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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Brodziak Discusses His Career and Back Injury

Kyle Brodziak skated in his first NHL game on October 15th, 2005 in Calgary against the Flames. Fourteen years later he likely played his last NHL game on March 30th, 2019.

When he was a 21-year-old rookie he didn’t know he’d play another 916 games after his debut in Calgary, and when he left the ice against the Anaheim Ducks this past March he was unaware that would be his last NHL game.

Such is life as a professional athlete. You don’t know how long it will last or when it will end, but Brodziak has loved every moment of his time as an NHL player.

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This morning Oilers head coach Dave Tippett confirmed that Brodziak didn’t pass his physical and wouldn’t be on the ice tomorrow for day one of training camp.

Brodziak hasn’t been on the ice since April 1st in Las Vegas. That morning he jumped on the team bus, walked into the dressing room with is usual smile on his face, chatted with his teammates and went out for the morning skate.

About fifteen minutes into the skate Brodziak felt something. He knew exactly what it was, and he had a sneaking suspicion it could be career ending. A disc slipped in his back. The pain was instant and the feeling all too common.

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I spoke with Brodziak this past May, and that’s when he told me, confidentially, that he wouldn’t be able to play this coming season. He’d tried working out, but his back was giving him issues. His tone suggested he was going to have to be okay with the decision, if that’s what the doctor recommended. He’d had a remarkable career for a young lad from Vegreville, Alberta.

We talked about his back pain, and how long he’s had to deal with it. In early August we spoke again and I asked if he would be willing to explain his injury and discuss his 15-year professional hockey career. He agreed, and in late August I sat down with him and his lovely wife Nicole to discuss their wonderful journey.

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THE JAW…

Brodziak was drafted 14th overall in the Western Hockey League bantam draft by the Moose Jaw Warriors in 1999. The following year, when he was in grade eleven, he moved to Moose Jaw to play for the Warriors. He billeted with Charlotte McNaughton his first season and the next three he billeted with her daughter Lesa, who at the time was engaged to John Iatridis. He is still close with John and Lesa today. Brodziak was a lanky 16 year old and just excited about the opportunity to play in the WHL.

On his first day of high school, in his first class, he saw Nicole. They didn’t speak the first day, but became friends, and eventually began dating when they were 19. They’ve been together ever since. She has been his biggest fan and he hers. They’ve lived in Iowa, Wilkes-Barre, Edmonton, Minnesota and St. Louis.

They were married in 2008 and have three boys; Lenny (turned 8 this August), Leo (4) and Luca (3). “It is a madhouse sometimes,” smiled Nicole as we spoke.

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They welcomed me into their beautiful, two-story home in a quiet cul-de-sac on the edge of Sherwood Park, a suburb just east of Edmonton. They shared a bottle of wine and I had a beer as we discussed their 15-year adventure. 

PRO HOCKEY…

Feb 27, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Kyle Brodziak (28) looks on as he warms up before playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. The Maple Leafs beat the Oilers 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

I first met Kyle when he was 20 and playing for the Edmonton Road Runners in the American Hockey League during the 2004/2005 NHL lockout.

Brodziak spent three seasons in the AHL, but he did play 10 NHL games his second season and another six in the Show in his third year. All three seasons in the AHL he played in a different city. First with the Road Runners, then in Iowa and lastly in Wilkes-Barre. The Oilers didn’t have their own AHL affiliate in 2006 and 2007 so Brodziak played with Dallas Stars prospects in Iowa and Pittsburgh Penguins prospects in 2007.

He became an NHL regular with the Oilers in 2007/2008 and had a solid rookie campaign producing 14 goals and 31 points. Marty Reasoner and Zack Stortini were his most common linemates. As a rookie he averaged 2:31/game on the PK, and throughout his career numerous coaches trusted him both on the PK and in a defensive role.

He had a very good NHL career, but it likely ended abruptly at that fateful April morning skate. Brodziak explained when his back issues began.

