The pros and cons of life as a hockey brat - the Brodeur boys and beyond
With his Hall-of-Fame play spanning over two decades, Martin Brodeur scratched the figurative back of the New Jersey Devils organization, backstopping them to three Stanley Cups as the central figure of the team’s golden age. As these things go, they’re now returning the favor. They’ve brought in his three sons to their summer prospect camp to get a little exposure to what it takes to make it. That would be Anthony (born in ‘95, a goalie), Jeremy (goalie) and William (forward). The latter two are twins born in 1996.
I went through something similar to Brodeur’s boys, albeit at a much different age and stage of my career. The New York Islanders invited me as an undrafted player to their prospects camp partially because of my last name. While I was coming off a year of leading an NCAA team in scoring, I undeniably wouldn’t have been there without my Dad winning four Cups with the organization 25 years prior.
Growing up an NHL brat isn’t all roses, but it comes with more advantages than disadvantages, so you might as well cash in where you can. Below I’ve put together some of those pros and cons that come with the relationship, so you can have some idea what players in these situations - and there a lot of them, just check the list of recently drafted players with family ties at the bottom of the post - are going through.
All Eyez On You
“That’s Ray Bourque’s son,” says Scout A to Scout B.
If you’re trying to climb the ranks, eyeballs are what you’re after. So, the name helps you out of the gate. Do with that attention what you can.
Benefit of the doubt for fringe players
If you’re close to making a team, you’re usually going to get the nod. It’s just assumed you must have the genes/brains for the game, and that you’re more likely to figure it out than the guy you’re up against.
If you have questions, or need an agent, or would like to be a part of the game in other ways, you have the connections to get started. Patrick Burke springs to mind. His father’s place in hockey helped him get his foot in the door, and he’s since been able to prove that he’s the type of smart, capable hockey guy that employers chase. He hasn’t worked for his dad in years (he’s with the Department of Player Safety now), because he’s worked hard enough on his own to prove he belongs. But again - it helps you get started.
Understanding what it takes
You’ve seen the work that goes in, and you’ve seen the level of play you have to reach. Some kids don’t even know where the bar they’re striving towards is set.
Nature PLUS nurture
You’ve got the genes, plus you’ve been brought up in the sport. It’s the perfect combination - you’re physically able to do it, and all you’ve done is watch and absorb as a kid, so you know how it’s supposed to look. It’s a pretty good start.
You’re a target
Not just for players (though that can happen too), but from certain coaches. Some assume kids from NHL families will be entitled, or maybe they’ve got some resentment against the father, and they take it out on the kid. Those going out of their way to not show preferential treatment can occasionally go too far the other way.
Other players doubt you’ve reached the league you have on your own, and people everywhere assume you’ve been given a free pass. Your place on the depth chart comes with an asterisk to them, as do your stats. They just assume you got all the breaks. I got a college scholarship because my Dad knew someone, you see, not because I put up 76 points in 60 games in junior at 6’1.” Just ridin’ daddy’s coattails over here.
(That was the worst part about being at Islanders camp - not being taken seriously despite scoring regularly in scrimmages and performing well in practice.)
“Isn’t he supposed to be good, didn’t his Dad play in the NHL?” You may have the eyeballs right off the bat, but those eyeballs expect to see something special from you. If you’re just average, you’re deemed “bad.”
It’s obvious that the pros outweigh the cons - I’m not naive enough to believe otherwise. It was a pretty cool world to grow up in, and I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity.
Sometimes all you need is a chance, and like the Brodeur boys, those fortunate enough to grow up with Dads who succeeded in the game will get their share.
Below are all the “hockey brats” drafted in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
(All information from a June 29th NHL press release)
Kasperi Kapanen (selected 22nd overall by Pittsburgh): His father, Sami, was selected by the Hartford Whalers in the fourth round (87th overall) of the 1995 NHL Draft, and totaled 458 points (189-269—458) in 831 games with the Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
William Nylander (selected 8th overall by Toronto): His father, Michael, registered 679 points (209-470—679) in a 920-game, 15-season NHL career with the Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
Sam Reinhart (selected 2nd overall by Buffalo): His brother Max was selected by the Calgary Flames in the third round (63rd overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft, while his brother Griffin was drafted fourth overall by the New York Islanders in 2012. Their father, Paul, was selected 12th overall by the Atlanta Flames in 1979 and played 11 NHL seasons with the Flames and Vancouver Canucks.
Josh Wesley (selected 96th overall by Carolina): His father, Glen, patrolled the blue line for 1,457 career games with the Boston Bruins, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Dominic Turgeon (selected 63rd overall by Detroit): His father, Pierre, was selected first overall by Buffalo in the 1987 NHL Draft and registered 1,327 points (515-812—1,327) in 1,294 career NHL games with the Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.
Lukas Sutter (selected 200th overall by NY Islanders): He is the son of Rich Sutter and a member of the famous Sutter hockey family. Rich was drafted 10th overall in 1982 by Pittsburgh and went on to play 874 NHL games with seven teams.
Jack Ramsey (selected 208th overall by Chicago): His father, Mike, was a defenseman for the U.S. “Miracle on Ice” gold medal-winning team at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He skated in 1,070 career NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
Ryan MacInnis (selected 43rd overall by Arizona): His father, Al, is a Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman, Stanley Cup champion and seven-time All-Star who spent 23 seasons in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames.
Brendan Lemieux (selected 31st overall by Buffalo): His father, Claude, is a four-time Stanley Cup champion and 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy winner who recorded 786 points (379-407—786) and 1,777 penalty minutes in 1,215 career regular-season games. He added 157 points (80-77—157) in 234 career playoff games with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks.
Nolan Vesey (selected 158th overall by Toronto): His father, Jim, was a star at Merrimack College and was drafted 155th overall in 1984 by the Blues – he briefly played in the NHL for St. Louis and Boston.
Ryan Donato (selected 56th overall by Boston): His father, Ted, recorded 347 points (150-197—347) in 795 career NHL games with the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.
Daniel Audette (selected 147th overall by Montreal): His father, Donald, registered 509 points (260-249—509) in 735 career NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, Atlanta Thrashers, Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers.