Inside Blackhawks legend Brent Seabrook’s hunt for a hockey second act

LANGLEY, British Columbia — Mazen Leslie, a 17-year-old defenseman from the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, was watching TV one night time when he stumbled upon a rerun of an outdated film.Chicago hearthThe episode noticed a well-recognized – if clean-shaven – face.

Leslie paused the TV, took a fast picture on his telephone, and instantly despatched it to Brent Seabrook.

Seabrook texted the correct again.

Sure, I’m an actor too. I can do all of it.

He is nonetheless everybody’s huge brother. Even when he’s sufficiently old to be their father.

They name him Seabs. Neither Coach, nor Mr. Seabrook, nor Brent. Simply Seabs. It was at all times simply Seabs. It did not take lengthy for this consolation degree to achieve the Giants; Seabrook has that impact on folks. Definitely, for all times Blackhawks Giants winger and cheerleader Ty Halaburda admitted he was a bit “star” the primary time Seabrook confirmed up on the Ladner Recreation Middle for a apply. However then Seabrook began doing Seabrook issues—posting aliases, cracking jokes, making guys really feel good, and telling tales in regards to the good outdated days.

mentioned Halaburda, who was six years outdated when it was his hometown Canucks He beat his beloved Blackhawks within the 2011 playoffs. “He is actually like one other man. Only a nice man, an excellent character, and he is so humorous.”

Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook in 2011 (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Photos)

Formally, Seabrook is a volunteer participant improvement coach for the Giants. He makes the four-hour drive from his residence in Kelowna each two weeks to do some one-on-one work with Giants defensemen. He’ll have interaction within the energy sport. He works with Giants head coach Michael Dick — who coached Seabrook within the WHL greater than 20 years in the past as an assistant with the Lethbridge Hurricanes — to develop teaching plans. He watches almost each sport on the Web and has distant entry to the Giants’ video system and makes solutions on layouts, particular groups, tics, and particular person methods to gamers.

It is no bizarre Seabrook passion. Take it significantly.

“He is so passionate, and he loves the sport,” Giants assistant coach Adam Maglio mentioned. “He works with the teaching workers and is clearly linked to the gamers. So, there are numerous one-on-one conversations with the fellows, or we’ll use him in a gaggle discuss. He is type of a Swiss military knife for us when he comes up.”

Seabrook is a volunteer as a result of, greater than three years after his final sport in NHLcontinues to be beneath contract with Tampa Bay Lightning Till the top of subsequent season. (Sure, Seabrook has a Lightning jersey together with his identify on it at residence; he thought it might be enjoyable to ask for one, and Tampa Bay was glad to oblige.) Giants normal supervisor Barkley Barnetta joked that Seabrook is “the highest-paid draftee within the WHL,” due to that deal he made. It lasted eight years and a $55 million greenback that was as soon as a significant concern in Chicago.

Working with the Giants was a pure first step out of retirement. His dad and mom lived in Tsawwassen, within the southern suburbs of Vancouver the place the Giants practiced. So when Dick went on to educate Group Canada on the World Junior Championships final 12 months, he requested Seabrook to fill in behind the bench for the Giants for a couple of weeks.

“My document is terrible from that, however I realized rather a lot,” Seabrook mentioned.

“I believe we went from 2 to 9,” Parineeta mentioned, laughing. “So I instantly thought, let’s carry him again!”

Now Seabrook has a coaching bug, which comes as a shock to him. He is one of many head coaches on the CHL/NHL Prime Prospects sport Wednesday night time in close by Langley, teaching in opposition to Conor Bedard. On Tuesday afternoon, he was on the ice at Langley Occasions Middle, main drills, hitting pucks, speaking to gamers, and even clearing nets afterwards to make room for Zamboni. He appeared like a snug man in retirement. He appeared like a man who was having enjoyable and in a superb place.

