Prospects Boast Impressive Resumes

By Laurence Heinen

Their list of accomplishments is already quite impressive.

Now, you can add another honour to the hockey resumes of Brock
Bradford and Gilbert Brulé.

The pair of 15-year-old junior prospects were recently chosen as co-
winners of the 2002 Minor Hockey Player Achievement Award, which is co-
sponsored by Hockey Now and the British Columbia Hockey Hall of

They will receive the award at the Sportsmen’s Dinner July 25 in
Penticton, an annual event that welcomes new members into the BC
Hockey Hall of Fame. The dinner will also acknowledge several others
for their contributions to hockey. Bradford and Brulé will follow in
the footsteps of 2000 Achievement Award winner Colin Fraser of Surrey
and last year’s recipient Tyler Burton of Langley.

“It’s very exciting to win it with Gilbert, because he’s a phenomenal
player,” said Bradford when informed of the accolade, while Brulé
humbly acknowledged that “we’re both pretty good players” when
contacted by phone.

Born just six days apart in 1987 (Brulé on Jan. 1 and Bradford on Jan.
7), the young hockey players first met at the age of seven when they
were recruited to play on a tyke all-star team, which won the
Vancouver Super Series Tournament in the summer of 1994.

Since then, they’ve played against each other in the winter season
with their respective North Vancouver and Burnaby squads, while
reuniting to play on the same team for the spring and summer
season. “We’ve been good friends ever since we started playing
together,” Bradford said.

One of their most memorable experiences was helping to guide the
Pacific Vipers to victory at the 1997 Brick International Super Novice
Hockey Tournament, held annually at West Edmonton Mall. Their 5-3
victory over Detroit Honeybaked helped avenge a semifinal loss to the
same team at the same tournament just one year earlier when the pair
played as under-agers.

“It has the best teams in North America, so it’s good competition,”
said Bradford of the famed Brick tournament.
Although he was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, Brulé
preferred to talk about the free passes he and his teammates received
to the giant indoor water park at West Edmonton Mall.

“They do it first class,” said Brock’s dad Steve Bradford, who coached
the Vipers with Gilbert’s dad Chris Brulé. “They treat the kids
unbelievably well.”

After seeing the pair in action at the Brick tournament, the Boston
Icemen recruited both Bradford and Brulé to play at various
tournaments over the next three spring and summer seasons. They also
continued to play for the Vipers and racked up numerous tournament
titles, while both snipers continued to put the puck in the net and
set up scoring chances.

But every winter, Bradford and Brulé would return to their respective
minor hockey associations and inevitably battle against each other for
bragging rights.

“It’s always fun when we play together,” said Bradford, noting that
it’s a challenge to play against his friend. “You try and prevent him
from scoring as well as setting up plays and playing your own

In their first season at the Peewee AAA level, Bradford’s Burnaby
Winter Club Bruins edged out Brulé’s North Vancouver squad to advance
to the Provincial Championships, which the Bruins went on to

The following year, Brulé joined the North Shore Winter Club
Winterhawks and helped lead his squad to an upset victory over
Bradford and the Bruins at the 2001 Peewee AAA Provincial
Championships in Penticton.

This past season, Bradford earned a measure of redemption by scoring
game-winning goals in the final of both the Bantam AAA Provincial
Championships in Burnaby and the Western Canadian Bantam Championships
in Kamloops.

Although his Winterhawks came within one victory of advancing to
provincials, Brulé turned a lot of heads with his play at a Bantam AAA
tournament in St. Albert last January. The North Shore squad downed
the heavily-favoured Notre Dame Hounds in overtime of the final as
Brulé assisted on the game-winning goal by teammate Julian

Vancouver Giants general manager Scott Bonner saw Brulé lead all
players in scoring at the tournament on his way to being named to the
first all-star team. In May, the Giants traded up to make sure they
could select the talented forward first overall at the Western Hockey
League Bantam Draft.

“His hockey sense is excellent,” Bonner said. “He passes the puck
well. He knows the game and he’s intense. I think he just has to
continue to handle the puck, be a dominant player and make the next

While Brulé has indicated his preference to eventually play in the
WHL, Bradford has decided to keep his options open. The straight A
Grade 9 student at St. Thomas More in Burnaby will wait until after
this season before deciding to go the Major Junior route or play
Junior A in hopes of landing a scholarship to attend classes and play
hockey at a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1

“If you’re good enough, you’ll make it going either way,” he said,
referring to his ultimate goal of playing professional hockey.

Although Bradford hasn’t committed to playing in the “Dub”, the
Kamloops Blazers chose the 5-foot-8, 145-pound forward in the third
round of the Bantam Draft, 41st overall.

Both Bradford and Brulé now hope to make the jump to play at either
the Junior A or B level this coming fall.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I think we’ll be able to continue
off where we left in minor hockey,” Bradford said. “It’ll be a big
season next year. You’re only going to be playing against the best

Like his friend, Brulé is looking forward to graduating from the minor
hockey level.

“I want to play junior hockey on a higher level,” he said. “It’s going
to be faster and bigger guys. It’s going to be a challenge.”

As for nerves, the pair of prospects have faced their share of
pressure whether it was at the Brick tournament or at the Quebec
International Peewee Tournament that both attended this past February
and the season before.

“Once you’ve been to a few, you get used to it and learn to fight off
nerves and play your game,” Bradford said. “The only pressure we put
on is on ourselves to exceed and become better.”

Nerves are something that Brulé has learned to overcome.

“I don’t really feel any pressure,” said the 5-foot-10, 155-pound
centre. “I just want to go out and play hockey. We both love to do it.
We go out there and have fun and work as hard as we can.”

While they haven’t quite mapped out their exact hockey future just
yet, Brulé would love the chance to continue to play on the same team
or against his good friend.

“I hope so,” he said when asked whether he’d like to face off against
Bradford in the future. “I’ll catch him when they’re on a change or
something and beat him one-on-one.”

“Not likely,” chimed in Bradford.

Perhaps Chris Brulé said it best when asked what it’s been like to
watch the young careers of a pair of talented hockey prospects.

“They’ve been champions and fantastic hockey players,” he
said. “They’re just fabulous hockey players and even greater

Laurence Heinen is the Managing Editor of Hockey Now