July 6, 2011
Brodie handlin' the Heat
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - From the high of scoring a pair of goals in his first pre-season game and earning a spot with the Calgary Flames out of training camp, the slight stumble that followed seemed that much steeper for defenceman T.J. Brodie.
It wasn’t as if the smooth-skating 21-year-old had a terrible first season as a pro
— Brodie scored five goals and posted 34 points, was named an AHL all-star, and improved his all-around game with the Abbotsford Heat — but there were definitely growing pains along the way.
Sent to the Heat after three regular-season games with the Flames, rumours quickly surfaced Brodie was too big for his britches.
There was talk Heat head coach Jim Playfair was at odds with the raw but talented blueliner. Notoriously emotional as a teacher, Playfair has a reputation as a bit of a yeller.
“That was another adjustment I had to make,” Brodie admitted Tuesday at the Flames summer development camp. “Coming in, he’s the type of coach who likes to raise his voice and get his point across that way. It takes a while to understand how to take that from sort of a negative to a positive.
“Some guys, it’s hard to deal with that. Instead of improving your game, it can get your confidence down, that type of thing, thinking you’re always doing something wrong.”
There were plenty of things Brodie was doing right. Most of them, however, were in the offensive zone.
Both Playfair and Troy Ward — who took over as Heat head coach when Playfair joined the Phoenix Coyotes this summer — had plenty of advice for Brodie on the back end.
“The biggest thing they were on me about was the defensive zone. Sometimes, I’d get too excited and just lunge for pucks. A guy comes in and beats me and he’s got a clear path to the net,” said Brodie.
“The biggest thing was just relaxing and just putting my stick out there, making him make the first move and reacting to that.
“Little things like watching guys’ feet and where to put your stick to force guys to where you want them to go.”
Lessons came off the ice, too. Rooming with Bryan Cameron, John Negrin and Greg Nemisz, Brodie had to fend
for himself away from home for the first time.
“The lifestyle’s different,” Brodie said. “You go from a hotel to living in a house with three other guys. Coming straight from junior, that’s a big adjustment — cooking, cleaning, doing your own laundry, stuff like that.”
Maybe not as big an adjustment as adapting to the harsh words of a head coach in the pros. But things did eventually come together for Brodie, who figures just a couple of months before an ankle injury ended his season, he was playing his best hockey.
“I tried to take what he’s saying and put it to use, because there is a message in everything that he says, and he does know what he’s talking about,” Brodie said of Playfair’s teaching. “Once I figured that out,
I found the game was a lot easier, and I was more relaxed out there and could play my game.”