However the truth is he’s a younger man – he’s solely 37 years outdated – and he has all his life forward of him. And he is simply attempting to determine learn how to spend it.

“It is bizarre to say I am retired, when my dad was 66 and he isn’t,” mentioned Seabrook. “However I really like hockey. I’ve at all times beloved it. I wish to keep within the sport, however I do not know precisely what I wish to do proper now.”

Seabrook was in tears when he known as Michael Terry, the Blackhawks group doctor. Three months after a debilitating and deteriorating hip harm power him into early retirement, Seabrook wasn’t getting any higher. In reality, he was in agony.

“I could not stroll,” Seabrook mentioned. “I known as Dr. Terry and mentioned, ‘I am unable to stay like this.'” “

Seabrook underwent an MRI scan. Noticed a again specialist. Noticed a hip specialist. Lastly, he obtained hip substitute surgical procedure, and it modified his life. Simply 5 weeks after the operation, Seabrook was so glad that he known as his physician and advised him earnestly that he wished to return to the NHL.

“He made enjoyable of me and mentioned, ‘No, you are not,'” Seabrook mentioned.

However he can skate once more. He can journey once more. Instantly, a second hockey profession appeared reasonable. He cannot do something till his contract expires subsequent 12 months, so within the meantime, he is attempting to study every part he can about what he calls the “different facet” of hockey. There’s the developmental work with the Giants, and now the teaching at Prime Prospects Recreation. He had his outdated Blackhawks teammate Colin Fraser scout for the Hlinka Gretzky Trophy, marveling at how Fraser was displaying off what these 16- and 17-year-olds would appear to be in Blackhawks uniforms 5 years down the street. He stays in common contact with Blackhawks normal supervisor Kyle Davidson, assistant GM Norm McIver and hockey guide Brian Campbell.

“He is in my workplace asking what the GM is doing. He is exterior asking what the coach is doing. He is speaking to the athletic coach, the gear man,” Barnetta mentioned. “He is very desirous about each facet. He simply sees the way it all works. Attention-grabbing to see that. I do not know what he is planning on doing. I simply hope he does not come over to take my job.”

Kelowna native Brent Seabrook involves work with the Vancouver Giants two or thrice a month. (Courtesy Vancouver Giants)

Coaching appears to suit naturally. It is arduous to think about Seabrook grinding it down the lonely path as a Scout. He belongs within the locker room, his huge voice and massive character permeating each sales space. He was the beating coronary heart of the Blackhawks for 15 seasons, and it is no shock that he returned to that function with the Giants, even when the gamers had been almost twenty years youthful than him. It took him some time to learn to work with youthful gamers—within the NHL, he was surrounded by confirmed winners who did not want a lot hand-holding—however he rapidly tailored. The Giants wanted extra instructing and extra endurance. He wasn’t simply ordering them to tug the go whereas he was defending by belly-sliding; He was displaying them precisely learn how to do it and which particular angles to chop.

However greater than that, study to attach along with your gamers on a extra primary degree, to achieve out to them and instill in them a winner’s mentality. Most coaches have both by no means performed within the NHL or are a long time previous their enjoying days. Even Giants assistant coach Jim VanderMeer, Seabrook’s teammate with the Blackhawks within the late 2000s, was eliminated 11 years from his final NHL sport.

Seabrook is not only a identify. It is the identify of those guys Flag.

“He is younger,” mentioned Giants ahead Samuel Hunzik. “It was solely a short while in the past he was nonetheless enjoying. However he is additionally straightforward to speak to. He will not chunk your head off.”

“It was loopy to have a man like that round,” mentioned Leslie. “He teaches you all of the issues about learn how to be a professional and learn how to keep there all these years. He is received three cups, so it is loopy. Something he tells you, you need to hear it.”

“It is not simply somebody telling them this stuff, it is somebody who has actual expertise,” mentioned Parnetta. “He is been via it, they usually comprehend it. So if he says one thing, they’re like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ I may inform them the identical factor they usually would not take heed to me. However when Brent Seabrook says it, they are going to.”

