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 previous film.Chicago fireplaceThe episode noticed a well-recognized – if clean-shaven – face.

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

Seabrook texted the best 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 stage to succeed in the Giants; Seabrook has that impact on individuals. Actually, 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 Heart for a follow. However then Seabrook began doing Seabrook issues—posting aliases, cracking jokes, making guys really feel good, and telling tales in regards to the good previous days.

mentioned Halaburda, who was six years previous 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 amazing 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 house 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 practically each sport on the Web and has distant entry to the Giants’ video system and makes ideas on layouts, particular groups, tics, and particular person strategies to gamers.

It is no peculiar Seabrook pastime. Take it critically.

“He is so passionate, and he loves the sport,” Giants assistant coach Adam Maglio mentioned. “He works with the teaching employees and is clearly linked to the gamers. So, there are loads of one-on-one conversations with the fellows, or we’ll use him in a gaggle speak. He is sort 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 below contract with Tampa Bay Lightning Till the tip of subsequent season. (Sure, Seabrook has a Lightning jersey along with his identify on it at house; he thought it might be enjoyable to ask for one, and Tampa Bay was glad to oblige.) Giants basic supervisor Barkley Barnetta joked that Seabrook is “the highest-paid draftee within the WHL,” because of 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 mother and father lived in Tsawwassen, within the southern suburbs of Vancouver the place the Giants practiced. So when Dick went on to teach Group Canada on the World Junior Championships final yr, 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 convey 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 Heart, main drills, hitting pucks, speaking to gamers, and even clearing nets afterwards to make room for Zamboni. He appeared like a cushty man in retirement. He appeared like a man who was having enjoyable and in place.

However actually he’s a younger man – he’s solely 37 years previous – and he has all his life forward of him. And he is simply attempting to determine 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 need to keep within the sport, however I do not know precisely what I need to do proper now.”

Seabrook was in tears when he known as Michael Terry, the Blackhawks staff doctor. Three months after a debilitating and deteriorating hip damage pressure 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 reside like this.'” “

Seabrook underwent an MRI scan. Noticed a again specialist. Noticed a hip specialist. Lastly, he received hip alternative surgical procedure, and it modified his life. Simply 5 weeks after the operation, Seabrook was so happy that he known as his physician and informed 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. All of a sudden, a second hockey profession appeared practical. He cannot do something till his contract expires subsequent yr, so within the meantime, he is attempting to be taught all the things 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 previous 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 like in Blackhawks uniforms 5 years down the street. He stays in common contact with Blackhawks basic 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 outdoors asking what the coach is doing. He is speaking to the athletic coach, the tools man,” Barnetta mentioned. “He is very desirous about each side. He simply sees the way it all works. Fascinating 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 3 times a month. (Courtesy Vancouver Giants)

Coaching appears to suit naturally. It is exhausting to think about Seabrook grinding it down the lonely path as a Scout. He belongs within the locker room, his huge voice and large 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 position with the Giants, even when the gamers had been practically 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 shortly tailored. The Giants wanted extra instructing and extra persistence. He wasn’t simply ordering them to drag the move whereas he was defending by belly-sliding; He was displaying them precisely do it and which particular angles to chop.

However greater than that, be taught to attach together with your gamers on a extra fundamental stage, to succeed in 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 simple 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 be a professional and keep there all these years. He is gained three cups, so it is loopy. Something he tells you, it’s a must to hear it.”

“It is not simply somebody telling them these items, it is somebody who has actual expertise,” mentioned Parnetta. “He is been via it, and so they understand it. So if he says one thing, they’re like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ I may inform them the identical factor and so they would not hearken to me. However when Brent Seabrook says it, they may.”

Already veering in that path late in his profession, Seabrook welcomed the rookie Kirby Sprint In his house and information all season. And now he is making use of all the things he is realized — speak to younger avid gamers, attain out to younger avid gamers, join with younger avid gamers — into the Prime Prospects Recreation. It is a truthful certain, however for all these gamers attempting to compete for a draft spot behind Bedard, the stress is overwhelming.

Seabrook is doing all the things he can to alleviate that stress.

“It is a sport stuffed with gamers who must be put in conditions to provide their greatest,” mentioned Seabrook. “My focus is to have enjoyable and preserve them unfastened. They’ve 300 scouts within the crowd, and all these items is occurring. So that you attempt to get the perfect out of them and have some enjoyable. It is the best way 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 are feeling remoted and defenseless. You might not miss the day by day grind and bodily burdens of the sport, however you’re feeling unhealthy with each season begin and each opener you did not get to play in. You may also go from seeing your greatest pals day by day to not seeing them in any respect. You are feeling like an outsider, and it isn’t an amazing feeling.

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

So I gave it—sooner or later. Why do not we speak?” Seabrook recalled. “It is like, ‘It is exhausting 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, however it’s a day. Recreation, and I do not need to disturb you. I verify the schedule and say, ‘Okay, I will name tomorrow.’ However then I overlook and it is too late.”

Seabrook understands that now. needs to speak to Jonathan Toews And Patrick Kane Usually. He needs to see how issues are below Luke Richardson. He – like everybody else – needs to know which method they lean with regards to no-action clauses because the commerce deadline approaches. However he principally stays away. He went to the Blackhawks-Canucks sport on Tuesday at Rogers Enviornment and was planning to meet up with the fellows after the sport, however the staff 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, nicely 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 in search of a second chapter in hockey as soon as his contract lastly expires.

Perhaps it will likely be in junior hockey, right here in Vancouver with the Giants. Perhaps he’ll be within the NHL, once more in Chicago, with the one staff he is ever identified. 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 staff. 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 provide to have the staff cowl the fuel. He goes out for beer with the Giants employees. He offers his cellphone 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 great previous days.

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

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

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

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