Pre-season

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.