Loading

ALUMNI LONG READ ADAM BROOKS STILL A QUEEN CITY FAVOURITE

A GOAL TO REMEMBER

When you spend five seasons somewhere and amass nearly 400 points, you’re bound to be remembered.

Combine those numbers with a love for the city and you’ll cement yourself among a franchise’s fan favourites.

For Adam Brooks, who registered 135 goals and 249 assists for the Pats between 2012 and 2017, there’s mutual admiration between the former WHL scoring champion and the Queen City.

That was evidenced last month when the Winnipeg native scored his first NHL goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a win over the Edmonton Oilers.

“At first I didn’t even know it went in,” Brooks admitted of his first in the NHL. “It was obviously not the prettiest goal I’ve ever scored, but when I felt it hit my foot I thought maybe Wayne Simmonds in front of the net got a piece of it.”

“I just saw the boys coming to me and I remembered how happy [Jason Spezza] looked when he was coming towards me, so I assumed it had to be mine. When you get back to the bench with all those guys you’ve been around for a couple of years at camp and stuff, I remember just how happy they are for you.”

It didn’t take long for Pats fans to take notice, flooding social media with congratulations for Brooks, even if he didn’t see them firsthand.

“As much as I loved being around the boys, being around the community and all the relationships I made through five years are pretty special. I no longer have social media, but when I did, I’d get messages from people that I met in Regina all the time,” Brooks explained.

“I loved the support from the fans. It definitely brightens your day to see that people are still thinking about you. I hope they know they’re a big part of why I had so much fun in Regina.”

PAYING IT FORWARD

As a youngster in Winnipeg, Brooks remembers the impact the city’s top hockey players – the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose at the time – had on him.

With those positive memories from his childhood, Brooks knew he wanted to have a similar impact as his career with the Pats evolved. More free time following his graduation from high school, coupled with a strong desire to connect with Regina’s hockey fans led Brooks to more time in the community.

“Growing up in Winnipeg, having the Manitoba Moose play there when I was younger, I know how I felt any time those type of players came around,” Brooks recalled.

“I knew when I went to Regina I wanted to have a role in the community and be a leader in the community for some younger kids, so when I was about 18 and out of school with a lot of downtime, I really enjoyed doing community stuff and connecting with a lot of fans.”

John Paddock's arrival in 2014 helped spark Brooks.

NEW FACE, NEW OPPORTUNITY

With seasons of 120 points (2015-16) and 130 (2016-17) over his final two seasons with the Regiment, you’d think offence came naturally to the five-foot-10 centre. But that wasn’t the case for Brooks, who had to find his place in the WHL.

Despite scoring in just his second WHL career game in front of family and friends in Brandon during the 2012-13 season, it took time for Brooks to find his place in the Pats lineup.

It was the summer of 2014 when John Paddock was hired by the Pats, taking over as head coach and senior vice-president of hockey operations. That hire proved to be a turning point for many in the organization, Brooks included.

“That took a lot of pressure off me – just knowing there was a coach who believed in me and would give me an opportunity." - Adam Brooks.

At training camp ahead of the 2014-15 season, Paddock made it clear to the 17-year-old Brooks that he’d get a fresh start and opportunity to be the player he wanted to be.

“That took a lot of pressure off me – just knowing there was a coach who believed in me and would give me an opportunity,” Brooks said of his early encounters with Paddock.

It was something that resonated with Brooks, who remembers those early meetings with Paddock and a December 30th game in Saskatoon as the turning points in his WHL career.

“There was one game that year I remember felt like a turning point,” Brooks said of that fateful game in Saskatoon. “I ended up getting three primary assists on Morgan Klimchuk’s three goals and I think he scored all three of them in the third. We just kind of heated up together as a line and I remember getting on the bus after that just thinking maybe I could put up some numbers in the league and have some confidence.”

After finishing the 2014-15 season with 30 goals and 32 assists, Brooks hit full stride during the 2015-16 season, leading the league in scoring with 120 points.

“All of a sudden the guys around him were pretty good players,” Paddock said of that 2015-16 team. “Adam became one of the lynchpins of that and it just grew.”

PATH TO PRO HOCKEY

Following his breakout season in 2015-16, Brooks path to the NHL became clearer, as he was selected in the fourth round (92nd overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Maple Leafs.

