My favourite story of the day was shared by TSN’s Bob McKenzie: Bracken Kearns will make his NHL debut tonight with the Florida Panthers.

Odds are, you’re in the same position as Bob and I found ourselves upon hearing the news, thinking “I have no idea what a Bracken Kearns is.”

Bracken Kearns is apparently a human, and an awesome, persistent one at that. Tonight he’ll play his first NHL game at 30 years old. Not like that’s ancient or anything, but in hockey years, most guys are beyond NHL consideration by 26. (It makes me wonder: how many guys have made NHL debuts after earning veteran status – 260 games played - in the AHL? Any?)

After playing Canadian college hockey, he made it onto Toledo’s ECHL roster. There, he was found by the Nashville Predators (an age old hockey mantra is “if you’re good enough, they’ll find you), and his journey caught fire.

From Mr. McKenzie:

Kearns made AHL stops along the way, two years in Norfolk, one each in Rockford and San Antonio, where he scored 20 goals last season. This past summer, Florida GM Dale Tallon signed Kearns to a two-way NHL-AHL contract. Tallon and Dennis Kearns were teammates back in the early days of the Canucks.

Bracken Kearns had three goals in his first three AHL games with the Rampage this season. So when Shawn Matthias went down with an injury, the call went out to to the 30-year-old forward this morning.

“It’s funny,” Panthers’ GM Tallon said, “I got a phone call from Dennis (Kearns) wishing me well on my birthday yesterday and I told him Bracken had a good camp and he would get an opportunity at some time down the road. I didn’t realize it would be today.”

So today it is.

Awhile back I wrote the story of Tommy Frew, a 36 year old school teacher trying to get back into hockey. Persistent guys like Kearns and Frew exist all throughout the ranks of the minors, and you have to admire their desire to reach the big time.

The stories don’t always turn out like Kearns’ did, so when they do we have to appreciate them. This is a pretty damn cool thing.

Comments (4)

  1. I think Clayton Stoner just made it (257 games from 2005-2009 and 1st NHL game in Dec 2010 with 26 AHL games that year). Should stick as an NHL’er too.

  2. I like these kind of stories, shows you what hard work and some talent can get you.

  3. As a Rangers fan, I can’t help but think of Hugh Jessiman last year with the Panthers. He was drafted in that really loaded 2003 draft and has been toiling around the A for at least 5 years. Guesstimate on the games played but if he played at least 70 games for 5 seasons, he’d qualify. Now excuse me as I take the same drugs Sather was on when he drafted that guy.

  4. Congrats Bracken, well done. A late bloomer like his dad

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