T.J. Brennan's name is already on a banner in the rafters of a rink with a Flyers logo underneath it. However, that's not in Philadelphia - it's in Aston, at IceWorks, where Brennan once played for the Philadelphia Little Flyers. The organization has a handful of the banners honoring alumni who went on to play in college and beyond.
That was 11 years ago. It's funny how life works sometimes, because on Friday, Brennan had the logo on again - only this time it was for real.
Brennan, who signed with the Flyers back in July, dressed for the first official practice in the locker room of his favorite boyhood team. And even though he's has had plenty of big moments since then in a successful hockey career - scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in 2012, three AHL all-star nods, and two Eddie Shore awards as the AHL's best defenseman - Brennan definitely took a moment to reflect on where he was.
"To be able to put that crest and wear that on my chest is an honor," Brennan said. "So I try and wear that with pride and remember that every day, starting today. Obviously I go out and give everything I have and leave everything out there. It's nice to get day one in the books here and I'm excited."
Brennan hails from Moorestown, NJ and grew up cheering for the Flyers at the Spectrum. After playing youth hockey for the Little Flyers and the Mount Laurel Jaguars, he went to St. John's, Newfoundland to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The move was a big one, but it paid off - Brennan was drafted by Buffalo in the second round of the 2007 Entry Draft, and after two years in the Q and three in the AHL, he made his NHL debut with Buffalo in 2011, scoring a goal in his first game.
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol took note of Brennan out in Group 1 on Friday. "T.J is one of the guys out there and his puck skills are very evident, he did a good job. He was very sharp this morning."
Brennan eventually appeared in 20 more games for the Sabres, but was traded to Florida in 2013. That summer, he signed with Toronto, but again wasn't able to stick with the Maple Leafs. He appeared in 13 games while playing most of his time across town for the AHL Marlies, where he was an AHL All-Star.
After his contract was up in Toronto, it didn't take long for Brennan to focus on where he wanted to go next - back home.
"A lot of trust and a lot of leaps of faith I like to call it, but in my mind it was the only decision what I thought was best for my life, my overall life, and creating balance in my life and best for my career so being around my family and friends and having a life outside of hockey," he said. "It seemed like this was a great place to come back home and endeavor in a career with a team I grew up loving.
"It seemed like things were not so called meant to be, but definitely the only choice in my mind especially as it got clear as the summer went on. So I feel very lucky and appreciative to have an opportunity here and get a contract and now it's time to start climbing the mountain."
Brennan knows it might be tough to crack the Flyers defensive corps given who's in camp, and that he may well be headed back to the AHL with the Phantoms. But in his view, he's simply going to put forth the best display he can and hope he can make the big club.
"I really just focus on who they put me with and I'm sure there is a really good reason for that if any, and then I do the best I can there," he said. "So the good part about being a player is there is a lot out of your control and once you finally let go of that and control all you can, things seem to open up and you can really enjoy yourself and just play the game of hockey."
For more on day one of Flyers training camp, click HERE.