ryan Fitzgerald said he was honored to join an illustrious group of former winners. As for the fact that he's collected an award that eluded his father, he said that might come up in family discussions down the road.

"Disputes in the house, I might be able to pull this out on him," he said with a smile.

Things are about to change for the Fitzgerald clan in the coming months. Along with Ryan's move to Boston College, 16-year-old Casey Fitzgerald will be off to Ann Arbor, Mich., in the fall where he will join the National Team Development Program. The second oldest of the Fitzgerald boys has also committed to play for Boston College when he graduates from high school.

With two boys leaving home, Tom Fitzgerald, who played 1,097 regular-season NHL games and won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins organization in 2009, joked that he and his wife will be back to man-on-man coverage in the fall.