After returning to the Pats for his 20-year-old season in 2016-17, Brooks started his pro journey in the fall of 2017. His first season proved to be a successful one, appearing in a total of 77 games for the eventual Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies.

Coming off his rookie season in the American Hockey league, the 181-pound pivot was poised to take another step forward. But on November 9, 2018 Brooks was pulled from a game when an elevated heart rate caused concern. Luckily for Brooks, the issue passed and his progression in pro hockey continued.

Two-plus years with the Marlies paid off last season for Brooks, who got into seven games with the Maple Leafs, including one in his hometown of Winnipeg.

“As much as it meant to me, it meant so much to my parents. All the sacrifices they made for me over the years...for them to witness that in person was pretty special.” - Adam Brooks.

It was a dream come true for the two-time WHL all-star, who recorded his first NHL point in front of family and friends on January 2, 2020.

“It definitely was nice to have everyone in attendance in Winnipeg when you score your first point,” Brooks said, comparing that experience to his first NHL goal without fans in the building.

“As much as it meant to me, it meant so much to my parents. All the sacrifices they made for me over the years and all those times they were getting up at 5 a.m., or juggling who was going to drive which son to hockey, so for them to witness that in person was pretty special.”

Among those in attendance that night in Toronto's 6-3 win at Bell MTS Place was Paddock, who continues to see opportunity as the key to Brooks taking the next step in his hockey career.

"His development took off for us here in every way. As a young man, as a leader, as a hockey player and he's always shown his gratitude to Regina. I just talked to him the other day and it's a great story. He's a really good player, who should get more opportunity to play in the National Hockey League," Paddock pointed out.

LASTING MEMORIES OF THE QUEEN CITY

Along with Paddock, the Wilchucks (Donna and Greg) and the Worralls (Brandi and Wayne) were also key in shaping Brooks' time in the Queen City.

Combined, the two billet families helped prepare Brooks for life away from home and his eventual transition to pro hockey.

“I was fortunate enough to have two really great families and I still talk with both of them a ton. I think that goes into making your experience so great as well, getting matched up with a family that’s going to be a part of your life forever hopefully,” Brooks said.

On the ice, it was the Pats 2017 run to the WHL championship series that still sticks with Brooks.

"The memories that we created throughout that whole playoff run are really the ones that stick with you even though you didn’t finish it off.” - Adam Brooks

Coming off a franchise record 52-win regular season, expectations were high for the Pats. An opening round sweep of the Calgary Hitmen was followed by one of the wildest series in recent Pats history – an eventual seven-game win over the Swift Current Broncos.

“I wasn’t able to play and just kind of had to watch from the side. We were down 3-1 [in the series] and John had me dressing and going on the bench – I was wearing the ‘C’ at the time – just to be a leader on the bench, and keep the guys motivated,” Brooks recalled of the series, which saw him suffer a partial tear of his MCL in Game 2.

Even if he wasn’t close to 100 per cent, having Brooks in the trenches was something Paddock knew had value.

“We were playing with a limited number of players, it wasn’t hurting us to have him dressed there and it probably kept the other teams on edge a bit if he was going to play, and he was the captain of the team that year. His leadership was clearly apparent to the group.”

After surviving a seven-game thriller with the Broncos, the Pats needed six games to get past the Lethbridge Hurricanes, including an overtime win in Game 2 of the series – authored by Regina's hobbled captain.

“I had an overtime winner in that series that was obviously really exciting being in the conference finals and in front of your own fans. To be sore and not be sure how you’re game is going to be after coming back from something like that and to score a goal really helped motivate me,” said Brooks.

Grinding through his knee injury, Brooks and the Pats entered the WHL Championship Series against Seattle looking for the franchise’s first title since 1980. But another blow was around the corner, as Brooks suffered a concussion in Game 1 of the series.

“We’d already lost Jake Leschyshyn in January and to lose Adam like we did…I’m biased, but his time missed cost us the league championship without question,” explained Paddock.

Despite coming up short of a WHL title, that 2017 playoff run helped provide valuable lessons for Brooks ahead of his pro career, and represented the final chapter during a wonderful run in Regina.

“Just looking back at all the lessons that we learned that year, I think it helped myself going into my first year going into pro and helped a lot of guys who were returning for the Memorial Cup run. The memories that we created throughout that whole playoff run are really the ones that stick with you even though you didn’t finish it off.”

Created By
Evan Daum
Appreciate