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Brookbank hoping to follow brother’s footsteps

by Ross Halvorson

What began in the basement of his home with his brothers as a youngster, and then moved to the streets and the neighborhood ice rinks, has blossomed into a successful professional career for the Milwaukee Admirals’ Sheldon Brookbank.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman gives the Admirals an imposing physical presence at the blue line, but it was growing up in a family of three hockey-playing brothers that has prepared him with the attitude and the drive to succeed at a professional level.

Brookbank is enjoying his sixth professional season, and first in the city of Milwaukee after spending the previous two seasons with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.

“[Milwaukee] is a lot better than most people think,” said Brookbank. “When you come here on the road it’s always cold, windy; you think it’s going to be this dumpy place, but it’s actually pretty decent.”

Brookbank is also enjoying his new organization and teammates as well.

“[The Nashville organization] is dedicated to winning so that’s definitely a key factor to why I came over here,” said Brookbank. “It’s been a good experience so far.”

No matter what city he’s been playing in, Brookbank’s family has never been far away. His mother and father were in Peoria and Milwaukee the first weekend in March to see him play.

“It’s nice to have them down here,” said Brookbank. “They usually don’t get to see me play live; they usually watch on the internet. It’s always nice to have your parents see first hand where you’re at."

Even when his parents haven’t been there to watch, there was always the chance Brookbank would be playing either with or against another Brookbank. When the call up came for his first AHL game with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Sheldon’s older brother by two years, Wade, had already been playing with Grand Rapids from the beginning of the season.

“It was pretty neat to play with him,” said Brookbank, “Not everyone gets to do that.”

Little did they know, their careers would cross paths several other times before Wade became a full-time NHL player, but they would be on opposite sides of the red line.

“The first time I played against Wade he was with Milwaukee, and they came to Cincinnati,” said Brookbank.

“We ran into each other a couple times,” he added.

The two brothers must have only been getting a feel for one another in their first contest on opposing teams. According to Brookbank, the two were a little more physical the second time around when Wade was playing with Manitoba.

“He hit me at least four or five times pretty good,” said Sheldon. “Pretty clean, good hits, but it was weird out there watching him skate around."

Squaring off against each other was nothing new to the two. Brookbank recalled a few other scrums between the two from their younger years growing up in Lanigan, Sask.

“We’d battle it out,” said Brookbank, “whether it was street hockey or hockey down in the basement.”

The brothers kept it pretty clean when their mother and father were at home, but once they left, the sticks and gloves were dropped.

“As soon as our parents left to watch our oldest brother play juniors it was game on,” said Brookbank. “We’d have our own fight night in the basement of the house."

Now that they’re both pursuing their own professional careers, the Brookbank brothers prefer to keep the gloves on when it comes to keeping in touch with one another. The two have formed their own support and motivational system now that they’re in different cities. Wade now calls Vancouver his home as he plays with the NHL’s Canucks.

“We’re both pretty fortunate of where we are in our careers,” said Brookbank. “[Wade] always tells me to keep doing what I’m doing and I’ll get my chance."

As for the rest of this season, Brookbank and his Milwaukee teammates will try to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Currently sitting in the second spot of the West division, the team is ready for their stretch run, according to Brookbank.

“We’re going to try and make a push for first place,” said Brookbank, “because you always want that home-ice advantage.”