by Joe Dominey || AHL On The Beat Archive
San Antonio Rampage radio announcer Joe Dominey recently sat down with rookie forward Brett MacLean. The 20-year-old rookie was the Rampage’s representative at the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic playing for the Canadian All-Star team, recording an assist. Joe talks to Brett about growing up, hockey, life in juniors, his greatest moments, the Rampage locker room and more.
Brett, your first year playing pro hockey after finishing up your junior eligibility, how’s the transition been going so far?
I think it’s been a pretty good transition. There’s been a lot of things that I’ve had to work on and there’s been a lot of things I’ve had to experience going from junior to pro but I’ve enjoyed it so far.
Now you could have gone back and played one more over-age year of major junior hockey. Was there ever any thought to going back and continuing your junior career?
No. I was ready to go play pro. I had a very successful junior career and I didn’t feel like I could do anything more except maybe win a Memorial Cup. But that wasn’t enough to make me want to go back so I was happy when I got a chance to sign and move on.
You played for Oshawa in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League). What was it like playing your junior hockey there?
It’s a fun town. It’s a smaller place and it’s a GM city. The fans really get behind their teams. It’s exciting to play there, especially when you’re good. We had a brand new arena of 6,500 fans every night, so it wasn’t hard to get up for games and they treated us very well there.
Explain to the fans what a GM city is.
Just like Detroit, General Motors and all those things. They’re a hard working, blue-collar town. They just expect you to work hard every night.
You scored 61 goals in 61 games last year. Obviously you were working hard and having a lot of success. In your wildest dreams, did you think you’d be able to get that many goals in that many games?
No, when the year started my goal was 50. As the season went on I was just scoring and scoring. I didn’t really look at how many goals I could get. I just wanted to keep playing well.
I look back at it now, when you start your junior career, you never expect something like that to happen. Only a few guys ever get that opportunity so I’m really proud of my accomplishments and it’s something I can look back on in a couple years and be proud of.
Fondest memories coming from junior hockey?
Playing with John Tavares up in Oshawa. He’s going to be a great NHL player and getting the opportunity to play with a guy like that for two and a half years is exciting. And there’s guys like Eric Regan, who plays in Iowa. We played four years together. We got traded together. So you build friendships that are going to last a lifetime.
We had a lot of fun there, especially in Oshawa. We had a lot of guys that grew up together. We all started there when we were pretty young and are going to be friends forever and we’re going to have a lot of laughs down the road.
Second-round pick of the Coyotes. What was draft day like for you? Was it a nervous time?
Not really. I knew I was going to get drafted but I didn’t know when or how early or anything. I mean, obviously there are nerves there are things are going on in your head. It’s tense watching it, but it’s a relief when you finally get drafted. Really, all you can hope for is to go to the right organization.
You get picked by the Phoenix Coyotes. What were your thoughts on being picked by the Coyotes?
Obviously Wayne Gretzky is the head coach so that’s a pretty cool feeling. They’re a young team and they were going to give me an opportunity to play. So it’s something to be excited about.
You know, I would have hoped to have gone first round, didn’t happen, so this was the next best thing. And this is probably one of the best organizations I could go to.
One of the things they (coaches and organization) talk about is your skating, how much you’ve worked on it and how much you’ve improved. How do you work on your skating? What are some of things that everybody does to improve in terms of improving their ability to get from point A to B?
It’s always the first couple steps, working on getting quick off the line and being able to change directions quickly and keep going. They like my stride and once I get to full speed they’re happy with that. So really I’m just working on short parts of the game, my first couple of steps, stopping and going, tight turns and things like that. It’s just working hard at it and putting some time into it and you know, listening when they have something to tell you about it.
You’re from London, Ontario. What was Brett MacLean like growing up?
I was always playing hockey. Cold winters, so I was outside either on the pond or in the yard playing or the rink. I’d go to school and hockey would be on my mind. I just liked having fun and I tried to stay out of trouble.
When did you first develop the desire or the goal to become a professional hockey player?
Like every kid in Canada or anyone that loves hockey, you always want to be an NHL player when you grow up. But I don’t think it was until my OHL draft year that I really thought I had a chance to make something out of this game. Before then I just played for fun.
I knew I was good but I didn’t really know where I stood in the world. After getting drafted in the first round of the OHL I think it kind of hit me that if I work at this and keep going, maybe I’ll make the NHL someday.
We talked about your Oshawa days earlier, but what are your fondest memories of playing hockey outside of that?
Obviously, the two drafts are up there. The NHL draft is every kid’s dream. The OHL draft is one of those dreams too. But growing up I played on some good hockey teams, won a few Ontario Championships, an International Silver Stick. Playing with my friends like that and getting to win and just sharing memories with your friends and bus rides and all that stuff together, those are the best parts about playing hockey.
From playing some games down in the States, in San Antonio, can you compare the Canadian hockey fan to the American hockey fan? Is there a difference at all?
Oh, yeah. The American fans are a little more into it, into their team. They can be a little crazier and a little bit louder. Some Canadian fans know what they’re talking about, but they’re a little bit more quiet maybe, but they love the game. It’s like everybody in Canada loves hockey but you’ve got your diehard fans in the U.S.
Brett, you’re a guy that I’ve used the word fastidious to describe and I mean that as a compliment. I see you; you’re dressed, the ties done perfectly. You don’t do things in a rush. You do things at the pace that you want to. I think that’s one of the reasons why you’ve had this success. You’re almost able to slow things down a bit. You’ve got some confidence without being a cocky, brash guy. Have you always been that way?
Yeah, I think so. I’ve always been confident in myself, but I try not to be cocky.
I kind of go at my own pace. It’s kind of how I play the game too. Not being an overly fast guy, I think that’s how you have to play. Either slow the game down or speed the game up.
OK, time to sell out some teammates. Smelliest locker in the Rampage locker room?
(without hesitation) Sean Sullivan.
I think he just smells, I don’t know. There’s really no reason for it.
You put down on your survey that you’re a pretty good cook. Fans probably didn’t know that about you. Where did you learn how to cook?
Just trial and error, I guess. Your billets aren’t always home in juniors so you’ve got to learn to cook for yourself or else you’re going to eat microwave food all the time.
Romantic dinner, what are you cooking?
I’m going out for dinner.