“Six years ago training in the summer…we were doing deadlifts and I didn’t lift it properly,” he said. “When I first started working out, I knew I wasn’t working out properly. It took a while to learn how to work out correctly and I think working out with Simon (Bennett, former strength and development coach of the Oilers) definitely helped that.

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“I tried lifting too much during the deadlift, and slipped a disc in my back and the injury remained with me the entire year. It was hard getting out of bed. I had to sit on the floor to put my socks on, because I couldn’t bend over. The entire year the pain was like that every day, but oddly I never felt it skating.”

The harsh truth of professional sports is playing injured is part of being a professional athlete. It isn’t discussed, because it will never change. Playing through pain, at certain times of a career, is reality. Players quietly hope the pain is tolerable.

A back injury is frustrating because it can reappear at any time.

“I took some time off at the end of the 2014 season,” said Brodziak. “My back wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible, it was just okay, but early on that summer I was injured again. Another disc issue. And that summer I started working with Simon and doing preventive exercises and strengthening all the core muscles around to protect it.

“I learned how to manage it and keep the areas around it strong. I went through a few years of not having any real troubles. Every once in a while if I slipped with my form, or exercises I would tweak something in my back, but never anything bad until the end of this year. I wasn’t even doing anything out of the ordinary. I played pain free all season. I went on the ice for a pregame skate in Vegas. I don’t know if I shot the puck weird, but I slipped a disc and felt it immediately. I knew it was bad,” said Brodziak.

For six NHL seasons he played with a wonky back. He didn’t talk about it, instead he educated himself on how to best protect it. Consider it the non-sexy side of being an athlete. The hard work behind the scenes when no one is watching.

“A lot was core and a lot of it was glute activation,” said Brodziak. “As soon as something goes awry my glutes shut off and my back takes all the stress. I had to keep my core area tight, and when it wasn’t, or I made a mistake, I could tweak it.

“If I bend over too fast and come back up then I can slip something or if I try to pick up something too heavy, which I’m not used to, as I’m used to picking up anything without thinking, a disc can slip. I had to think about it often. I had to be very careful, and even now that I’m not playing I still have to watch what I do,” said Brodziak.

LONG TERM PROGNOSIS…

Brodziak is a young man. He turned 35 in May and has three boys under the age of eight. What does the future hold?

“I knew it was a disc issue right away so I wanted to know what the prognosis was. I had an MRI and there is some disc degeneration. The protective sheath is worn down. When I’m not diligent with my stretching and exercise, I have to be really cautious because my back is fragile.

“If I have a busy day and I’m picking up a lot of stuff up in the yard, then by the end of the day I’m hurting. It is painful. I tried to work out early this summer, but I haven’t been able to do much of anything lately, stretching and exercise wise. I know if I want to be a functional father I have to find a workout plan that will allow me to do that.

“I’m going to see my doctor in September and we are going to discuss exactly what I need to do to stay on top of it to avoid surgery in the future.”

ACTIVE FATHER….

How much does being a father play into his decision not to try to play one more season?

“I want to be an active father,” said Kyle. “My boys are active and I want to be a part of that. It is a tough question to answer…

“Training to be an NHL player is hard enough, and to add all this other stuff (to protect the back) to maintain the level of training necessary, I’m not sure it’s achievable anymore. Once I saw it was almost impossible to strengthen the areas around the injured disc, I knew that was likely the end. I’d never felt that way before.”

He doesn’t know how he will feel once hockey season begins and he isn’t able to be around his teammates or have the opportunity to compete. Missing workouts is much different than missing practices and games.

While he isn’t sure how he will feel Nicole is ready for the next adventure.

“Moving back to Edmonton made me realize I was ready to finish this chapter,” said Nicole. Before we moved back here (last summer) we thought we might move to BC and live on a lake. But after two months back here I knew this was home. Have the kids in one place and put down some roots, but I’m not the one playing so it is easier for me.”

She knows Kyle very well, but admitted even she is curious to see how he handles not playing when that time comes. She jokingly added it will be weird watching hockey together. “The boys will love it I’m sure,” she smiles.