Already veering in that course late in his profession, Seabrook welcomed the rookie Kirby Sprint In his residence and information all season. And now he is making use of every part he is realized — learn how to discuss to younger avid gamers, learn how to attain out to younger avid gamers, learn how to join with younger avid gamers — into the Prime Prospects Recreation. It is a honest certain, however for all these gamers attempting to compete for a draft spot behind Bedard, the strain is overwhelming.

Seabrook is doing every part he can to alleviate that strain.

“It is a sport filled with gamers who must be put in conditions to provide their finest,” mentioned Seabrook. “My focus is to have enjoyable and hold them free. They’ve 300 scouts within the crowd, and all these things is happening. So that you attempt to get the perfect out of them and have some enjoyable. It is the way in which I wished to play. That is what I wished the dressing room to be, a enjoyable place.” And my voice was actually loud so I managed to get it that method typically.”

It is bizarre to retire so early. You’re feeling remoted and defenseless. It’s possible you’ll not miss the every day grind and bodily burdens of the sport, however you’re feeling queasy with each season begin and each opening sport you did not get to play in. You additionally go from seeing your finest associates on daily basis to not seeing them in any respect. You’re feeling like an outsider, and it isn’t an excellent feeling.

After Patrick Sharpe retired, Seabrook seen that they weren’t speaking a lot, and it bothered him.

So I gave it—at some point. Why do not we discuss?” Seabrook recalled. “It is like, ‘It is arduous to speak to you guys. You are busy. You are on the street. You are on this city or that city. I am considering of calling you, but it surely’s a day. Recreation, and I do not wish to disturb you. I verify the schedule and say, ‘Okay, I am going to name tomorrow.’ However then I neglect and it is too late.”

Seabrook understands that now. desires to speak to Jonathan Toews And Patrick Kane Usually. He desires to see how issues are beneath Luke Richardson. He – like everybody else – desires to know which method they lean relating to no-action clauses because the commerce deadline approaches. However he largely stays away. He went to the Blackhawks-Canucks sport on Tuesday at Rogers Area and was planning to meet up with the fellows after the sport, however the group was going straight to the airport for Calgary, so there wasn’t a lot time. He mentioned he discovered that textual content messages usually tend to be returned than calls.

This isn’t his world anymore. taken from him a couple of years too early; The spirit was prepared however the physique was weak, effectively worn out from 1,114 common season video games and 123 playoff video games. However with a brand new joint and a recent look, he is searching for a second chapter in hockey as soon as his contract lastly expires.

Possibly it will likely be in junior hockey, right here in Vancouver with the Giants. Possibly he’ll be within the NHL, once more in Chicago, with the one group he is ever recognized. He nonetheless has 17 months to search out out.

In the meantime, he’s content material to be an unpaid volunteer for a junior hockey group. Hey man, hockey hockey. And “humble” is a phrase the Giants throw round rather a lot whereas speaking about Seabrook.

Driving a van from Kelowna to Vancouver. He ignores Parneta’s supply to have the group cowl the fuel. He goes out for beer with the Giants workers. He provides his telephone quantity to every Giants member and tells them to name or textual content at any time. He sends them texts of encouragement, congratulations or constructive criticism after the matches.

And sitting within the room with the boys, he tells tales about Ken and Toyos and Keith and the nice outdated days.

Again on the ice, again within the room, again in his aspect. Seabs simply being Seabs.

“I am simply attempting to have enjoyable,” Seabrook mentioned. “Hockey is enjoyable. It is presupposed to be enjoyable. And also you play your finest whenever you’re having enjoyable. Proper now, I am simply glad to be within the sport once more.”

(Prime picture of Brent Seabrook at Prime Prospects Recreation apply Tuesday: Bob Frid/Courtesy Vancouver Giants)

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