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ENJOY THE RIDE: Before You Know It, It’s Over by Brodie Barrick

To this day, I still remember hearing Dustin Darou (Current Northwestern University Defenseman) talking to the team after our Game 4 loss to Hawkesbury. Something about that moment has stuck with me since that day. Maybe it was the fact that he was sitting there, 20 years old, almost in tears that his junior hockey career was over. Maybe it was because he told the team that if it weren’t for that group of guys, he probably would have quit hockey before that season. We were a family. As I heard him telling us young guys to make the most of our junior careers while we still have the chance, and that they’ll be over before you know it, I couldn’t help but have some skepticism. I was thinking, “I’m only 17, I still have 3 years left, how fast can they really go?” And then, just like that, they are over.

My Junior Career first started on May 1st, 2010, when I was lucky enough to be drafted in the 7th Round of the OHL Priority Selection by the Sarnia Sting. I remember sitting in front of my computer screen from the time the Selection Process t started, at 9 am, until I finally saw my name pop up on the screen, somewhere around 2 pm. It was the most relieving feeling in the world. All my hard work in Minor Hockey had finally paid off, but this was the easy part. Getting to play at the Junior Level was much harder, and something that only few are lucky enough to be able to do.

After being selected that year, I spent a year playing in Pittsburgh for the U18 Hornets. I moved away from my home at 15 years old. Not even old enough to drive, and yet I was leaving my family in Welland, ON to pursue the First Chapter in my Hockey Career. The Coleman Family (Al, Sue, AJ, Jake & Chloe) took me in like I was one of their own. I’m not sure if I would have been able to do what I did for 5 years if it weren’t for the warm welcome that I was given by them when I first arrived. I’ll never forget pulling up to the driveway and seeing a sign that Chloe had made leaned up against the mail box reading: “Welcome Home Brodie!” From this point on, I knew that I had just gained another family. They truly made me one of their own. From the nights spent playing Rock Band with AJ & Jake, or the days spent playing road hockey or basketball as a family, or the family meals at Ichiban, all of these moments made me realize that this time spent in Pittsburgh was far beyond the game of hockey.

After tough goodbyes in Pittsburgh, I felt it was best for my hockey career to move up to the Junior A Level, and therefore signed with the Carleton Place Canadians in the CCHL (Central Canadian Hockey League). Another stop on the “World Tour” as my cousin Reese would call it. Once again, I was brought into not just a home, but into another family. The McNaughton’s (Duncan, Fiona, Lil’ Duncan & Jaime) made me their 3rd son. The small town of Carleton Place was an amazing place to start my Junior Career. They showed me what it was really like to be apart of a Team with a true passion for the Team Aspect and for the Game of Hockey. This was also the season that I realized how tough it truly is to make it in the game of hockey, and that I was very lucky to be able to play the game I love at a pretty high level. I took this season to learn and grow not only as a hockey player, but as a person. They helped me achieve what I had been working towards since I was selected in 2010, and that was to play in the Ontario Hockey League.

I was then off to the Sarnia Sting of OHL and looking back, I often find it hard to believe that I was fortunate enough to play in the best Junior Hockey League in the world. I played with and against numerous NHL draft picks, some of who have already started and will undoubtedly have very long NHL careers. I’ll never forget the days of going to practice with guys like Alex Galchenyuk, Charlie Sarault, Reid Boucher, Connor Murphy, and JP Anderson, just to name a few. These guys all brought professionalism to the game that has, and will continue to allow them to have successful Hockey Careers. In the time that I spent in Sarnia, I’m not sure anyone had a greater impact on me than Dave Rook, who was my Goalie Coach for one season. He helped me to not only play the game better, but also approach it in a difference sense, which was to know how to keep going through tough times (which we saw plenty of that season). I also spent 2 seasons living with the same billets, the Bisson’s (Dave, Kathy, Shaun & Ashley). I’ll always be grateful to them and will cherish the memories we made together……like the nightly 9 o’clock snacks made by Dave, or the hours we spent playing Ping-Pong. These memories made are what Junior Hockey is truly all about.

After my 19-year old season in Sarnia, I knew that my time in the OHL was coming to an end. I was fortunate enough to receive a call from Pat McIver, GM of the Summerside Western Capitals, and before I knew it I was heading out to Summerside, Prince Edward Island, where I would spend my last year of my Junior Career. Coming into this season, it was hard to believe that this was going to be my last one. After a long 18-hour drive from Ontario to PEI, I had finally arrived at my final billets’ house. I was welcomed by the Stewart’s (Dean, Trina, Dexter & Lindsay) and I knew that once again I lucked out, one last time.

During this final ride, it was tough not to get emotional sometimes knowing that very soon, it was all coming to an end. I certainly didn’t envy all the 20’s I played with up until this time as they all had to say bye to their Junior Careers. I decided to make the most of the time I had left. I used this final season of Junior to have fun and truly enjoy being a young man playing the game that I love every day. I couldn’t help but take it all in for what it was and just enjoy the ride. I used this final season to secure a commitment to play CIS for Ryerson University in the Fall. Most importantly, I used this season to make more even more friends, the last ones I would make in Junior Hockey.

I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did, or have the time of my life without everyone who made it possible. First off, my family. They are the sole motivation behind everything I’ve done, and they’ve always been my biggest fans, no matter what. I can’t begin to know how many hours were spent driving to games and practices or how much money was spent on equipment or staying in hotels for tournaments. I’ll never forget the 7-hour drive my mom, Vicki, made to watch me play my first OHL Game in Sault Ste. Marie. My Step-Dad, Mike, has always been my go-to person for advice, on anything. Hockey or non-hockey related, he’s always been there to help. I’ll never be able to repay him or return the favour, but I’ll forever be loving and thankful.  My sister, Brianna, was either dragged to a game when she was younger, and then later left home alone, while we were at a game, but yet she was always in my corner.

Next, I need to thank my “other” families, my Billets. Over the 5 years, I was fortunate enough to have 4 of the greatest billet families I could ever ask for. The Coleman’s in Pittsburgh, the McNaughton’s in Carleton Place, the Bisson’s in Sarnia, and the Stewart’s in Summerside. They all brought me into their homes and treated and cared for me like I was their son. I am forever grateful for these amazing people.

I also need to thank the 4 Organizations that brought me on to play for their teams – Pittsburgh Hornets, Carleton Place Canadians, Sarnia Sting, and Summerside Western Capitals. I will always hold these teams close to my heart and will forever be proud to have been able to wear each and every one of these jerseys.

Lastly, I need to thank all the brothers I gained along the way. I have made friendships and bonds that will stay with me for the rest of my life. There have been entirely too many teammates of mine that I cherish to list all of them individually, but they all know who they are. The strength of these bonds shared by teammates is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. It really is a brotherhood. These guys are my family.

It may sound like a cliché, but your junior career really is the best time of anyone’s life. The friends you make last a lifetime. The memories you made join them. These memories that you make, they are ones that are with you forever. They go far beyond any goals, saves, or wins on the ice. They are the times spent with 20 brothers, from all over, brought together as a family. Junior hockey is about alot more than the game of hockey. Junior hockey is about taking a young kid who has dreamed of playing hockey at the highest level, and giving them the opportunity to live out that dream. Junior hockey players truly live the dream. So if there’s one message that anyone should take out of this, it’s this: Kid’s, make the most of every second you spend playing junior hockey, because before you know it, it’s over.

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