COLUMBUS — Laurent Brossoit can't help but laugh as he recalls his very first hockey game. Safe to say it wasn't exactly a goaltending clinic that day in Vancouver.
"I was like 10. And I played one game in net and we won like, 13-12, which was good enough for me, I got the win. I’ve never cared how," the now 26-year-old Winnipeg Jet said this week.
"I couldn’t skate, so they stuck me in net for a game. My dad and three uncles, they were all goalies, my grandpa was a goalie. Whenever I watched the Canucks I was always watching Dan Cloutier, always watching the goalie. So I knew if I played hockey I’d try to force myself into the net."
Inspired by what he'd just experienced, Brossoit immediately pressured his parents, John and Tania, to let him pursue his new-found passion. And that didn't go as planned, exactly.
"I went to this goalie camp called Magic in the Net. I showed up and didn’t know how to skate, still. Angelo Maggio (the instructor) got pretty pissed off at my parents, because... everyone else knows what they’re doing, they’re all preparing for the tryouts that summer and I don’t know how to skate. He’s like, 'This isn’t my responsibility to teach this kid how to skate, I’m supposed to teach him to play goal,'" said Brossoit.
Tania Brossoit remembers the conversation vividly.
"(The instructor) was upset at me because he said, ‘He can’t skate, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘Just teach him something, please,'" she said. Turns out he did, although what came next is also the stuff of comedy.
"I dropped him at the arena, in the wrong spot, and instead of trying out for house (league) hockey, he tried out for rep (travelling) hockey. I got a letter and he made the A team," said Tania.
"By the end of the camp I picked it up pretty quick," her son continued. "After that I went and tried out just for s--t and ended up making the A team. The rest is history."
Indeed it is. And the origin story of the Jets backup, now in his seventh year of pro hockey, is not exactly the typical one of a Canadian NHL player, who is usually on skates mere moments after learning to walk.
"I was on Vancouver Island until I was seven. There just wasn’t much opportunity there for hockey. I always wanted to play hockey and it wasn’t until we came to the mainland that I started seeing it a lot," he said.
"It didn’t feel like it was late to me, because I guess all my friends at the time were playing soccer, nobody I knew was playing hockey. And then, all of a sudden, you find out everybody’s been skating since they were like three or five. I guess I just got lucky, I had it in my blood because my dad’s side all played."
The Brossoits got to reflect on his hockey beginnings this week as they enjoyed the Jets' first-ever Moms Trip together. And Tania got to see Laurent in action Wednesday night when the Jets faced off in Ohio against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
"Well, I might pace a little bit through the game. You might see me in the concourse. It’s hard to be a goalie mom," she said. "I’ve learned to get better at it.
"It’s easier when he plays more consistently. Being a backup goalie is harder. It was easier when he was with the (Western Hockey League's Edmonton) Oil Kings and he played all the games because you just settle down as a goalie mom. You’ll always be nervous, anxious, because you want him to do his best and with goalies, you know, they’re either raved about or blamed."
To hear her describe it, Brossoit was on his way to playing another sport entirely. At the age of nine, he was in the Vancouver Whitecaps academy, playing two levels up and with all kinds of athletic promise.
"Honestly, he was meant to be a soccer player. But his dad was a goalie and his grandfather was a goalie. There was goalie in his blood, I think. I have pictures and videos from way back and I’m actually amazed by the instinct he had. He would never want me to bring them out... but he’s always had that instinct," she said.
In one of those "the hockey world is a small one" stories, turns out it was Todd Harkins who played a big part in Brossoit's development as a minor hockey player. That would be the father of Jansen Harkins, now Brossoit's teammate.
When he was about 12, Brossoit was selected to play on a summer hockey team coached by the former NHLer.
"It was kind of like one of those all-star kind of lineups where there’s a few teams that get made up throughout the minor hockey leagues, they pick and choose. It’s the highest level hockey in minor hockey at the time, and he was our coach," Brossoit said.
"He was one of the most intense coaches I’ve ever experienced and I’m talking from minor hockey even up until today. He was intense but he got a lot out of each player, especially for kids who are so influenced so easily. We were wired pretty good."
He was drafted in the sixth round, 164th overall, by the Calgary Flames in 2011, eventually traded to Edmonton and is now in his second season with the Jets. He's a pending unrestricted free agent making US$1.225 million, with a career 2.96 goals-against-average, .905 save-percentage and 24-24-4 record heading into action Wednesday night.
To this day, his career highlight was recording his first-ever NHL shutout on Dec. 22, 2018 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. He made 40 saves that night in a 1-0 victory that included Mark Scheifele's goal with 92 seconds left in the third period. Brossoit had many relatives in the crowd who witnessed it, including his grandparents, who were visiting from England.
"We had our whole family from everywhere there and he plays the game of his life," Tania said. "They partied hard after. We all did. To be in Vancouver with everybody that knew him, a lot of his coaches were there too, it was amazing. It was pretty cool to be his mom that day."
Now her equally proud son — the kid who couldn't skate — is looking to give his supportive family even more lasting memories.
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