"I stopped being a Canucks fan the day the Blackhawks drafted me."
-- Brent Seabrook
As a youngster growing up in Richmond, British Columbia, Brent Seabrook
had an inkling that he might some day play in the NHL.
Seabrook was chasing a dream, even if it changed dramatically through the years. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder remembers going to see Canucks games often with his dad, Gary, and ...
"I don't know how many times I told my dad when we were driving home, 'I'm going to play in that building some day,' " the Chicago defenseman explained before Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. "I stopped being a Canucks fan the day the Blackhawks drafted me (first round, No. 14, in the 2003 Entry Draft)."
He paused for a moment while savoring Chicago's 2-1 overtime victory in Game 4 to even the series at two wins apiece before he added, "This was huge. We could have been down 3-1 and in a big hole. We were strong and confident in the room going into the overtime and came out with a lot of energy. ... I couldn't have dreamed that this series would be so special."
Seabrook has been more than just an excited fan in the series.
In Game 4, he was on the ice for the winning tip-in by Andrew Ladd
and finished with a team-high 26:55 of ice time, with two shots, six hits and two blocked shots. He now has one goal and seven assists in the Blackhawks' six playoff wins.
"I don't think I've seen 'Seabs' playing any better than he has for most of this season -- and particularly in the playoffs," coach Joel Quenneville
said. "He's been physically imposing against the opposition's best unit. As a coach, you look for those matchups ... and he's one of those guys who can win the battles you want him to win. Most of all, his vision to see a play developing and attack it both offensively and defensively have been impressive."
Seabrook says he's gotten a lot of text messages from the 10 or so buddies he still keeps in touch with from the days when he was growing up in Richmond and playing in Tsawwassen for the Pacific Vipers. They want him to do well -- but they are still Canucks fans.
But the real strange-but-true underlying story in the Hawks-Canucks series is that Chicago teammates Colin Fraser
, Troy Brouwer
and Andrew Ladd
also grew up in B.C., watching the Canucks with interest -- and all four played for the Pacific Vipers.
"I'm sure we all wanted to play for the Canucks at some point when we were growing up, but they're the enemies now," Fraser said with the same focus on his face that Seabrook, Ladd and Brouwer had when asked the same question.
But this is more than just a funny thing happened on Seabrook's way to a playoff meeting against the team he grew up watching. Gary Seabrook, who runs a fabrication business, coached two son's through the ranks -- Brent's success being well chronicled while Keith, Brent's brother (who is four years younger and was Washington's second-round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft), happens to be making his mark on defense for the Calgary Hitmen, who won 13-straight games in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
"We had some good battles in our driveway growing up," Brent said with a mischievous smile on his face. "I remember the first time he beat me. I think he came out of that game with a few bumps and bruises ... and every game after that was a little more physical."
When Seabrook was asked what obstacles he's had to overcome to get to this point in his career, he laughed. "I think the Blackhawks were disappointed when I reported to my first camp with them," he said. "They looked at me like I was softer than they thought."
In his competitiveness? "No, in my body style," he said. "I went right out and got myself a personal trainer and worked real hard the next two years. Then, when I reported to the Hawks camp after my junior career was over, I was ready to compete for a job here."
All that work paid off, because not only did he make the Blackhawks in his first professional season, but he also played more than 20 minutes a game, had 5 goals and 27 assists and was a plus-5. This season, his fourth in the NHL, he had 8 goals and 18 assists, but had career-highs in plus-minus with a plus-23 and logged an impressive 23:19 of ice time.
"'Seabs' is definitely a go-to guy for us," Duncan Keith
said of his partner on the Hawks blue line. "He's big and strong and plays big minutes, important minutes. He's good in a situations on both offense and defense."
"They have a very mobile defense," Canucks center Ryan Johnson
said. "Seabrook, in particular, makes that great first pass. And he fires bullets from the blue line."
Rookie winger Kris Versteeg
played on the same Lethbridge Hurricanes team in the Western Hockey League with Seabrook and said he's seen him grow into a force in the NHL.
"He's grown into his big frame and is confident to use his body when he has to shut down the best lines in hockey. One word to describe him? Leader. He was our captain in Lethbridge. But what stands out now is how ‘Seabs’ is focused to play or practice every day. He still makes the simple plays to push the transition game, but he has really become one of those defensemen who is hard as nails to play against."