Dion Brake is photographed in Corner Brook on Thursday. — Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
ST. GEORGE’S Dion Brake enjoyed watching Lenny Blanchard play senior hockey when he was growing up and hoped one day he would get a chance to do the same.
It appears he will get his chance this winter.
Brake, a 24-year-old native of St. George’s, will be trying to crack the lineup of the Western Royals of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League when the franchise holds training camp at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex in Deer Lake at the end of the month.
“It’s always been a dream of mine. It’s kind of like my NHL really,” Brake said of his desire to wear the Royals jersey this winter.
Lenny Blanchard, who is a St. George’s native, was one of the players Brake enjoyed watching play for the Royals and the Deer Lake Red Wings when the West Coast Senior Hockey League was in existence. Brake hopes to earn a berth on the roster as a defenceman and, even though Royals president Ross Coates has used one of the team’s two cards for territorial picks on him, he knows there are no guarantees.
“Without seeing me, I still have to earn my stripes,” he said.
Brake and Adam Guy of Corner Brook, are the two territorial picks of the Royals and both are defenceman.
Brake is small by defenceman standards at five-foot-nine and 190 pounds, but don’t let his stature fool you. His thrives on playing a physical brand of hockey and likes to punish opposing forwards whenever he sees an opportunity to take a hit that won’t put his team at a disadvantage.
“I may be small, but I can hit,” he said.
Brake played four years in the Rogers Lizotte senior A hockey league in New Brunswick while pursuing his studies at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. He played the last two years with the River Valley Thunder in Perth-Andover where one of his teammates was defenceman Kyle Ouellette.
Ouellette had nothing but praise for Brake when contacted by The Western Star. He described Brake as an all-around player with a good attitude and makes it tough for opposing players by bringing a physical brand of hockey to the rink on a consistent basis.
“I like to fight, but him and I played together and I can say he really likes to play a physical game,” Ouellette said.
Brake insists he excels in a shutdown role in an effort to do his part to keep the goals out of the cage, but Ouelette believes his versatility includes his ability to be an offensive player from the back end.
Ouellette believes Brake is a solid defender who should be a welcome addition on any senior hockey league team, even the Newfoundland league where he knows a lot of quality players now call home.
“He’s an all-around hockey player,” he said. He knows what to do. He’s not scared.”
Brake admits he doesn’t play hockey to fight, but understands that it’s part of the game so anything can happen when emotions run high in a hockey game.
“I definitely got my teammate’s back, but I’m definitely not a fighter,” he said. “If you need to drop the gloves then you got to drop the gloves.”
Brake just wants to patrol the blueline and play a physical brand of hockey in an effort to help the team.
He appreciates having an opportunity to play senior hockey in front of hometown fans because it’s something he wanted to do all his life growing up playing hockey.
He contacted Coates when he decided to move back to St. George’s in September to look for work as a physiotherapist, which he studied the past two years in Halifax after doing his undergrad program at UNB.
He’s happy to have a chance to impress the coaching staff because he believes he can fit into any role assigned to him. He considers himself a team player and would like to stick with the team for a couple of seasons and maybe be a player others players will follow because of his work ethic and dedication.
“I told him (Ross Coates) I wasn’t going to score a million goals, but I feel like I can help the boys out,” he said.
He understands he will have to bring his A game because he is familiar with the skillset sprinkled around the league because he has played with some of the players and have defended against others.
“Senior hockey is high calibre so you just can’t be anyone. You got to work at it as much as anyone who plays in another league.”
The Royals will will hold training camp Oct. 24-26.