-This is a hockey post. If you aren't into hockey, then you can click away and save yourself some time.
The Blues named Eric Brewer team captain today. I'd like to offer a few thoughts from someone who works on the periphery of the hockey club.
As P.A. announcer, I've watched "Brew" skate in every game in which he's put on a sweater in St. Louis. I sit at ice level to do my job. I see a few things others don't. I'm sure I miss a few too. I think I understand the game pretty well. From my spot it's easy to know that the job of a top defenseman in the NHL is a lot tougher than most people think. I hear the negative reaction to Brewer's name being announced when I give the lineups. I also hear the frustrated jeers like "get off the ice" from time to time when there's a perceived Brewer mistake.
Having said that, I just don't see the terrible player that the EB booers and haters seem to imagine they are seeing. What I believe they are seeing is "that guy" who came to town when Chris Pronger was traded and Al MacInnis retired. They might also be seeing a guy who most times makes the game look easy, but is occasionally only human. They might also be seeing someone on whom they can take out their frustrations for the futility of the past few years. To those of you negative toward the guy... he's not Prongs, and he's not Chopper...never has been, never will be. But you might at least forget who he's not, and admit he's a damn good hockey player that has earned much respect in the NHL.
During my recent trip with the team to Toronto, I observed some things about some of our players that I hadn't been aware of before. Among those new awarenesses is how Eric Brewer is thought of by his own players, opposing players, and fans in another city. I also found out first hand that Brewer is an interesting and fun person to be around.
First, I can say to you that from my observances Brewer is highly respected by his teammates. This is something that you don't see by merely watching games. At the airports, on the plane, walking to the buses, and checking through customs, things are said and done that indicate where a person stands in the esteem of those around him. It became obvious that Brewer is held in high regard by the other players, both young and veteran.
After the win in Toronto, wife Barb and I were invited to the hallway outside the Blues locker room to wait with the rest of the group for the team bus. There was a crowd of people I believed to be current and former Maple Leaf players waiting outside the Blues locker room to greet and speak with EB. When he emerged, it was like a mini-family reunion with this group. They were obviously genuinely excited to see him, and he them. It was obvious that there was noone in that group who considered him to be any less than a hockey hero and good friend. He also was willing to give them as much time as he could during their session.
I can also tell you, without hestitation, that if it was up to the fans in Toronto, they'd trade just about anybody on their team (maybe with the exception of Mats Sundin) to have someone of Brewer's caliber on their blue line. We had some excellent seats at Air Canada Centre for the game on January 29th thanks to Mike Caruso and his staff. It was a perfect place to enjoy the atmosphere of another building and overhear comments of the fans around me. Several times I was able to catch opinions of Leaf fans who made respectful references toward Brewer and his game. And as much as we like to think we know the game in St. Louis, I think most would admit that Toronto is to hockey what St. Louis is to baseball.
One other thing. As we got off the team charter at Spirit airport at about 2 in the morning, I found myself standing next to Brew as we waited for attendants to unload our checked baggage. The wind chill must have been about zero. I looked at him and he glanced back and quipped..."Whoa...even a bit brisk out here for a Canadian boy..eh?" I appreciated the line from the Vernon, B.C. native...but more his attempt to make a personal connection with "the PA guy" who was along on the trip. Just another indication to me of the person behind the player.
As the old saying goes...You don't know what you have until it's gone. In Brewer's case, I might change it to...You don't know what you have...period. But for sure you'd have to look pretty long and hard to find a defenseman that regularly brings as much game as Eric Brewer. I know now that you also have to search a bit to find a better person. So, it seems based on his being named captain, that we won't have to worry about the "gone thing" for awhile. I hope my stories might enlighten some who see only the occasional mistake.