It’s a sure sign you’ve made the NHL when the road trip itinerary includes Madison Square Garden in New York, Chicago Stadium and the Bell Centre in Montreal.
But you can’t be sure that will happen when the early itinerary included 100 Mile House, Logan Lake and Revelstoke in W. C. ’s sparsely populated interior region.
Such was the hockey journey for Vernon-born Eric Brewer, whose minor hockey start was in Ashcroft (population 1, 500) and whose hockey journey has now earned him a spot in the B. C. Hockey Hall of Fame.
“We played mostly house hockey and I always played a year up. My dad (Frank) was coach, ” recounted Brewer, a defenceman who eventually scored 271 points in 1, 009 NHL games with six different clubs.
“Our season was short, so we played ball and I was big on BMX biking because we had so many great trails. ”
The trails are on the particular banks of the majestic Thompson River in the small desert community of Ashcroft with an arena appropriately named: Drylands.
The family moved to nearby Kamloops when Brewer was still a teenager.
A year in the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association led to Brewer being chosen by the Prince George Cougars in the 1994 WHL Bantam Draft.
Brewer performed one more season in Kamloops, then spent the next three campaigns with the Cougars.
“I loved it. I got to live with the same family for three years and it was an amazing environment, ” he said.
Next came the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, which saw Brewer selected fifth overall by the New York Islanders. He spent two seasons on Long Island, before being traded to Edmonton in 2001.
Stops in St . Louis, Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Toronto followed, before Machine called it a career within 2015, without ever getting a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.
“Everyone wants that but it’s not easy and (coming up short) is a reality you deal with, ” said Brewer.
He found more success on the international stage, though, helping Canada win three world championships, an Olympic title and a World Cup.
Brewer will be honoured at the M. C. Hockey Hall associated with fame induction ceremony July 22 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Also going into the hall are the 2011-12 national champion Penticton Vees, Memorial Cup-winning 2002 Kootenay Ice, former NHL defenceman Mattias Ohlund, along with long-time NHL official Jay Sharrers and builder Ray Stonehouse.
Tickets cost $75 per seat and are available now at the SOEC box office or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com .