BIG CHANGES…

Many NHL players, and their wives, struggle adjusting to retirement. For many years being apart, or him not being around very much, even when the team was in town, was their normal. Now it isn’t. How will they adjust?

“I feel we are in summer mode and you are used to being around each other,” said Nicole. “Maybe fall will be the true test (laughs). But because Kyle hasn’t been able to train every day, because of the injury, this is our new normal. Maybe when it slows down and the kids go to school we might go stir crazy,”

Maybe they can work out together? I asked.

“We already tried that and he doesn’t want to,” laughs Nicole.

But now it will only be core exercises so maybe Nicole will teach him what to do. She laughed. He took a sip of wine. Throughout our four-hour visit you could tell they were a team. They had to grow up together and try to keep a normal routine while juggling the rigours of pro hockey. They had to make their life work. They do have the experience of Kyle being traded out of Edmonton in the summer of 2009 to think about when it comes to dealing with change.

How did they handle his trade to Minnesota?

“It was wild. I was like, I guess this is happening and we will figure it out.” said Kyle.

“We were excited just to go somewhere new and see how it would for him to play away from the home crowd,” added Nicole.

“It was a chaotic time for us the first time we were in Edmonton,” explained Kyle. “Just being younger, having a lot of people around all the time, but looking back on it, it was blur. When I got traded, I was scared for a bit, but after a while we realized it was awesome.”

“The pressure for American teams is different. Minnesota was a lot slower pace,” added Nicole.

Was being away from home and his childhood friends good for his career?

“I think it was better to go away for a while and refocus on things. I will never take anything away from my buddies. I love them. They are awesome and keep us grounded, but when we went to Minnesota I didn’t have the same distractions. Your priorities are narrowed down more. You are living there to play hockey and that is it. You aren’t at home playing hockey and dealing with more of life. It did make it a bit easier for me,” admitted Brodziak.

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CAREER YEARS…

His most productive offensive seasons came in his first three years in Minnesota, including a career-high 22 goals and 44 points in 2012. He was scoring, but when I asked him about those offensive years I learned why he was revered by so many of his teammates.

“Even though I was putting up pretty good numbers, I would trade it in for making the playoffs,” replied Brodziak. “Even when I was putting up points, we were still losing and it is still a pretty miserable place to be around the rink. It is way more fun when you win.

“It was fun scoring because I was confident and playing well, but I would trade it in for playing a different role on a winning team.”

The next five seasons he made the playoffs every year and made it to the second round four times. His first season in St. Louis (2015/2016) in a lesser role Brodziak had a blast.

“We made the conference finals. That was the most fun hockey I’ve had in my life. It was the best. I’m so thankful for those years. I wish every year could be like that, but that year showed me how difficult it is to go deep in the playoffs, but also how fun it is. That thrill is why you train hard every summer, just for the chance to go on a run like that,” he said.

NO REGRETS…

As we took a trip down memory lane, never once did I sense any regret from Kyle. He is at peace with the outcome, even though he didn’t want to go out with an injury. He is proud of his career, and his humble upbringing has been palpable throughout. He and Nicole never got caught up in the aura of living an NHL lifestyle, and the bond of their partnership has remained strong.

That connection was never more evident than when I asked what the boys think about Dad playing hockey or what they will remember. They intersected each other’s thoughts almost seamlessly.

“I like the fact that the kids don’t really know that it (playing in the NHL) is a different job,” said Nicole. “They think being a hockey player isn’t any different than being a teacher or any other job.”

“Lenny got to experience some of it, but he just turned eight. How much will he really remember,” said Kyle.

“Lenny is really into soccer. He has no interest in ice hockey right now and that is fine with Kyle,” added Nicole.

“I’ve asked him if he wants to play, but all the boys love to play mini sticks and road hockey and all sports, so we couldn’t care less if they play hockey,” quipped Kyle.

“As long as they are active that is all we care about,” said both of them.

The one benefit of having a disc problems is Kyle will be with his boys and Nicole more.

“Being able to wake up and be around for breakfast most mornings this summer, instead of getting up and having to leave to work out was great, he said.

