By: Amy Bath
Most know Wade Brookbank as the hard-hitting defenceman who was brought in to fill the role as the intimidating enforcer, yet Wade, like Batman, has a Bruce Wayne-like persona within who surfaces during the day.
Ironically, it is his alter-ego who we have come to know better. Both Wade's rowdy, competitive on-ice attitude and his easygoing, modest daily nature seem to stem from his casual upbringing as the middle child in rural, small-town Saskatchewan.
Wade grew up in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, a rural town dotting the middle of nowhere with a population of almost 1300 and lots of open space-- the perfect setting for young boys to get into trouble.
"Having grown up with two brothers, we were always fairly aggressive. We weren't overly aggressive with our friends or other family members, but within our house a lot of fighting and wrestling went on. We got into trouble a lot."
Wade's rambunctious childhood led us to talk about Halloween, and the differences between growing up in a small country town like Lanigan versus a bustling city like Vancouver.
"Trick-or-Treating in a small town was great because you could run around and hit almost every house and get a lot of stuff. It was a lot of fun seeing everybody, and always knowing whose house you were going to."
There seems to be a sense of community in small towns that is distinctly lacking from life in the city and somewhat foreign to people who live there. Besides, an added bonus to Trick-or-Treating in a small town, according to Brookbank, is that there's "lots of tricking going on too, especially once I got older!"
Brookbank's Halloween spirit has not diminished over the years. Wade hit me with a bit of a sneak attack when he revealed that he most recently dressed up as Enrique Iglesias for Halloween.
I don't know what could be more surprising than the thought of a six-foot-four, 225 pound hockey player nonchalantly saying, "I just painted my skin a little bit, and gave myself a big mole."
When prompted with the question, "Did you wear leather pants?" he responded with, "I actually went shopping in the girls section at Wal-mart." I stopped the questioning at that point.
It seems that a side effect of becoming more well-known in the NHL is that instead of dressing up as other people for Halloween, people start dressing up as you.
A cousin of Brookbank's fiancee, who has met him a few times and seen him play a couple games, wants to dress as him for Halloween.
"I hadn't thought about the concept of being someone's mentor or having kids look up to me until something like this happens." Wade brushes it off as if it's not a big deal, remarking that he doesn't mind "as long as it's all in good fun."
To no surprise, Wade often dressed up as a hockey player for Halloween, a sport that he has loved to play since he first stepped onto an outdoor rink at the age of five.
"They had two outdoor rinks in our town and there was one right by my place. We also played lots of street hockey. The roads in a small town are perfectly iced, since no one ever drives by, so you can play any time, any day, right in front of your house."
He played with a bunch of boys, including both his brothers, who seemed to have nothing better to do; however, instead of just goofing around, the town formed pretty good teams. "We had lots of guys who like to play hockey, and we took it pretty seriously from a young age."
Wade's competitive, aggressive drive is still alive and well, and spending most of its time in penalty boxes. Wade's abilities as an energetic enforcer made him a hot commodity during the 03-04 season, splitting the season between seven clubs, while suiting up for five teams.
He was finally claimed off waivers by Vancouver from the Florida Panthers, December 31, 2003. During the 04-05 season, Wade continued to set records for penalty minutes while playing with the Manitoba Moose, collecting his 285th penalty minute on April 12.
He definitely recognizes that he has a job to do and a role to fill. "The more I've moved up, the more defined my role has become. It's definitely something that I take seriously."
Although the role of the enforcer is being downplayed in the new NHL, it's still a key position. Wade perks at the prospect of playing Calgary, the first NHL rival he faced as a Canuck, while hoping to rack up a few more penalty minutes in the following months. He chuckles, spurting, "It's been so long since I've played a game."
Wade is best described as both Bruce Banner and the Hulk, yet he has an uncanny ability of making you forget that he ever transforms into an aggressive enforcer.
Wade's competitive, energetic, playful attitude is benign in daily life, and definitely not far-reaching from his days wrestling with his brothers, and playing on outdoor rinks.
The rambunctious, trouble-making kid within Wade is not disappearing any time soon.