by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
In case there’s anyone left out there still wondering, yes, Norfolk center Bracken Kearns is indeed the son of former longtime Vancouver defenseman Dennis Kearns.
"It’s pretty funny. Usually it’s halfway through the season that anybody knows my dad played hockey," Bracken said. "It was a long time ago. He definitely was good in his time."
For those who happened to follow Dennis’ career, it should surprise no one that when it comes to hockey, Bracken is absolutely his father’s son. Dennis plugged away for years until he earned a little job security; the same may be coming true for Bracken, 27.
In a career-first, Bracken enters a training camp with more answers than questions about his ability. He’s coming off a season in which he contributed 25 points in 53 games for the Admirals, eventually earning status as an alternate captain and an AHL contract that covers him through 2008-09.
"The last two years, it was a bit of a battle to get established in the AHL," he said. "This year, I expect to get going off the hop. Every season it seems like it’s been a challenge to get going. This is definitely the most secure year. Having said that, I have a ton to prove."
That’s something of a family tradition.
Dennis was a lightly regarded junior player who was never drafted and didn’t make his NHL debut until he was 26. Still, compared to the path taken by his son, Dennis was a blue-chipper. Bracken was a standout athlete as a youngster, but in golf, not hockey. He quit halfway through a Tier II Junior A season and went a year without playing competitive hockey. He was a walk-on at the University of Calgary who worked so hard and played so well that he was captain of the team as a senior.
Last season, he started out with Reading of the ECHL before getting a break when Manitoba wanted to call him up. But he suffered a concussion and was unable to go. Norfolk eventually found a spot for him, and he should have a home there this season.
"That’s one of the things that’s kept me going. I haven’t had a lot of breaks," Kearns said. "If you can make it through the setbacks, then you’re set. I think anything can happen to me, and I can recover from it. With my style of game, I don’t think I’ll ever be complacent. It’s just that this year, I’ll play with a little more confidence."
Oh, and one tip to teammates looking to kill a little spare time in the fall or spring: Kearns also plays that way on the golf course.
He claims to be a little rusty, but he’s a scratch golfer who knows how to round into shape in time to pluck away a wager or two.
"It’s actually a lot of pressure. We’ll go out in the spring time, I haven’t played in six or seven months. I’m supposed to be this fancy golfer," he said. "There’re a lot of hockey players who say they are good golfers, but end up pretty brutal. I think they get a little scared."
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.