“During the year you go on the road for a week and when you get back you feel like you are restarting almost. It takes a while to adjust back into home life, then you leave again and you start the cycle all over. Just to get into the consistency around home is very exciting for me,” said Kyle.

Nicole has already seen a difference in the boys in how they act around their father.

“Now if he leaves to run errands, or out for lunch or even to fill up the boat with gas, they ask where dad is. I miss him,” smiles Nicole.

“Before it was almost like they were expecting me to leave. I didn’t like that it was okay that I was gone and leaving. That was all they knew and they were okay with it. I understand it, but that is the hardest part about being a dad in the NHL. It truly has been special being around more this summer. That will make the adjustment much easier,” said Kyle.

RAPID FIRE…

It is difficult to wrap up a 15-year career in one article, but Kyle obliged me as we ended our conversation with some rapid fire questions.

First NHL Goal? 

Against St. Louis in Edmonton. It was my 6th game in my second season. I remember it was the 6th game, because I got sent down right after it. I’d been called up in March and then sent back down. I shot five hole on a weird three-on-two. I know Brad Winchester got an assist. I’m not sure who else. (It was Ladislav Smid).

Most Memorable Goal?

Even though it was an assist, being on the ice and assisting on the game winner in game seven in Colorado in the first round in 2014. Nino Niederreiter scored and then I just started jumping. It was so awesome. Easily the most memorable goal.

Nicole added. I got a painting done for him of that goal and it is downstairs.

**What Brodziak didn’t mention about that game was that he had three assists. Two in the third period including Jared Spurgeon’s game tying goal with 2:27 remaining and then on Niederreiter’s OT winner. He was huge for the Wild in that game, but he only talked about the goal. Winning was truly all that mattered to him.***

Worst Fight?

Chris Stewart for sure. He gave it to me pretty good. I had a whole bunch of bumps on the side of my head after that. I couldn’t get any shots near him.

Best fight?

I didn’t really have any really good ones. I was way better at fighting off skates than on skates.

Nicole. Yeah, you used to do that (laughs). It was often sticking up for someone.

**I wasn’t expecting this and thankfully Kyle answered my follow up question.**

When was the last time you were in an off-ice fight? Where at?

It was about four years ago in Two Hills. I was playing in a golf tournament and there was also a rodeo going on. There was a beer gardens on the second night. I was outside and one of my friends supposedly got suckered inside. A couple guys got thrown out and then another buddy starts fighting this cowboy and he ends up getting knocked out and the guy is on top still hitting him. So I stepped in and said it is our time to go. Then we fought.

I came home the next day and both my hands were cut up. In the morning I had to go to my in-laws to pick up my boys, because Nicole was at a wedding, and I had to tell them I’d got into a bit of trouble last night. That was kind of embarrassing. I did quite well in the fight though (grins).

Funniest Teammate?

There are many. I’ll say Jaden Schwartz. We had the same stupid sense of humour. He has to be up there. Struddy (Jason Strudwick) is hilarious. Zack Kassian is really funny. He is funnier when the media isn’t in there. He gets grumpy (laughs) when they are in the room.

Coach who you helped the most?

Probably Curtis Hunt my junior coach in Moose Jaw. He just laid it out if I wanted to make the NHL I had to learn to play the defensive side. He made me earn everything I got. He was a great coach for me.

Also Todd Richards. I had him in Wilkes Barre and both years in Minnesota. He knew my game and he wanted me to play with more creativity and less caution. He was a coach who really understood what my game was capable of when I was playing well and what I was capable of.

Favourite rink on the road?

Montreal. The atmosphere in there was electric, and good hot dogs after the game (laughs). Even when you went on the ice for warmup the atmosphere was different and then when you’d go out for the game. The production was amazing.

And Chicago. Especially during playoff time. That rink is nuts. It still gets me every time when the crowd is singing the national anthem.

Biggest Regret?

Maybe I was enjoying things too much when I was younger and I’d go through spells where I wasn’t focusing on training as much as I should have.

