ST. LOUIS - From junior hockey until he hung up the skates in 2012, goalie Fred Brathwaite’s hockey career spanned an impressive 24 years, two of which were spent in St. Louis.
He played just 55 games for the Blues in those two seasons, but in that short time, he endeared himself to fans of the club from 2001-03.
Since leaving St. Louis for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003, Brathwaite hasn’t been seen again around these parts - until this past July, when he showed up at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Outlet Mall to work with the goalies at the Blues’ Prospect Camp.
We caught up with Brathwaite to figure out where he’s been, what he’s been up to and what he thinks of the team’s future between the pipes.
BLUES: It’s been about 15 years since anyone has seen you around St. Louis, and then all of a sudden you show up to work with the goalies at Prospect Camp this summer. Where’ve you been, man?
BRATHWAITE: Well since I left here, I ended up playing some hockey over in Russia, and then I finished my playing career over in Germany. For the last four years, I’ve been working with Hockey Canada as a goalie consultant.
BLUES: How is it that you got involved with Blues Prospect Camp this year?
BRATHWAITE: (Blues Director of Amateur Scouting) Bill Armstrong and I played junior hockey together, and we won a Memorial Cup together. I’m sure he’s probably told you a couple of times he scored the winning goal. I saw him quite a bit on the road, and he asked me if I’d like to come over here to St. Louis and get some experience as a guest coach during Prospect Camp. I’m very thankful to him for giving me the opportunity.
BLUES: Over the course of the week, you got a good look at some of our goalie prospects. What do you think? How do they look?
BRATHWAITE: I know (2016 second-round pick) Evan Fitzpatrick pretty well with him playing at the U-18s last year for Canada. I’m very impressed with the talent you guys have here. This is my first development camp, but seeing what I’m seeing with these guys, it looks very good.
BLUES: What about Ville Husso, who was considered the best European goalie in the 2014 NHL Draft. Has he impressed you this week?
BRATHWAITE: He played in Finland against Canada in the World Championships, so I saw him play there. But just watching him out there - knowing he has the experience of playing in the men’s leagues back in Finland - the composure he has in the net, the way he reads the game, I see a really bright future for him in the Blues organization for sure.
BLUES: Are these prospects today different at 17 and 18 years old than maybe you were at that age?
BRATHWAITE: These kids are so mature. I don’t know what it is exactly. Everyone has their own coaches and they’re so prepared. We did a cook-off contest with these prospects - and they can all make their own meals! I could make a grilled cheese when I was that age. These kids are starting to be professionals at an early age by just being prepared and being in better shape.
BLUES: You spent two seasons with the Blues. What do you remember about St. Louis?
BRATHWAITE: The city is full of great fans. I didn’t know much about the city before I got here, but the fan base you guys have here is great. When I was here, we had some good teams, and unfortunately we didn’t get as far as we should have. But seeing the way other organizations ran, I know St. Louis was a first-class city and a first-class organization. And it’s always good to come back. I don’t know many people here still, but some of the guys I used to play with are still living in the area. It’s always nice to come back and see some of the trainers that were here when I was here - from Bert Godin to Ray Barile - those are some familiar faces.
BLUES: What’s next for you? Do we have to wait another 15 years to see you in St. Louis again?
BRATHWAITE: At the end of the day, I’d like to be an NHL goalie coach. I’m so thankful the Blues gave me this opportunity to be around these coaches and this environment. Hopefully in the next year or so, I get a goalie coach job with an NHL team - or if it’s not there, with a development team. But this has been great. Working with (Goalie Development Coach) Ty Conklin here, learning a lot from him - just being here and around this environment, it’s made me want to do this even more now.