Skip to Main Content

Bruins' top pick out to make name for himself

by John McGourty

Boston used the No. 16 pick to make Joe Colborne the first Tier II player selected this year, meaning that the Bruins rated him much more highly than NHL Central Scouting.
To hear some tell it, the rich are fortunate. Others will tell you the rich got that way through hard work. In reality, there are heirs and such who are fortunate -- and there are those who've amassed their own fortunes.

Joe Colborne, the Boston Bruins' first-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, fits both categories -- and he isn't afraid to discuss the subject. It's important because there are those who think Colborne's wealth will make him too soft to play in the NHL.

The Bruins used the No. 16 pick to make Colborne the first Tier II player selected this year. He was the No. 28-ranked North American skater, meaning that the Bruins rated him much more highly than NHL Central Scouting. Nor are the Bruins the only ones who think Colborne will succeed: He's headed to the University of Denver this fall.

Colborne isn't the only family member making headlines this year. His dad, Paul, is a Calgary corporate lawyer with a unique ability to create energy-exploration companies that he sells to larger companies. As a result of his family's wealth and Joe's decision to bypass Canadian junior hockey, there were whispers before the draft that Colborne is "soft" and lacks the heart to withstand the grind and punishment of the NHL.

Guess those folks never talked to Joe Colborne.

The only thing "soft" about Colborne are his hands. As for the silver spoon, it likely got left behind in Ontario in the 1970s when Joe's grandfather, a construction worker, moved halfway across the country to find work in hard times. Later on, Paul Colborne played baseball and football at the University of Calgary and then went to law school there. He became a corporate attorney for an oil company, where he learned the skills that led to his recognition as one of North America's leaders in startup exploration companies.

"Some people try to stereotype me with some other people," Joe Colborne said. "Our parents brought us up to understand that nothing in life is given to you. They said if I wanted something, to go out and take it. It's not like I haven't made sacrifices. I moved away when I was 15 to attend Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. The sacrifices that my family and I have made helped me get to where I am today.

"My father is someone who didn't have much growing up, so he made sure he put in the hard work to become successful. My mom is the same way, and I feel lucky I had them to look up to. For me and my three sisters, they instilled the need for hard work and perseverance from the time we were little."

Paul Colborne's familiarity with construction work helped when Joe was getting better at hockey and the family moved to a new home that had an old outbuilding on the property.

"My dad played baseball and football and I don't think he had hockey in mind for me, but he always told me, 'You choose what you want to do.' I said it was hockey and he couldn't have been more supportive. The tractor shed had a smooth concrete floor I could shoot from. My dad and I put in a lot of time fixing it up. We have a 40 x 50-foot area with a net. We put up a basketball net for my sisters at the other end. They've all been good basketball players. I hit the walls with so many shots, I was covering the floor with wood chips so we added a mesh net that fixed that."

Colborne was at an impasse at the end of his bantam years. He was a gangly kid without a big reputation and he tried out for a Midget AAA team in Calgary. There may be no place tougher to make such a team.

"I went to the summer tryout camp, but they weren't going to take me as a 15-year-old," Joe Colborne said. "I had made it my goal to play juniors at 16 and there was no way I could make that jump from a regular youth hockey team to juniors, with players aged 20 and 21, so Notre Dame was one opportunity that came up.

"Other than my parents, coach Rybalka has had the greatest influence on me. He gave me an opportunity at 16 to play with some really good players. I learned so much that year and he was the best coach I ever had." - Joe Colborne
"It was a little scary. I didn't know if I would make the team. I had moved away from home and I was living in a dorm with three guys. It was a huge learning experience for me, a turning point. I had decided that if I wanted to go into hockey, I had to do things like this. It was just what I needed."

The Tri-City Americans held Colborne's WHL rights, and Notre Dame wanted him back, but Colborne chose the Tier II route, traveling north up Route 13 to play for the Camrose Kodiaks and coach Boris Rybalka.

"The people at Tri-Cities were great," Colborne said. "They said they would be happy to have me, but that it was my decision. As a family, we were undecided until we talked to coach Rybalka. It seemed like a great fit and went with the intention of staying one year. I had a great year and went back for another season. During that time, I visited a few colleges and really liked Denver.

"Other than my parents, coach Rybalka has had the greatest influence on me. He gave me an opportunity at 16 to play with some really good players. I learned so much that year and he was the best coach I ever had. Why leave prematurely? I went back and I give him a lot of thanks for where I am today."

Some of the players at the Bruins’ development camp will return to training camp in September, but Colborne will be in Denver, preparing for his first NCAA season. He knows he needs to add weight and strength, something that will come with physical maturity and hard work. He expects to play two years for Denver.

Right now, he's not thinking about that. He's trying to remember everything Cam Neely is telling him.

"They wanted us to come here to get an idea what training camp is like," Colborne said. "It's been great. We've been on the ice and we've done a lot of off-ice training and testing. A lot of guys are in the same situation, trying to make a name for themselves. I'm just trying to take in as much as possible. Hopefully, it will pay off.

"Cam Neely ran some of practices. That was pretty neat. When he speaks, I make sure I listen. Don Sweeney ran the practice the first day. You can tell these guys know what they're talking about so I'm just trying to learn as much as possible."

Why not? There's money to be made.

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.