Most proud of about your career?

When it was game time I always gave it my all. I think sometimes being in the gym, I could have pushed harder. It wasn’t my favourite thing to do, but I am proud that I laid it on the line in the game all the time.

Blocking shots is crazy to me. Were you ever scared?

Sometimes you are in a situation where you see it coming and there is nothing you can do and it can be scary. The reason I did it more than anything was a fear of my teammates not respecting what I was doing. If they didn’t believe I was trying to block the shot that would have really bugged me.

Most angry in a game?

I’m not sure.

Nicole pipes in: Didn’t you get speared by Mike Fisher.

He did. He speared me right in the nuts. Good memory (laughs). I got mad at Joe Thornton a few times. One time I slashed him in the back of the legs, he did a yard sale and I got a penalty. I was fuming after that. I tried to fight him after but he wouldn’t. Another time he carved me up with a stick, although it was an accident I was still pretty mad.

I never got as angry as I should have. Maybe because in the NHL now all the cameras are watching and I was aware of it, so I never really snapped.

Happiest moment in a game?

Game seven in Colorado when we won in overtime. That moment was crazy. The dressing room was nuts. We were celebrating, but then we had to fly to Chicago and the next series started in two days. We got into Chicago at five in the morning, and the guys were celebrating, but we couldn’t let loose and party because we had to play in two days. But that moment on the ice was so joyous. (He had a huge smile reliving the moment).

Three things you will miss most?

  1. Teammates. Just that camaraderie of going to the rink everyday with the atmosphere in the room.
  2. The jokes. The banter. I’m not sure how much I will miss the game yet. I guess we will find out soon.
  3. The lifestyle is pretty cool. The hotels we stay in. I got the opportunity to eat at some of the best restaurants in big cities. I don’t think I’ll be living like that again. It was a pretty cool experience.

Will you miss the high competition?

The competition yes, but I’m not sure I will miss that crazy emotion. Sometimes you go over the line and say stupid things and other times you get too emotional. I won’t miss that.

Did you ever think you’d be an NHL player?

I remember thinking in Moose Jaw this is going to be so hard. So many things have to go right. When I was a kid it was my dream, but at certain points you aren’t sure it is realistic. My first year in Edmonton in the AHL I thought it might be cool to play a few NHL games.

There is a lot of luck involved in making it. Going to the right place at the right time. Getting the right opportunity at the right time and then making the most of that opportunity. There is a lot of luck involved to making it.

Best player you played with?

Hands down Connor (McDavid), but Leon (Draisaitl) is high up there. Obviously it was great getting to watch Connor, but I really enjoy watching Leon and how he controls the game. They think the game very differently. The way they play the game is very different, and seeing two different types like that was awesome. How Leon holds the puck, uses his frame and his hands are another level. They are sick.

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My best buddy from home, Curtis Giebelhaus, is a huge Oilers fan, and he knows my game. Right after I signed with the Oilers he said you will love watching Connor, but you will really like watching Leon. And he was right.

You don’t really appreciate a player’s game until you play with them every day. My appreciation was great for both of them, but Leon’s style was fun for me to watch.

Your career started and ended in Edmonton. Kind of crazy for an Edmonton-area kid.

It is a bit of a dream come true. We never planned it. We never thought we’d start in Edmonton, and then to make it was great, and last year when the Oilers approached us it was perfect for us to come home.

What is next?

I want to find something I love and excites me to get up every day. I’ve been pretty fortunate I have been able to do that for the past 15 years of my life. I want to take some time away from the game in general, away from everything to see if I’m drawn away from it.

BRODZIAK THE TEAMMATE

I reached out to a few of Brodziak’s former teammates, and a former head coach to get their thoughts.

Jared Spurgeon (Minnesota Wild)

How was he as teammate?

He was the light guy in the lockerroom. He always had a smile on his face, and as a teammate you knew what you were getting every day. He worked very hard and all he wanted to do was win. I grew up sort of watching him and to be able to play with him was pretty cool.

A memory of his competitiveness?

