Moncton Wildcats defenseman Brandon Gormley could be the first defenseman taken in the 2010 Entry Draft on June 25 in Los Angeles. If it happens, it's the result of making a plan and seeing it through to fruition.
When making a journey -- whether it's from Murray River, P.E.I., to the NHL, or from Moncton, N.B., to Los Angeles -- it's always nice to have a road map. Gormley had one in Stanley Cup champion Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars.
Gormley and Richards grew up 10 miles apart on Prince Edward Island's southeast coast, Richards in Murray Harbor and Gormley in Murray River. Richards' sister, Paige, used to babysit Gormley.
"I know the family and know he's been a good hockey player growing up," said Richards, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner with the triumphant Tampa Bay Lightning. "He's a lot younger than me. I wasn't around to see him play youth hockey because I'd already left home. My dad always keeps me updated on the young players coming up in that little town. It's small, so you always hear if someone's doing something like that.
"He followed the path I took, going to Notre Dame Prep in Saskatchewan and then back to the QMJHL. So I've kept up a lot closer now. It's a lot easier to follow his career."
"We sat down with Brad's parents before I went to Notre Dame and they gave me the lowdown on what to expect," Gormley said of attending the famed hockey factor in Wilcox, Sask. Besides Richards, the school's alums include Wendel Clark, Curtis Joseph, Tyler Myers Vincent Lecavalier and Rod Brind'Amour. "Brad has been great, especially with the upcoming draft and the Memorial Cup. He's been through that. He sent me a text (before the Memorial Cup) saying best of luck, and stuff like that. It's nice to have someone who already went through it.
"In the Memorial Cup he texted me after we lost our first game and he told me to re-focus for the next one. That's basically it. Just re-focus and play your game."
"They had a tough loss in the first game," Richards said. "They were winning late in the third period and gave up a fluky goal and they lost. So it was more a tough break. I just told him, 'Keep your head up, keep going.'
"His dad, Darren, talks with my dad, Glen, a lot more than I've talked with Brandon. They've gotten advice through the family. He's now with Pat Morris, my agent. We set that up, that conversation. Obviously, if they would like him they would keep him and they did. So, I think through my dad and his dad, they've had a lot of discussions on the different paths he's taken."
Richards led the Rimouski Oceanic to the QMJHL title and Memorial Cup championship in 2000. Gormley led the Wildcats to the QMJHL title this season, but his team was eliminated from the Memorial Cup after losing its first three games.
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"I was texting him a little bit through the Memorial Cup and I'm sure I'll be texting him again on Draft day to wish him luck and all that stuff," Richards said. "Maybe we can get the Dallas Stars to trade up to a higher pick (from No. 11) and take him."
Gormley is quick to acknowledge how much he admires Richards and how his older neighbor's success has inspired him.
"You have to have a role model and you have to believe in yourself, that's the big thing," Gormley said. "Some kids in my community don't believe in themselves, that they can do it. For him to do it and have the success he did, in the Memorial Cup and the NHL, winning the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe, it's definitely something to model off.
"Paige babysat me and my sister when we were young. Brad was just entering the Quebec league at the time, so he wasn't around much. Brad and his whole family have been a big influence on me and my career and my decisions. They were a big part of me going to Notre Dame and they pretty much got me where I am today."
Partly true, but Gormley isn't giving himself enough credit. He's a solidly built 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and his skating is superb, as is his on-ice awareness. Gormley is that rare defender than can control the tempo of play from the blue line. He's smooth carrying the puck and he doesn't telegraph his passes. In his first couple of strides with the puck, Gormley evokes visions of Brian Leetch and Paul Coffey -- head up, seeing the whole ice.
"He's very calm back there," Richards said. "I think when he gets a little older he'll probably get a little more involved. That will come with experience. But to be that young and have that poise, I think it all reflects on how he's been brought up and his maturity. You see that in his game, too. He's very mature for his age."
From the way Gormley and Richards describe it, there's two things to do around Murray River -- catch lobsters and play hockey.
"This is such a small area, and Glen and Darren used to play on the same teams at the rink here when I was younger," Richards said. "They're both lobster fishermen. You just know everybody, their uncles and everybody. When I was home for Christmas from Notre Dame, I'd play in the little Christmas tournaments."
Just as the older generation gave Richards a chance to play with the big guys, Brad was looking out for Gormley last summer.
"He came to the golf tournament a couple of times when he was younger," said Richards. "It was kind of a way to kind of let him hang out with some of the NHL guys and let him in the tournament. You could just see he's a really nice kid and we tried to give him that experience. It's somewhere I've been able to chat with him and hang out with him."