Ex-Blackhawks forward Brouwer gets new break with Blues
Hockey players almost always believe they have at least one more season in them.
Even if they're benched, waived, demoted or cut.
And that's exactly how ex-Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer felt after Joel Quenneville and the Florida Panthers released him from a Professional Tryout agreement during training camp.
So Brouwer hung in there, kept skating and is now giving the St. Louis Blues (19-8-6) some much-needed minutes while the defending Stanley Cup champs' fight through a spate of injuries.
"If I would have come out of that camp (with the Panthers), and they would have told me, 'Hey, you're not good enough anymore,' then maybe I probably wouldn't have tried to pursue getting back in the NHL," Brouwer said before the Blues defeated the Blackhawks at the United Center on Dec. 2.
"But when they told me I was good enough to make the team, that actually pushed me a little harder to know that I'm not done yet."
Brouwer, who was a seventh-round pick by the Hawks in 2004 and won a Cup with them in 2010, has skated in nine games for the Blues this season but was a healthy scratch when they played Chicago at Enterprise Center on Saturday. He scored 12 goals and had 9 assists in 75 games for Florida last season, then got caught in a numbers game during camp.
The 34-year-old winger appreciated Quenneville's honesty and added that it was nice to see his old coach back in the NHL.
"The guys down there absolutely love playing for him," Brouwer said. "For me to see him on the ice, it was crazy. His drills haven't changed. His mindset hasn't changed. It was fun. It actually rejuvenated me.
"It was nine years removed from when I played for him last, but it was still the same old 'Q'."
The next six weeks were full of conflicting emotions for Brouwer -- and he seriously contemplated retirement at one point, telling his wife: "I'm tired of this. I'm done."
If it were only that easy. Hockey is like a drug to so many, and Brouwer needed another fix.
To keep the window open, Brouwer stayed in shape by skating with the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen.
During that time, St. Louis suffered major injuries to Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen. Instead of calling up an inexperienced player or two from the minors, Blues GM Doug Armstrong elected to bring Brouwer and 31-year-old Jamie Ginn in on PTOs.
Brouwer was then inked to a one-year, $750,000 deal on Nov. 21 -- the same day it was announced that forward Sammy Blais would miss at least 10 weeks with a wrist injury.
Brouwer's only averaging about 10 minutes of ice time in a bottom-six role. But he's a veteran with a winning pedigree and has easily slotted back into a franchise that he scored 18 goals for in 2015-16.
What's a bit odd about Brouwer, who has a respectable 182 career goals, is that he's suited up for the Blackhawks, Capitals, Blues, Flames and Panthers without spending more than four years with any of them. It begs the question: Who will he identify with once his career does end?
"That's going to be tough," said Brouwer, who scored the series-clinching goal against the Hawks during the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. "My longest tenure was with Washington. But Chicago will always be one of my favorites. They gave me my start and my opportunity. I was able to win a Cup here and we love coming back to the city. ...
"But one of the most fun seasons that I had was in St. Louis. Just the memories that I have, even away from the rink. My son was born in St. Louis ... right at the beginning of the season.
"I just have so many good memories on both sides that I don't know if I'll identify as a fan or a favorite for one of them, but they're both teams that I'll keep track of when I'm done."
Not that he's in any hurry for that day to arrive.
He is, after all, a hockey player.
He's a travelin' manA look at Troy Brouwer's pro career:• Drafted by the Blackhawks in the seventh round in 2004
• 2006-11: Had 49 goals and 54 assists for Hawks in 238 games
• 2011-15: Had 83 goals and 69 assists for Capitals in 293 games
• 2015-16: Had 18 goals and 21 assists for Blues in 82 games
• 2016-18: Had 19 goals and 28 assists for Flames in 150 games
• 2018-19: Had 12 goals and 9 assists for Panthers in 75 games
• 2019-20: Has 1 goal and 0 assists for Blues in 9 games
Career totals: 182 goals, 181 assists in 847 games
Career bests: 25 goals for Capitals in 2013-14; 22 goals for Blackhawks in 2009-10
Postseason highlights:• Scored 4 goals and had 4 assists in 19 games during Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup title run. Two of those goals came in the Hawks' 6-5 victory over Philadelphia in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
• Scored 8 goals and had 5 assists in 20 games for Blues in 2015-16, including the series clincher vs. the Hawks in Game 7 of the first round.
Career totals: 15 goals and 19 assists in 102 games