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Facing adversity with positivity

His path to Canada’s National Junior Team may be different from his teammates, but Brett Brochu has always managed to find the silver linings

Shannon Coulter
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August 11, 2022
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If there is one thing Brett Brochu has learned during his hockey journey, it’s to be more patient and not stress out about the unknowns.

That’s easy enough to say, but it becomes increasingly difficult when you are faced with adversity, like Brochu did after the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) draft.

The 19-year-old goaltender was selected by the London Knights in sixth round of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, 114th overall. When he went to look for a team to play with the following season, he had difficulties finding one.

“I tried out for about five or six different Junior B teams and got cut from all of them,” he says. “I ended up finding my way on to a Junior C team in Dresden.”

Despite the hardship, Brochu found a silver lining in the situation. He says his time in the Provincial Junior Hockey League benefited his development because he played almost every single game with the Dresden Jr. Kings.

“I just tried telling myself that it would all work out if I just kept doing what I’m doing, working hard and sticking to the process,” he says. “But obviously, it was pretty tough getting cut from that many teams, knowing that I wanted to play for the Knights the next year.”

Daren Machesney, the Knights’ goaltending coach, first saw Brochu play while he was on the road scouting.

“We liked him, but obviously the thing was the size issue,” he says. “When we were watching Brett, he was probably five-foot-seven and that’s pretty small for goalies. We wanted to see if there was a chance for him to grow.”

The more times Machesney saw Brochu play, however, the more he was captivated by his skill. The goaltender also hit a bit of a growth spurt to bring his height to five-foot-11.

“We kept watching him and [were] more and more impressed every time we watched him,” he says. “We would get other people’s names thrown at us and Brett would play against those other guys, and he would stick out. We just kept putting his name to the top of our list… I couldn’t say no.”

With his awareness of Brochu’s talent, Machesney continued to advocate for the future Knights netminder.

“I think a lot of teams were kicking themselves for not trusting what we’re saying,” he says. “It just didn’t matter where he was playing, he just seizes every opportunity and he’s done it for every team.

“I remember talking to his Junior C team and they were like, ‘This is way better than advertised.’ And they just kept saying to us, ‘You guys are getting a heck of goalie.’”

With a contract officially signed with London at the start of the 2019-20 season, Brochu achieved his goal of playing in London. All he did in the pandemic-shortened season was lead all OHL goaltenders in goals-against average (2.40) and earn a place on the OHL First All-Rookie Team.

He was looking forward to building on that success with the Knights in 2020-21, but COVID-19 prevented that from happening. Amid the uncertainty and eventual cancellation of the OHL season, Brochu was back on the hunt to find a place to play.

“I got a good chance at coming [to National Junior Team selection camp in November 2020], so that kind of put me on the map for some [American Hockey League] teams for that season,” he says. “It worked out in my favour where I got to develop in Wilkes-Barre for the full year. But it was definitely tough not playing a lot of hockey games where I didn’t really know what was going to happen.”

Brochu ended up temporarily joining the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre Penguins for the season. Although he had a team to practice and train with again, he was limited to only one start during the season.

In the face of adversity, it can be very easy to feel down on yourself. But Brochu still looks back at the experience with some positivity.

“If you look back at it now, it really did help my game and I think it helped me get a lot better,” he says. “Everything does pan out in the end. I really do believe that.”

The Belle River, Ont., native had an excellent start to the 2021-22 season, leading the OHL in save percentage (.921) and wins (16) while also sporting a 2.48 goals-against average ahead of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in December. By the end of the campaign, Brochu ranked among the top OHL goaltenders in wins (29, T-3rd), goals-against average (2.75, 7th) and save percentage (.911, T-3rd).

Although his first time on Canada’s National Junior Team was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic in December, he stopped 20 of 22 shots in his international debut against Austria, one day before the tournament was cancelled. His path to the World Juniors may not look the same as his Team Canada teammates, but he is once again sharing the honour of wearing the Maple Leaf on his chest at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship as the tournament returns to Edmonton.

“I never really would have thought that I would be sitting here, but I definitely dreamt of it,” he says. “I wasn’t going to get down if I wasn’t on this team, just knowing how it’s panned out for me so far. But this is a dream come true.”

Machesney is just as excited for his netminder. Although he is only about three years into his coaching career, he says he will never forget this moment.

“I mean, there’s been some pretty cool moments in my life. Obviously, my kids being born and all those things. But for hockey and coaching, [Brochu joining Canada’s National Junior Team] would be right up there,” he says. “He’s been a pleasure to coach and as good of a goaltender as he is, he’s just as good of a person. Those are the guys you really cheer for. If he gets an opportunity, I think the Canadian fans will be quite impressed and he’ll be one of the fan favourites.”

As the rescheduled World Juniors gets underway, the goal remains the same for Brochu: to win gold. Beyond that, he has his eyes focused on his next goal: playing in the National Hockey League.

“[It has] never crossed my mind that I don’t think it’s not possible for me,” he says. “I definitely keep thinking about that every day. That’s my motivation.

“What I want to do for the rest of my life is play professional hockey.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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