By Brayden Schenn | Special to LAKings.com
My first time on the ice was probably when my dad built the backyard rink. We had some cold winters so we had a backyard rink. I was about 3 years old when I started skating. I used to play a lot of mini hockey in the basement but when I first skated I was about 3.
As I was getting into the sport, I felt like I had to work at it but my brother and I pushed each other when we played together on the backyard rink. I guess I was a little bit of a natural but you definitely have to work at it. Obviously when you’re young it’s a sport and you have the love for the game but as I grew up and was about the age of 14 I felt like I got a lot better.
Before that time, though, I took the ice a lot on three outdoor rinks on our block. There was also a big pond that we played on during the weekends when it wasn’t dark out. The one in my backyard was rather big. We had chicken wire behind the nets to stop the puck. One of my buddies down the street had a really big rink. He had little boards along the side and big boards at the ends but the chicken wire was key from keeping a few pucks from breaking windows.
When I was about 5 years old I transitioned into youth hockey. I think that’s about the age you start and it was called pre-novice and that was when I first started playing. My parents threw me in and obviously since then I have loved the game and now it’s a big part of my life.
Growing up a lot of hockey was with my brother, Luke. That was mostly outdoor hockey we played together a lot but not in leagues. One year we played together when I played up in an older age group on his team. Since we were two years apart we didn’t get to play a whole lot of organized hockey together.
We both grew up in Saskatoon, where hockey is huge. In the past 10-15 years there have been a lot of NHL guys to come out of there. Colby Armstrong was from Saskatoon and I the year I was drafted there were about five of us drafted into the NHL from Saskatoon. They have done a great job with youth hockey up there and hopefully they continue to grow in Saskatoon.
Back home, the closest big city would probably be Calgary and that’s about five or six hours away. My town is about 250,000 people but it’s no downtown Los Angeles with the high rise buildings or anything. Other than that it’s just a little city but I definitely enjoy my summers there.
As a kid I followed the Oilers and the Flames, since they were the closest teams, but I’ve never really had a favorite team. I really paid attention to Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton since they were always on television so we cheered for them. I got to go to a few Calgary and Edmonton games so those were the teams I cheered for the most growing up.
As I was going along and playing the game it was about when I was 16 when I started to rely envision myself playing at a high level. That was when I was playing juniors. You kind of get a feel for where you are in the game and I had a pretty good year and tried to make something out of it. Obviously you have to keep working and I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me to get to where I wanted to be. Right now is a big step in my career.
I played junior in Brandon and obviously playing in the Memorial Cup last year was the highlight. We also got to the Eastern Conference Semifinals two years in a row. I played with a lot of good players and a lot of good guys and I enjoyed the small city. The city treated me well and the fans were great to me. When I made the Kings team out of training camp there was a chance that I could still go back to Brandon this season. As the season started here my goal was to try and do everything I could do to stay here.
It was also while I was with Brandon that I got drafted by the Kings. The draft is obviously a lot of stress and it’s a full year. I didn’t get off to the greatest start that year but I had to climb my way back in. It’s a ton of stress for a 17 year old kid because there’s always someone watching you and watching every move in and around the rink. It was definitely an exciting point in my life getting drafted and it was obviously a dream come true for me. There’s no better team to be a part of than the L.A. Kings organization.
Before the draft the Kings had come to my house. We met with Mike Futa and Mark Yannetti a couple of times and again at the combine. On draft day, though, anything can happen with trades as some teams want you and some teams don’t. As we got close to the pick, Mike kind of gave me a nod and a smile. I knew then that I would be a part of this organization. Some talk at the draft, with the Toronto media, was that I might go to Toronto and play with my brother. It would have been nice but I am totally happy here. We have a great group of guys and we are on the rise.
Last year was also another great milestone for me. I was in Victoria with my agent for the Super Series, which was kind of a pre-World Junior tryout, and he told me I was going to get to play with the Kings the next night. I didn’t think he was serious at first. I flew to Vancouver the next day and I didn’t really know until pre-game that day that I was playing and it was kind of a whirlwind thing and it went by quick.
For that one game I got to play with Dustin Brown
and Alexander Frolov. They are two great players and I got a pretty good opportunity there. Obviously my first NHL game will be something I never forget.