Oct. 23, 2012
by Andrea Nelson - griffinshockey.com
It took Brennan Evans 30 hours to drive from Edmonton, Alberta to his new home in Grand Rapids. New coaches, teammates and fans awaited his arrival, but one friendly face brings a little taste of his Canadian home to Michigan.
“I got a new five-month-old Alaskan malamute puppy, Ammo,” Evans said. “She’s about 50 pounds, she’ll get to about 80-90 pounds. She’s a puppy mentally, but physically she’s pretty big.”
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound defenseman has no room to talk. His new head coach doesn’t think so, either.
“First of all, he’s got very good size,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill said. “He uses his size real effectively to make him very hard to play against both from a physical standpoint but also from an ability to be very long and as a defender make it hard for offensive players to make it to the net.”
As one of the team’s older members at age 30, Evans knows he can contribute much more than his on-ice knowledge to his young Griffins teammates.
“Obviously being an older guy, there’s a leadership role,” Evans said. “We’ve actually got quite a young team so helping the guys on the ice and there’s a lot of things going on as a pro off the ice, too, like how to handle yourself and how to treat your body. Then on the ice, being physical and looking after some of the young guys, being really reliable on the ice.”
The defenseman is a successful hockey veteran, having played for seven teams over the past 10 years. He spent the past two seasons playing for the Peoria Rivermen, but couldn’t be more excited join his former team’s new Midwest Division rival in Grand Rapids.
“I love it here,” Evans said. “I’ve been a lot of places and this is one of the nicest ones probably. It’s been really good so far.”
It doesn’t hurt that he’s playing with and for a group of people he respects deeply. The relationships he forms with the coaches, teammates and fans are the main reason he comes back year after year.
“Just being here, being with the guys, joking around in the room, getting on the bus, it’s a lot of the little things,” Evans said. “Obviously I love hockey, I’ve been playing a long time, but it’s the relationships that you make with the coaches and the guys, that’s what keeps you coming back. It’s the guys that you meet and the relationships you make.”
Evans made an early impression on his teammates and coaches, as he was named an alternate captain prior to the season. The 10th year pro knows there is always room for improvement and isn’t afraid to ask what he can do to help his team.
“From the coaches, everything is good,” said the North Battlefield, Saskatchewan, native. “I don’t think it’s ever bad to ask a question. You get a really good feel of the game, especially if there’s anything the coaches are looking for.”
The Griffins’ coaching staff is more than willing to help one of the newest additions to the team become successful. They can’t help but notice how his natural leadership skills and veteran status are already impacting their young team.
“Brennan’s come in and certainly handles himself like a pro,” Blashill said. “He’s prepared every day to practice real hard, he pays attention to detail in practice every day. Those are the types of things I’ve seen over the last year and a half that pros do and he’s certainly a true professional.”
And Evans takes his professional status very seriously, especially when it comes to mentoring his young teammates.
“If I’m playing with younger guys, I can feel free to try to develop their game knowing I’m going to be there to back them up if something goes wrong and help them with their confidence and in the locker room,” Evans said. “Guys aren’t living with their parents anymore either, so a lot of stuff goes into being a pro and I can help with that.”
After a decade in the league, Evans has seen just about everything. This season, he’s excited to see the talent and competition increase around the league.
“I’m excited about the team we think we’re going to have,” Evans said. “The league is going to be really good. Winning the Calder Cup, that’s the ultimate goal. I think there are 30 teams that have the same goal right now, and we’re one of them.”
Evans is living his dream every time he laces up his skates, but a book has him thinking about life after hockey.
“I’m really into reading ‘No Easy Day,’ about the Navy Seals and I’ve just been on a really big Navy Seals kick right now,” Evans said with a laugh. “I think that would be really cool to see a day in the life of one of those guys.”
The defenseman may not be protecting his country, but he protects his own every time he steps on the ice. He uses his veteran status to watch over and mentor his young teammates, and he hopes that every Griffin on the team will improve on and off the ice because of it.