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Shinnimin’s hockey dream finally comes true
It would have been easy for Brendan Shinnimin to give up on his dream of playing in the National Hockey League.
After all, the odds of any minor hockey player making it to the world’s best league fall somewhere between winning the lottery and dating a supermodel.
At every step along the way, from AA to AAA to junior A to major junior, only the best of the best move up while the rest are left behind.
Shinnimin, however, is different. He was told he was too small. He was passed over in two drafts. But instead of taking no for an answer he used those setbacks as motivation, and now his signature is at the bottom of a contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.
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Shinnimin was born in 1991 and lived a few years in the West End before his family moved to East St. Paul, where he formed his first hockey memories.
He played AA for the Marauders and AAA for the Sharks, always hovering near the top of the league in scoring.
After his bantam (14-year-old) year with the Sharks, when he was in the top three in league scoring, Shinnimin got his first taste of hockey disappointment. The Western Hockey League draft was held, and his name wasn’t called.
"I knew I was small," said Shinnimin, who was 5-foot-5 at the time, and is now 5-foot-10. "Not getting drafted was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It made me even more motivated to want to make it (to the NHL). It made me realize I had to work on a lot of things."
Neil Chow, who coached Shinnimin for three years with the Sharks, said he could see an unusually high level of motivation and focus for a 14-year-old.
Chow wasn’t sure how far Shinnimin would go in hockey, but he was convinced he’d be successful at whatever he did.
"He doesn’t let a lot of things stand in his way," Chow said. "Right from an early age, he knew what his goals were and what he wanted to do. A lot of people would think he’s crazy or unrealistic, but he made it happen. It’s all on him."
The undrafted Shinnimin moved on to the Thrashers provincial AAA midget team, and again had a stellar offensive season. It was enough to get the attention of the Tri-City Americans, a Western Hockey League team with a strong contingent of Winnipeg players on its roster.
Shinnimin went to Tri-City’s camp the following fall as a 16-year-old and was the final cut after staying with the team a week into the season.
From there he joined the Selkirk Steelers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and continued his quest for added strength.
"I just came in with the idea that I needed to do something more to make Tri-City the next year," Shinnimin said. "I wanted to gain experience and get stronger. That’s always been the thing. I wasn’t worried about size anymore, just strength."
Shinnimin began working with strength coach RJ Padua — they still train together in the summers — and became a more explosive player.
"It was a good step for me coming out of midget," he said of his MJHL season. "Obviously I would have wanted to play in the western league… but playing against older and stronger players gave me that experience."
The next fall, 2008, Shinnimin made the Americans and played 64 games, scoring 25 points. That wasn’t enough to attract much attention from NHL scouts. For the second time in his career, he went undrafted.
"It was the same as the western league," he said. "I wasn’t keeping my hopes up to get drafted."
The following year, with several key players gone, he found himself as a top-six forward expected to contribute offensively. He scored 82 points in 70 games, and established himself as one of the top point-getters in junior hockey.
Shinnimin added 96 points in 60 games in 2010-11, and was invited to a development camp by the Coyotes. They offered him a minor-league contract, but he chose to go back to junior and try to earn an NHL deal.
The decision paid off, as his 2011-12 was a season for the ages. He led the Canadian Hockey League in scoring with 134 points and was named the CHL player of the year.
"It was a pretty huge honour," he said. "(Sidney) Crosby won it two years in a row and Joe Sakic won it. Obviously, they’ve had some pretty amazing careers."
In March, Shinnimin signed a three-year contract with Phoenix. The Coyotes told him they expect him to compete for a roster spot at training camp — and that they signed him because they believe he can contribute.
For a kid who was never drafted — not as a pro, and not as a junior — it was a special feeling.
"It was something you can’t really describe," he said. "That call kind of left me speechless. It took a couple days to sink in.
"To have your dreams come true is a pretty amazing thing."
(1 of 5 articles for this week)05/22/2013 1:00 AM 0
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