Brett Howden realizes his name carries a lot of weight.
He knows his older brother and mentor, Quinton, made filling his skates difficult in the Western Hockey League and on the international stage.
The 16-year-old power forward from Oakbank, Man., is more than willing to show he is worthy of his own hype, as well as using Quinton’s experience as a template to fulfill his own dreams.
“He has helped me a big part of the way. Ever since I was growing up, I would come here and watch him,” says Howden. “He has been giving me little pointers – be it off the ice stuff (or) school stuff … he has just been my mentor growing up. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Despite the six-year age gap between the brothers, Brett is definitely following in Quinton’s path.
“I feel like I am right now, but I am sure that will change as it goes on. We will have different ways of how our careers will go. I am ready for all the challenges,” he says. “Right now, it is fun going through his footsteps because I watched him go through all of this. Now for me to be going through this, it is a special feeling. I have wanted this for a long time. I have been watching him since I was six years old.”
Quinton was drafted first overall by the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors in 2007 and Brett went fifth overall to the Warriors in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Both were highly sought after players that dominated with the Eastman Selects in the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League.
At first, Brett felt like he had to live up to a certain level that Quinton set during his time with the Warriors, but has started to recognize his own potential.
“At first, I felt like I had to do what he did,” Brett says. “I have slowly started to realize that it doesn’t matter and it’s my game now. It is up to me what I want to do. We have two different games and I try not to get too caught up in my head.”
Quinton was a beloved player in Moose Jaw, with fans donning his No. 21 on their own jerseys and cheering his every rush and every bar-down wrist shot goal for the Warriors.
Brett grew up watching his big brother accomplish amazing things on the ice and is happy to have his own chance now – even if there is the pressure of the same last name and jersey number.
“There is obviously some pressure,” says Howden. “It is sitting in the back of my head, but I try not to think about it too much.”
It comes as no surprise that Brett, like Quinton, will be playing for Canada on the international stage. Quinton was part of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence more than once, playing in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Memorial of Ivan Hlinka summer under-18 tournament and two IIHF World Junior Championships.
Brett is getting his first crack at the international game in Sarnia-Lambton, Ont., as part of Canada White at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
“I have watched him through every tournament he went to throughout the U17, U18 and World Juniors. It was pretty incredible to go and watch him,” says Brett. “He has always told me how much that meant to him. It just made me want it that much more.”
When he found out he made one of the three Canadian U17 teams, Quinton was – not surprisingly – one of his first calls.
“I told him right away,” said Brett. “He wanted to know and he was very happy for me.”
With Quinton playing for the San Antonio Rampage, the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, who selected him with the 25th pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the two communicate almost daily via text message. Through those texts, Quinton helps Brett adapt to life in the WHL and beyond.
“I’ve talked to him a lot about focusing and keeping my mental side strong. He has really helped me with that. He had to learn that on his own growing up,” explains Brett. “I am very lucky that I get to talk to him about that and learn quicker than he did. He is a big part of where I am today. I can’t thank him enough.”
Not only does Brett share the same name, number and sometimes the same position that Quinton did in Moose Jaw, he also is staying with the same billet family.
“It was pretty incredible to stay there. I have known them since I was little,” he said. “It just made me feel more comfortable coming here because I knew who I was living with. It just seems meant to be.”