When the Ottawa Senators acquired Connor Brown from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1st as part of a multi-player trade with their division rival, they knew they were getting a young forward with an impeccable OHL-pedigree who was looking for his opportunity to prove he could contribute more at the NHL level.
What they may not have known was that they added a player who had previously won a championship on the ice right here at Canadian Tire Centre.
Rewind way back to 2004 and Brown's memory of helping to lead the Toronto Marlies to a Bell Capital Cup title hasn't faded one bit.
"I remember winning it," he joked when asked about the tournament. "We beat the Florida Golden Wolves in the final like 5-0. We had a pretty good team that year in Atom."
Before Canadian Tire Centre became his new workplace in 2019, Brown recalls his very first visit to the Sens' home rink which included the opportunity to play on an NHL ice-surface.
"It really stuck with me because we played the final in this building," said Brown. "That was so awesome for us as kids. We got a tour of the building first and then we got to go out and play on the big stage. I have the videotape of the final game somewhere too I think so I'll have to dig that up."
The parallels aren't lost on Brown either as he now practices and plays on the same ice surface as a professional living his NHL dream. The 25-year-old Toronto-native shared that it's the small coincidences and chance encounters that have made his progression to the National Hockey League so special.
"It's a little bit weird," Brown said about his NHL career bringing him back to Ottawa. "I've found that often things come full circle and it's been pretty surreal to look back at where my minor hockey journey brought me."
Brown, like a lot of kids who grew up playing hockey, always looked forward to his team's big travel tournaments like the Bell Capital Cup and shared that some of his most cherished childhood memories were formed on the road with his teammates.
"It's kind of your first exposure to a real road trip," he said. "You get to go away with 15 of your buddies when you're 11 or 12 years old, stay in a hotel together, eat at restaurants together and try to win some hockey games. Those are some of my fondest memories of growing up."
"Those tournaments were the best and I've made some amazing memories at them," Brown continued. "I was fortunate to play on a really good team too so I remember trying to win those big tournaments with my friends. Those are memories I'll always have of fun times or funny things that happened."
The bigger picture isn't lost on Brown either. In fact, he recalls playing against some of his current teammates long before they were united in Ottawa at some of the big, out-of-town tournaments like the Bell Capital Cup.
"A lot of the guys I played against, and not just in this tournament specifically, we'd see at every single tournament we entered," said Brown. "Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo are guys that I played against a lot as a kid at these kinds of tournaments so it's kind of funny to see them in an NHL locker room every day now that we're all grown up."
Brown even recalls how the Bell Capital Cup gave him his first exposure to the Nation's Capital. Trips to the city's iconic landmarks as well as the chance to play on the Senators' home ice surface are just a few of the highlights of his first trip to the city that would eventually become his NHL home in 2019-20.
"I remember going to see the Parliament buildings and the Centennial Flame and that being pretty cool. That was my first trip to Ottawa and now it's my home," Brown said. "Being from Toronto, I really didn't come out this way much other than to play in tournaments like the Bell Capital Cup."
"It's been a pleasant surprise that my hockey career has brought me to Ottawa multiple times because it's been a great place to experience all the culture and the great people that live here."