Proud papa Breen feeling dutiful

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

PENTICTON, B.C. - Her name is Skarlett, and to Chris Breen, "She's the sunshine of my life."

Breen may be a hulking 6-foot-7, 225-lbs., but his daughter, who is now close to nine-months old, turns the Calgary Flames prospect into the gentlest giant.

“She’s saying ‘dada’ and ‘mama’ now — it’s really cool,” Breen said with a big grin coming over his face. “Every day is something new. It’s pretty incredible.

“She’s actually not crawling yet. I don’t know if she’s gonna crawl — she doesn’t seem too interested — but she rolls over a lot and pulls herself up on furniture.”

In the middle of last season, Breen became a father. It’s become a life-altering experience for the defenceman who turned 22 years old in June.

When his fellow teammates have a chance for a night out, he’ll be home changing diapers or doing other enjoyable jobs which come with fatherhood.

“It’s OK — it’s something I knew had to do. It’s one of the new responsibilities I have, and I’m happy to take it on,” Breen said of diaper changing. “It made me clean up all the loose ends I had and just focus on what I had to do as a person.”

To AHL Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward, it’s also made the blueliner a better hockey player.

Ward, who was an assistant with the Heat last season but has since taken the bench-boss reins in B.C., makes no bones about it — Breen was noticeably one of the better players in the second half of last season.

“As he went through that (becoming a father) process, he was probably our most steady player after,” Ward said. “His maturity as a player happened off the ice, and it allowed it to happen on the ice.

“When he was dynamic, he was playing a simple game.”

Over the past year, Breen has rocketed up the depth chart in the Flames organization to the point they believe it’s not a matter of if he plays in the NHL, it’s when.

It’s quite the turn of events when you go back to the end of the 2009-10 OHL season.

An undrafted five-year player in the major junior ranks, the native of Uxbridge, Ont., was deciding where he’d attend university in the fall.

“I was looking out east, like UPEI or Dalhousie. That was pretty much set in my mind,” Breen said.

Then came the call.

The Heat signed him to an amateur deal after Breen’s Peterborough Petes were eliminated in the OHL playoffs. He suited up for one regular-season game. Later in the summer, he signed an entry-level contract.

Through last season, during which he collected four goals and 11 points in 73 games, Breen’s name was brought up more and more often as an up-and-comer.

“It’s a big confidence booster,” Breen said, knowing he can’t let the words of praise get to his head.

“Last was a huge year for me.

I improved a ton, all-around, with my game.

“I’m looking forward to this year.”

If Breen needs to look at somebody who went the same route, all he has to do is find Mark Giordano, who blossomed with the organization.

“It’s huge to see a guy like that came from the situation I was in that is now one of the top defenceman in the league,” Breen added. “And you know you’ll have that kind of support.”

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