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Chance to win, family made Calgary fit for Brouwer

Multiple factors played into forward Troy Brouwer's decision to sign with the Flames this past off-season

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- When pondering a perplexing question, committing to a decision that would impact their family, their future, Carmen and Troy Brouwer decided to clear off the kitchen table.

"We didn't have spreadsheets or anything,'' recalls Troy Brouwer, "but we had a pros and cons list of all the cities that were interested.

"There are a lot of factors involved.

"Whether, team-wise, it's going to a good fit for me. Whether it's going to be a good city for our kids to go to school and grow up in.

"There are so many other things besides money and country that go into the decision where you're going to play."

With the NHL regular season only three sleeps away, the 31-year-old Brouwer, the bulldozing right winger who arrived here with such fanfare, has in short order carved out a niche.

Swiftly, he's take on the role of public voice from the private world inside the locker room, an engaging and willing interview subject.

Partnering with a couple of moppets, 18-year-old Matthew Tkachuk and 20-year-old Sam Bennett, he's been the fulcrum of training camp's top line in the noticeable absence of Sean Monahan (injury) and Johnny Gaudreau (contract negotiations).

The influence he and goaltender Brian Elliott, the two key additions from the St. Louis Blues, are going to command over the season to come is already obvious, and immense.

"We haven't played a meaningful game yet. It's pre-season. I get that. But he's been everything we'd hoped,'' praises assistant GM Craig Conroy.

"Watching him play, the presence he brings, the physical side to his game. And he's a right shot on the power play, which we were looking for.

"This is a guy who'll stand up in the locker room, stand up to teammates and isn't afraid to say: 'Let's get going here.' We have a relatively quiet group here. We were looking for a voice, another leader.

"He makes people accountable, he's won a Stanley Cup, he's already having a great influence on our young guys, he maybe takes the heat off Gio a bit in terms of talking to you guys (media).

"We couldn't be happier with him."

When the Vancouver-born Brouwer entered unrestricted free agency after a scintillating, eight-goal playoff run for the Blues, he had options to weigh. His fair share, actually.

So what drew him ultimately to Calgary?

"It was a decision to come to a team that had high praise for me,'' he explains. "A team that I'd fit in well with. And there's great potential for the team to do well.

"It doesn't hurt that our families are from Western Canada, me and my wife. Having our kids grow up around their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents ...

"That was important to us as well."

The cost of doing business was $18 million over four years. A steep price, in the opinion of some. When assessing Troy Brouwer's worth to this organization, though, don't be shortsighted enough to merely glance at his statistics.

Gauge Sam Bennett's progress.

Or Matthew Tkachuk's.

Or Micheal Ferland's.

"You're looking for a big, heavy, power-forward winger, in the free market,'' reminds Conroy. "Are you going to pay a premium for that?

"One thousand per cent. 

"But as much as you look at the player, you've got to make sure you've got the right guy. So now you've got to dig in on character, leadership, example -- qualities you're going to win with.

"It's so much more than 'Ah, I like the player. Let's go get him.' It's the background, talking to players that knew him who are now maybe out of the league; people from Washington, Chicago. You want to know 'What's he like off the ice? Good guy?'

"You're gathering that sort of information. And you can only sign so many guys. So you have to get it right.

"When we did our homework, we put a check mark in every box beside Troy.

"And then you've got to pay for that because we're not the only ones in the ballgame. You don't think a lot of teams wanted him?

"They did."

Video: Troy Brouwer on signing with the Flames

For relocating players armed with choice, the right fit is paramount.

The money on offer is comparable in most instances. The out-of-the-headlines factors are usually what tip the scales.

"I will say some do (look only at the dollar figures) but the majority of the time that's not your thinking,'' says Brouwer. "The majority of the time its where you're going to be the most happy, where you have a chance to win, where your family is going to be the most happy and where, of course, you're going to be financially set.

"There are so many intangibles that go into it."

Often, it aches to leave a place that's grown to be home. Brouwer felt that way when he was traded to the Capitals from the Chicago Blackhawks, a stint that included a 2010 Stanley Cup celebration in the Windy City.

"I was hurt when I got traded from Chicago. I didn't want to leave.

"But turned out it was a great opportunity to go to Washington. 

"We build allegiances in places. (Steven) Stamkos, he didn't want to leave (Tampa). He didn't want to leave a team he's built relationships with at the rink, away from the rink, and where he feels comfortable."

The transition to Calgary, Brouwer says, has been smooth. Even if there was an unnerving day when thieves vamoosed from the property the family is renting with both of his cars.

"I guess it was a crime of opportunity,'' he says. "They broke into a car in the driveway, opened the garage, grabbed the keys to the house and took off with our cars.

"I mean, it's scary to think people were in our house. But the good thing is nobody in the family woke up, nobody was hurt.

"And we got our alarm the next day."

Troy Brouwer believes in the project here. Otherwise, he wouldn't have come.

There were, after all, other options available.

 "In the end,'' he says flatly, "you want to win. That's the reason we play. Why do you think teams like, I dunno, say, Tampa, Chicago, New York … guys all want to go to those teams the last couple years? LA, too.

"Because they're always the teams competing.

"What did Ray Bourque do? He came close a few times (in Boston) and never won a Cup but he left (for Colorado) for the opportunity to win a Cup."

The Flames, he says, aren't that far away from making significant inroads.

"No, they didn't make the playoffs last year. But they've got a team capable of reaching the playoffs and in future years a team to contend.

"They've done a good job of developing their young players. They're star players in the league now. We have a great goalie, a great 1-2 set of goalies.

"That's what was enticing about coming to Calgary."

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