Brady Calla is the kind of heart and soul player who provides the glue to hold a team together.
He made the rounds in the WHL, always going to teams that needed more leadership. Starting his career in Everett, the Kelowna native made stops in Moose Jaw, Kamloops and finally Spokane. His fifth and final season in 2008-09, he had 38 points in 50 games as an overager.
The 6’0 200-pound winger made appearances for the AHL Rochester Americans at the end of the 2007-08 season, and beginning of the 2008-09 season, before finally turning pro for good this year. The former third-round pick had six points in 32 games for the Americans, when he could get into the line-up. With NHL rookies on their way down to Rochester for the Olympic break, Calla was reassigned to the ECHL Florida Everblades on Feb. 9. He played four scoreless games for the Everblades.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Calla during the Everblades’ game against the Gwinnett Gladiators on Sunday, during which he was scratched.
Calla was recalled by the Panthers, officially as of Sunday, but not placed on the Americans roster. Joining another ECHL team where the rookie will get more playing time isn’t out of the question.
HF: You’re down here to get more ice time, is that right?
BC: Exactly. I was playing a fair amount until about the All-Star Game up in the American League and after that I wasn’t getting an opportunity so they decided to send me down to get a little bit more playing time.
HF: You’ve played four games with the Everblades, how has it gone?
BC: Good. It was an adjustment though. The pace is similar, but it’s a little more scrambly. But it was exciting to come down and be able to play a lot again. I was with Ernie (Hartlieb) and Nick Nicholson, two similar players — just go out and work hard, finish your checks, grinding-type line. Overall we were pretty successful.
HF: Why did (coach Malcolm Cameron) hold you out today do you think?
BC: There was no particular reason, just the line-up. Playing a lot of games and whatnot.
HF: Up in Rochester, you were mostly on the fourth line – do you think that’s the role you’ll play moving forward?
BC: Yeah, throughout my career and if I ever make it to the NHL, I’ll probably be in a fourth-line role. Hopefully in my American Hockey League career or ECHL career I’d like to be a third-line player who can produce some points, but be solid in his own end, work hard and provide energy every night.
HF: You were playing mostly right wing in Rochester?
BC: Yeah, the odd time I’d get to play left wing, but actually there was a bit of time I got to play center this year too, due to injuries and whatnot. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience playing center, but it was a lot of fun being able to try that position out. I find you get a lot more involved playing center.
HF: The timing of you coming down was due to the Olympic break, they were going to get some guys down?
BC: That’s right. With the Olympics, there’s that roster freeze and more guys were going to come down and I wouldn’t get an opportunity to play in Roch. To come down here and play a lot was going to be a huge impact on my game and hopefully the team’s success.
HF: So do you anticipate that when the Olympics are over you’ll go back up?
BC: It’s kind of up in the air. It also has a lot to do with injuries, especially in Florida. If there’s a lot of injuries in Florida, they’re going to need bodies in Roch, so therefore I’ll go and hopefully fill the line-up and be able to play a lot there. If not, I’m pretty sure I would stay here and work on my development. Either way I’m excited to do whatever they have planned for me. All I want to do is play and try to get better.
HF: You seem to have a much better attitude about this than most guys would.
BC: You know, it’s hard. I don’t think I’m any different than the other guy. I do get down, I get upset. I’d way rather be in Rochester, but if I’m not going to be able to play in Rochester, get the correct amount of ice time, being down here’s not a negative thing. Good coach, good players, good city, great fans. No matter where I’ve been in my career, I always try to make it a positive situation. If I can get better – they said two weeks, maybe it’s going to be the rest of the season – I might get better here. Hopefully it works out for me.
HF: Did they actually say two weeks?
BC: They had planned possibly just sending me down for the two weeks and they’d reevaluate the situation – if there’s injuries and if there’s room. I personally think I will stay longer. I’m planning two weeks but if not, stay positive, keep working hard.
HF: You were pretty well traveled in the WHL too, playing for four different teams. What did you take away from all of that?
BC: Every place I left, I never wanted to leave and the management never wanted me to leave, it’s just I was valued somewhere else and needed somewhere else. Every time it was easier going to a new situation and fit right in. The WHL was such a special environment. I always preached to the young players no matter where I went, ‘don’t take one day for granted.’ It goes by so fast. I remember my first day and I remember my last day, and the days in between just went so fast. Enjoy it because at the end of the it you’re either going to school or if you have the opportunity you’re going to play pro and life’s just around the corner. In the Western Hockey League we always prided ourselves in being high in character. The league is spread out so far and when you get drafted you have to move far from home. In the Quebec league and the Ontario league, they don’t have to live so far from home. We always prided ourselves on being high in character and most pro teams will say that about the league.
HF: You enjoy the physical game?
BC: Yes, definitely. It’s a huge aspect of my game. If you’re not going to put the puck in the net, you have to be good in other areas of your game, defensively and check hard.
HF: One thing I heard about you is that you’re very fit.
BC: Yeah, I take pride in being healthy and if you can have better condition than another guy, that means you can win a race to the puck or win a battle on the ice.
HF: What do you do in the summer for your workouts?
BC: There’s a facility I go to with a trainer and they have set workouts we do, usually five to six days a week. You go, work hard for two and a half to three hours a day. It’s a lot of fun. I love the summer life, but it’s a hard task, especially the facility I train at.
HF: What’s the name of it?
BC: Redline Sports, Brandie Cridland is the trainer. They’re also teamed with Crash Conditioning, Doug Crashley is the one who provides all the workouts. It’s in Kelowna.
HF: For the type of player you are, you’ve had very few injuries in your career.
BC: Yeah, it is funny. This year, I got this good gash (pointing to forehead). I went to hit a guy (in November) and got a pressure cut on my helmet. I got cut for 10 stitches. It is amazing though. I’ve been watched over and been put in good hand and am very thankful I haven’t gotten any bad injuries.
HF: Last year you started to play pro for eight games and then they sent you back to junior. Were you anticipating playing pro all year?
BC: I was. Definitely. I had everything in line. I had my apartment, I had all that stuff. When I got the call saying I was going back to junior, at first I was devastated, very upset. Because I felt that my full effort would have been in the American Hockey League last year. It took me a week or two to really adjust. I was really down. But again, I went back and took the positives from the situation, and tried to get better last year. I definitely left like I improved going back and playing in the WHL.
HF: Did you feel like you were really a leader in your overage year?
BC: Yeah, out of all my years, that year I felt I was looked upon by a lot of players. It was awesome, it was a lot of fun to step up every night and have an impact on or off the ice.
HF: After last year’s setback and then this year not sticking in the line-up…
BC: Yeah, it’s been a tough go, no one ever said pro was going to be easy, or it was going to be fair. I think a lot of people going into hockey, young kids now, should know – and one day when I have kids I’m going to tell them – it’s not a fair business. It really isn’t. You have to be able to go out and look out for your own sometimes. The biggest thing is having a work ethic and a good attitude and you’ll always be known. Hopefully my hard work and effort is going to pay off eventually and at the end of the day at least I can look in the mirror and say I gave it my best shot.