Brouwer announces retirement after 14-year NHL career
Former Blue scored one of most memorable goals in franchise history in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffsby Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
Troy Brouwer's Game 7 goal with the St. Louis Blues was scored more than five years ago, but he can tell the story of it in such vivid detail it might seem like it happened only yesterday.
"I was open and the puck came to me, so I was like 'OK, we're good.' And then I hit the post. I just kind of stared at it in shock."
Brouwer couldn't afford to mess up that moment. Too much was riding on that one play.
The Blues hadn't beaten the rival Chicago Blackhawks in a Stanley Cup Playoff series in 14 years. Year after year, season after season, the Blackhawks always seemed to best the rival Blues in big games. But on this day, with home-ice advantage in Game 7, St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Blackhawks rallied back, and now it was 2-2 with less than 12 minutes left to play in the third.
With the puck now loose in the crease and Chicago goalie Corey Crawford sprawled out of position, Brouwer took another whack at it.
Video: Brouwer scores Game 7 winner vs. Blackhawks
"It handcuffed me a bit on that second try. I actually thought about kicking it in after that," Brouwer admitted. Of course, had he acted on that impulse, the goal wouldn't have counted and who knows whether a go-ahead goal that got taken away would have doomed the Blues, a David trying to take down their Goliath.
"Finally, on the third swipe at it, I went down to one knee to get some leverage on it. That worked," Brouwer said. "The puck went in, the crowd went crazy, and that was one of the most memorable goals I've had. It was also probably the ugliest."
The Blues fended off the Blackhawks in a furious final 10 minutes and ousted the defending champions in Game 7 thanks to Brouwer's goal, which stood as the game-winner.
Until the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019, it could be argued that Brouwer's goal and that Game 7 victory was one of the biggest moments in the franchise's then 49-year history.
"I love the fact that the goal is part of the Blues' playoff lore," Brouwer added. "And to score it against my old team was pretty special as well."
Brouwer was no stranger to big moments. In 2010, he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Blackhawks. It was an emotional time - not just because he had achieved his dream early in his career - but because the Cup win came just weeks after his dad was hospitalized due to a debilitating stroke.
At the 2015 NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park while with the Washington Capitals, Brouwer broke a 2-2 tie with 12.9 seconds left in regulation to beat the Blackhawks in another game on a grand stage, this time with his dad in attendance.
It's those moments - the larger-than-life ones - that Brouwer says he will miss the most as he announces his retirement after a 14-year playing career.
"I'm going to miss the relationships that I was able to make over the years with guys on my teams and their families," Brouwer said. "Playing this game, you always get to meet new people, you always get to have experiences with those people and a lot of those you'll carry with you for the rest of your life. I'm going to miss that competitiveness, and I'm going to miss those big moments where you have an opportunity to do something amazing after you've worked your whole life to get to that moment."
It all started for the Vancouver, BC native back in 2004. Brouwer wasn't projected to be a high draft pick, so he wasn't even in attendance for the 2004 NHL Draft in Carolina when his name was called by the Blackhawks in the seventh round (No. 214 overall).
"The one thing I remember was my dad running into by bedroom, still in his underwear in the morning, and he said 'You just got drafted by Chicago," Brouwer recalled. "I jumped out of bed and waited by the phone because I knew my agent was going to call. It was one of the best wake-up calls I've ever had."
A self-proclaimed late bloomer, Brouwer didn't consider himself to be an elite player, and it wasn't until he was 19 or 20 years old before he felt like he had a legitimate shot to play in the NHL. One of his coaches, Curtis Hunt, told him that in order to succeed, he'd need to "dance with the girl he brought to the dance," a fancy way to say he should play the same game that got him drafted into the NHL in the first place.
"It was always just hard work, play physical, play hard and contribute where you can," Brouwer said. "I was able to make sure I still played my game, and it fit what a lot of NHL teams needed, so that's how I was able to have such a long career."
Brouwer spent five seasons with the Blackhawks before the Washington Capitals acquired him in a 2011 trade that sent a first-round pick to the Windy City. Brouwer made some of his closest friends in the game in Washington, D.C., but after four seasons and 293 games, he was traded to St. Louis in a deal that sent T.J. Oshie to Washington.
"Whenever you get traded, you're always a little bit disappointed because you've got roots in an area," Brouwer recalled. "But I knew St. Louis had a really good hockey team. I didn't know anybody except Kyle Brodziak, who I played juniors with, and the move to St. Louis was chaotic in the beginning because my wife was 32 weeks pregnant with our son, Cade, so there was a lot going on away from hockey. I remember (Blues General Manager) Doug Armstrong and his wife, Kelly, coming over to our house to make sure we were OK, bringing gifts for Cade and my daughter, Kylie, and just helping to make us as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible. Everyone in St. Louis made us feel included so quickly and for me, that just made St. Louis so special to me. We absolutely enjoyed and loved our time in St. Louis. Cade still wears his Cardinals hat around and is very proud of being a St. Louis-born kid."
Brouwer's time with the Blues was short - although he made the most of it. He played all 82 games in the 2015-16 season, posting 18 goals and 21 assists (39 points) with the Blues before helping to send the team past the Blackhawks in the first round with that aforementioned Game 7 goal. The Blues reached the Western Conference Final that season for the first time in 15 years.
After not reaching a deal with the Blues following that season, Brouwer signed with the Calgary Flames, where he played two seasons before moving on to play one year with the Florida Panthers.
Knowing his career was winding down, Brouwer then took a professional tryout with the Blues in November 2019 and ended up signing with the team, playing 13 games in a pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season.
"If it had been another team that offered me that tryout, I don't know if I would have taken it," he said. "But we were comfortable in St. Louis when we were there in 2015-16, we were familiar with the team, the schools, the surrounding areas and what our living situation would be like. I wanted to finish my career in a place that I really enjoyed playing, which was St. Louis."
All in all, Brouwer compiled 182 goals and 181 assists (363 points) in a 14-year career that spanned 851 regular-season games and another 106 appearances in the postseason.
"Not too bad for a young guy who was just hoping one day he could play one NHL game and flourish into a pretty solid career from there," he told stlouisblues.com. "You always hope you can play one NHL game. Then you hope it's 10 games, then so on and so on. There were some days where you get called up and sent down and you're not quite sure if things are really going to pan out the way you want them to. But perseverance, being surrounded by great people, great family and great friends can make it all work out."
As he hangs up the skates, Brouwer has a long list of people to thank.
His wife, Carmen, who was always supporting and encouraging him as he traveled across North America to fulfill a childhood dream while she stayed home to keep their life organized. His kids, Kylie and Cade, who are old enough to have been able to see and appreciate what their dad did for a living. "I hope they have some amazing memories of being at the rink because I do, and those are some of my favorites," Brouwer says.
To his parents, Don and Kathy, who were his biggest fans and gave him the opportunity to play hockey and love it at a young age.
To his in-laws, Eugene and Shannon, who supported him on the ice but also helped with moves from city to city - they would drive the cars and family dogs across North America wherever his career took him.
To his agents, Craig Oster and Don Meehan, for their help, guidance and belief that he could be a consistent NHL player.
And to the fans, because "playing in front of them was a thrill that only a lucky few people in the world get to experience," Brouwer said. "I wanted to prove some wrong and prove the ones who were cheering for me right. That's something that drove me and made me love the game even more."