Dan Bertram and Michael Brennan have been best friends since they were placed together as roommates during their freshman year at Boston College. Four years later, the pair didn't have to go far to reconnect.
After the duo captained their Eagles squad to the 2008 NCAA National Championship, they were together again as teammates during the Blackhawks’ prospects camp last week.
For Bertram, a second-round draft pick of the Blackhawks in 2005, having Brennan join him with the Hawks has already been a surreal experience.
|Dan Bertram |
“We have been talking about how crazy of an experience it has been...for a kid from Alberta and a guy from New York, who played against each other in national junior hockey games and developed a bit of a rivalry, to be put together as roommates randomly and become best buddies," said Bertram.
“It has been incredible," added Brennan, a free agent signed by Hawks GM Dale Tallon this off-season. "The Blackhawks are a great organization and an Original Six team. To have my roommate of four years in the same program with me is something that is really special.”
The Blackhawks are hoping that the pair can contribute as much at the NHL level as they did during their days in Boston. Brennan was the glue of the blue line, recording eight points (3 G, 5 A) in addition to 52 penalty minutes. Known for his hard-nosed style of play, the Smithtown, NY, native would often punish opposing forwards with adroit hip checks along the boards.
Though Brennan was considered the emotional leader of the team, he believed it was his consistency that set him apart, as he didn’t miss a game in four years -- spanning 166 consecutive games -- at Boston College.
“It’s a long season, so I try to be as consistent as possible every time I hit the ice," said Brennan. "When the coaches put you out there, you want them to know what they are going to get. I think that is one of the biggest things that it takes to be successful as a player. It’s something that I pride myself on, and hopefully I can bring it to the next level.”
|Michael Brennan |
Bertram, who was the center on the Eagles’ second line, set a career-high with 37 points (10 G, 27 A) in 43 games in 2008. The Calgary native was particularly effective during the Eagles’ championship run, tallying 10 points (3 G, 7 A) in eight postseason games.
Known for his intense work in the weight room, Bertram was thankful to see his hard work pay off in the form of a national championship.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Bertram. “Mike and I were in our third-straight year at the Frozen Four and felt a little extra pressure because we were captains of the team. I just remember looking up at the clock with five seconds left and thinking to myself ‘We actually did it.’ When I hit the ice, the first person I met on the ice by our goal was Mike.”
Having lived with Bertram for his entire college career, Brennan was just as thankful to share the championship experience with his roommate. His off-ice time with Bertram, however, was not always as memorable.
“Dan is pretty messy. He doesn’t like doing laundry,” said Brennan. “He piles up a big pile of laundry in a small dorm room. It was something that we had a couple arguments over during our four years living together. Overall, he was a great roommate and we had a great time together.”
Bertram acknowledged his laundry deficiencies, but countered with his own dirt on Brennan.
“Mike is a clean freak. Everything has to be in the right spot,” said Bertram. “He has to put things back in a certain position, like his chair or a book. He’s a very different person because I tend to be messy, so we had some arguments about that. Mike is also a very superstitious person. It is something that we have given him a hard time about during the years. As the season goes on he picks up more superstitions, which gives us a chance to give him an even harder time.
“He has one superstition that involves touching things on his way out the door. So, by the time we made it to the Frozen Four this year, it took us like 35 minutes to walk down the hallway of our hotel room.”
Bertram and Brennan both agreed that the Hawks will benefit by having another Eagle join the organization. Ben Smith, a sophomore forward, was selected by Chicago in the sixth round (169th overall) in this year's Entry Draft after tallying 50 points (25 G, 25A) in 44 games on Boston College's top line.
“Ben is a high energy guy. He is very, very strong and goes to the net hard,” said Brennan. “Both Ben and Dan battle and can bring a lot to the organization. They are character guys and I think they are going to do very well.”
“Ben and Mike are both very good people,” added Bertram. “They are both willing to do the little things to become better people and teammates. It’s always good to have guys that are willing to put in the time and work hard to get better. They are definitely character guys.”
Smith, who is expected to return to Boston College for his junior season, was ecstatic when he learned he would be joining his friends in the same professional organization.
“It was a surprise, actually,” said Smith. “I was hoping something was going to happen, and I was thrilled when I got that phone call from (Blackhawks’ amateur scout) Ron Anderson, who was my coach during camp.
"But the best part about being drafted by Chicago was that after I got that phone call, the first three people that I called were my dad and Mike and Dan. I’ve been really close with those guys for the past two years that I’ve been at Boston College, and to be drafted by the team that had signed those two guys was just awesome.”