The Calgary Hitmen lead the Tri-City Americans two games to none in the WHL Championship round. The series now shifts to the Toyota Centre, the home of the Ams in Kennewick, WA.
Although the Hitmen are quite comfortable playing in front of 10,000 plus fans in the Saddledome in Calgary, the Toyota Centre in Washington is also said to be an intimidating barn full of crazy fans and an electric atmosphere.
"I think we have played the whole playoffs in some pretty hostile buildings," Joel Broda said. "Moose Jaw was probably the craziest rink I have ever seen with the atmosphere that was going on and the point in the series it was in. It was a pretty hectic barn to play in. Medicine Hat the same thing, and in Brandon. Tri will be no different. I think the fans will be crazy, but I think we should be able to handle it."
The Toyota Centre is all too familiar for Hitmen sniper Broda. The last time he was in the Ams rink, he was a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“It's been a couple of years since I've been there," Broda said, "and I'm excited to go back. It’s a great town with a good fan base. They have a really hot barn with a lot of great people. It was fun to play there but now I’m on the other side.“
Broda was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan but grew up in Kamsack, AB. He began playing hockey at the young age of four. He was at a local rink when he found a broken hockey stick. He showed the stick to his dad and was enrolled in hockey the very next year. Broda then joined the East Hill Canadians where he played in the Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association for the next 14 years.
There's no other guy I'd rather put the puck on a stick than that guy, his shot is phenomenal.
- Hitmen Defense Griffin Nyren says about Joel Broda.
He was then selected by the Tri-City Americans in the first round (9th overall) in the 2004 bantam draft. He played two full seasons with the Americans totaling 19 goals, 29 assists in 122 games played.
Broda was traded to Moose Jaw for Jason Reese just three games into the 2007-2008 season where he went on to have a 50 point season with the Warriers. The Americans won their first U.S Division banner the year they traded Broda. They've now won three in a row.
He played in 39 games the following season with Moose Jaw putting up 36 goals and 12 assists before being traded to the Calgary Hitmen. He continued his offensive success with the Hitmen adding 39 more points to his career best of 87 points in one season. He led the WHL that year in goals scored with 53. Broda was then selected by the Washington Capitals in the 5th round (144th overall) of the 2008 NHL entry draft.
So far the ‘Caps like what they see in their 2008 draft pick. This season, Broda led his team in goals with 39 and finished with 73 points, good for third on the Hitmen. The Saskatchewan 20 year old has also played a large role in the playoffs, leading his team with 13 goals.
The Hitmen need just two more wins to secure a spot in the 2010 Memorial Cup Tournament. They were oh so close last year but it was the Kelowna Rockets who had the last laugh into the Mem Cup. Their surprising exit out of the finals shocked many and left a sour taste in their mouths.
“A bunch of us were there for that last year and it did leave a bad taste,” said Broda. “We’ve gone over just how important the first couple games of the series are. It’s definitely a big factor for us in this series moving forward.”
Author: Kristi Hennessy