David Brine proves NHL dream can be realized through hard work
(*note* - This article was written prior to the Panthers-Leafs game. Brine registered his first NHL point, the second assist on Steve Montador's goal 8:14 into the third period against the Leafs.)
TORONTO - He couldn't make the first major junior team he tried out for, he was never drafted by an NHL team and he didn't get through "Making The Cut," but here he is in the NHL.
David Brine is living the dream with the Florida Panthers. "Hard work," Brine explains when asked how he did it. "I just never gave up.
"Hard work is the one thing I can attribute it to. Anybody who knows me knows my work ethic. I put in long days (training) in the summer and I like to be at the rink all the time. One of the quotes I live by is: Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn't work."
The 23-year-old centre from Truro, N.S., made his NHL debut in the Panthers' 3-2 win at Tampa Bay last Saturday night, and he was to play his second big-league game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
"He's dependable and he's good on faceoffs," said Panthers general manager and coach Jacques Martin. "He has a good understanding of the game and reads the game well."
Ralph Brine coached his son through minor hockey.
"He laid the groundwork," said the newest Panther. "I talk to him after every game."
When he was 15, his midget team lost the Nova Scotia final to a Dartmouth side that included Sidney Crosby. For two years in a row, he was the last player released by the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts. He went back home and played in the Maritime junior league with the Truro Bearcats. When he was first eligible for the NHL draft, his name was never called.
"I was a 17-year-old and the odds of getting drafted were pretty slim," he says. "I've only ever heard of one guy from that league getting drafted and he was a fighter.
"It was a bump in the road."
He caught on with the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads.
"I barely made the team," he recalls.
He spent two seasons with the Mooseheads.
"There were rumours I might get drafted the next couple of years and I had good years in major junior but nothing transpired," he says. "But I got better as I went along."
At the end of his last season with the Mooseheads, he joined the Manitoba Moose for the AHL playoffs, and got a summer tryout with the Carolina Hurricanes prospects.
"That helped a lot," he says. "I got to see what it was like."
"Making The Cut" came along at just the right time. The made-for-TV hockey show, filmed in British Columbia, offered a pro tryout to the winner. Brine was among the final six players. Mike Keenan and Jack Birch assessed the players.
"Keenan called me into an office and said, 'You're cut.' I was pretty disappointed," Brine recalls. "I was there to win it.
"I went down to the (lounge) and played (cards) with the other guys and then Jack Birch pulled me aside."
A contract offer was made, and Brine went for it.
"I was supposed to be going to Colorado at the time (for a tryout) but Florida's offer changed things," he recalls
He began his pro career with the ECHL's Florida Everblades.
"I'll tell you what, the fans down there were unbelievable," says Brine. "A busload of them came to the game in Tampa the other night.
"For an ECHL organization, they're extremely good and they treat their players well. It was a good starting ground. I got my feet wet there."
Brine was promoted to the AHL's Rochester Americans a year ago. In 46 games this season, he had seven goals and seven assists, and a reputation as a dogged checker. The Panthers are struggling with a long injury list and Brine is the latest farmhand to get promoted, which he was quick to let his sisters know about.
Jenny Brine plays for Harvard, the No. 1-ranked U.S. women's university team.
"I'm not the favourite in the family but I'm working on it," he says with a smile. "The other night helped a little bit."
During the recent all-star break, he drove to Boston from Rochester to visit with the Crimson star.
An older sister, Katie, also played hockey.
"She went out and bought the NHL (cable TV) package the other night," says her not-so-little brother.
He makes sure to mention his mother, Marian.
"We always kid her that she's a great bowler," he says. "It's an inside joke with the family since we all play hockey."
Capping the call-up euphoria is the trip to Canada. Brine remembers being in Air Canada Centre when he was 15 and his dad took him to the 2000 NHL draft weekend. He even got to meet Wayne Gretzky at Gretzky's restaurant.
Now he's playing in Air Canada Centre.
"It's pretty neat, pretty special," he says.
His family and his friends in Nova Scotia will be watching the televised game.
When injured players return to duty with the Panthers, Brine will probably be going back to Rochester so he'll relish every moment he spends in the NHL.
The coaching he got from his dad, Shawn Evans when he was a Bearcat, Shawn MacKenzie and Al MacAdam when he was with the Mooseheads and Randy Cunneyworth of the AHL's Amerks helped him get where he is. Most of all, it was his strong work ethic that made it happen.