Kelowna Rockets goalie coach still has eyes on the NHL - InfoNews

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Kelowna Rockets goalie coach still has eyes on the NHL

Kelowna Rockets goalie coach Adam Brown stick handles a puck in Prospera Place, Kelowna, May, 2018.
June 04, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - So what could be cooler than a job that involves a secret door?

Nothing, right?

OK, maybe it isn’t entirely secret but the plain unmarked door in the alley behind Prospera Place arena leads directly into the Kelowna Rockets coach’s room.

We’re talking the nerve centre of the operation here.

That’s where goalie coach Adam Brown says he will meet me when I ask to chat about his cool job making the Rockets better in the net.

It’s a hot spring day and Brown’s looking decidedly unhockey-like in shorts and unlaced running shoes, dressed more for the beach than Canada’s favourite sport.

I immediately reveal how poor a Rockets fan I am when he tells me of his own past as Rockets goalie, playing four years with Ogopogo on his chest beginning in 2008, before a pro career in the East Coast League and Sweden.

I’ve never heard of him but he’s OK with it. “Especially being a goalie, you take your helmet off and people don’t recognize you too much,” he laughs.

Brown is just happy to be back in Kelowna a decade later, working as one of four full-time Rockets coaches after bumping up against, but not quite breaking into the NHL.

“I was never drafted, which made my path more difficult,” he says, in answer to a question I’m sure he’s often been asked. “I had to fight my way into places but I was never able to crack it and get that contract at the next level.”

With that out of the way, I ask him what are the biggest myths about his profession, which after all, is a pretty elite club when you consider the size of the NHL and other pro leagues.

“People think all we do is show up for the practices and the games and go home and that’s it,” he says. “In reality, the coaches are here eight or nine hours a day and game day is even longer.”

Regular season will find Brown working closely with Rockets head coach Jason Smith and assistant coaches Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard.

During the regular season, when the team is at home, his work week is somewhat like the rest of us, Monday to Friday except for super long game days which include a clutch of specialty meetings — penalty kill, power play — plus the big team meeting.

“Everyone’s part of that. We go over clips I’ve compiled, we show breakouts, we show forechecks, so the team has an idea of what might be coming at us that night,” Brown adds.

On the ice, Brown and the team’s net minders put in their own time on top of the regular practices, doing goalie drills and other specific training.

Brown hits the road with the team about a quarter of the time for road trips from three to eight days, living and breathing hockey with a bus full of 16- to 20-year-olds, who are themselves near the top of the hockey food chain.

Even cool jobs have their grunt work and Brown says his is hours spent in analyzing game video of all kinds.

“That’s the less glamorous side of the job,” he says. “The reality is I’m behind a computer screen a lot, breaking down games, watching previous games, coming up with highlights of goalies and where goals are going in.”

It’s not just about our side, Brown adds. “I also give them information on the goalies they are going to be facing and try to exploit their weaknesses.”

I remind him that the grunt part of his job — watching endless hockey on a TV screen — is what lots of Canadians do for fun.

Prospera Place is quiet now, the Rockets were swept in the first round of the 2018 WHL playoffs but Brown says they are already looking to next year and he’s at the rink most days of the week.

“We do a lot of video work during the summer,” Brown says. “We’re breaking down NHL games and the Memorial Cup getting clips ready for next year."

Brown has the square-jawed good looks that a Canadian hockey mom would be proud of, except he’s not Canadian, born originally in Michigan and living all over the U.S. while growing up playing hockey.

He's pretty much got ice in his blood. His father Newell is an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks and has been coaching in the league for a couple of decades.

You can tell Brown loves his job, not just by his words, but also by the smile that seems never far from his lips as he talks about it.

That may also be because it’s a second chance for him to break into the NHL, which is his obvious ambition and a logical extension of time spent studying the game even as he played it.

“I would ultimately like to be goalie coach in the NHL,” Brown says, with quiet determination. “My certification is that I was a student of the game when I played, I didn’t just go home and forget about it.”

At 26, Brown admits to being young yet for the job, forcing him at times to work harder to gain the respect of players that sometimes aren’t that much younger than him.

While it's within reach, Brown also knows his ultimate goal of breaking into the elite world of NHL goalie coaches will be tough, too.

“I know it’s not the easiest path but then neither was my original goal of making the NHL as a player,” he says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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