Whenever he went against Mikko Koivu in practice I think that was the ultimate showing of his competitiveness. They would go back and forth, chirping each other and neither would give an inch. No matter what drill it was they were going after each other. He was having fun with it, but the competitiveness would always come out. He would have that little laugh he lets out once in a while along with that little smirk of his when he won the battle. I think it would piss Mikko off a bit (laughs).

What did you respect most about Brodziak?

The way he played. He wasn’t always in the easiest role or the easiest minutes, but he never complained. One year he was on the powerplay, and he did great there and had a career year, but the next year it was in a completely different role on the penalty kill and a shutdown role. You never heard a peep out of him. He always wanted to do what the team needed and worked hard at it.

Did you know he liked to fight off the ice?

I did not know that (laughs), but I can definitely see it after meeting his buddies. I met a bunch of his friends and you could see they were very close, but I didn’t know that about him and them (laughing). Too funny.

Tom Gilbert (Edmonton Oilers)

First impression of Kyle?

When we were first in Wilkes-Barre together, I had no clue who he was. We were both healthy scratches for the first two games and we sat up in the stands, and I don’t know if we even talked that much (laughs). Towards the end of the year we became really good buddies, and when I got to the Oilers I lived with him for a few months. And later when I was traded to Minnesota I lived with him and Nicole for the final two months of the season. We barely spoke the first time we met, but I found out quickly he is an awesome guy. This many years later I still consider him a very good friend.

What did you respect about his play?

The biggest thing is he just showed up every day. It didn’t matter if it was back-to-back games or a practice, he was always ready. He was in every single game. It was contagious and guys caught on to that.

Did he ever give you hair advice?

It was more he kept asking me how I grew my hair. I don’t think his hair ever got long. At the end he just shaved his head because he couldn’t handle it. More so he asked me how I got my hair so long and nice, and I think he asked because Nicole really liked my flow (laughs).

Why was he able to play a checking role for so long?

That is a great point. I think the best way to say it is most guys want to play first line, whether it is forward or D, or first powerplay or play 20 plus minutes a night. I think when he entered the league he never had those type of expectations. He just played. He understood where he fit in on every single team. If he got an opportunity to play powerplay or more minutes he was capable of doing it, but the mold of being a penalty kill guy, team energy guy and a defensive role is how he knew he would play for a long time.

You don’t play 900 NHL games unless you are doing something right, and I think some people can get frustrated if they aren’t getting what they want to achieve and struggle to change their game. He never really had to change his game. He knew what he was good at and he played it perfectly, and it is why he was successful and he played so many games.

Scottie Upshall (St. Louis Blues)

What did you respect most about Kyle?

I was fortunate enough to be on the ice with him a lot. In St. Louis I don’t think I was out there without him. He was a great linemate. He was a gamer. He was always ready to rock and roll and I got to feed off his energy. Our job was to be sound defensively, kill penalties, and if I was running around with my head cut off, which I do a lot, he was there to back me up, be a guy blocking shots and always talking.

As 4th line guys you sit on the bench a lot, and you need a good buddy to talk to, laugh at, and we had Hitch (Ken Hitchcock) as a coach screaming at us all the time to skate and do more. At least we had the humour within our line, with Reavo (Ryan Reaves), to keep the entire bench in a good mood.

How was he on the bench and around the guys?

Guys were always laughing at me for some of the silly shit I do on the ice, whether I’m falling over or I’m trying to run a guy and I fly over the boards, and he was always the first guy looking at me with his smirk and laughing. It gave our group some energy all the time.

He worked hard. He knew his role. Not many guys can play that long into their career in that role. He popped 20 goals in Minnesota, but he never tried to do more than what his role was. He was one of our best penalty killers in St. Louis and he always put the team before him. He was always in a good mood. He was just a good pro.

This past week I was at the Biosteel camp with Leon Draisaitl and he said Kyle was one of the best teammates he’s ever had, and that’s only from playing with him one year. Not being on the same line. For a superstar player like Draisaitl to say that tells a lot about who Kyle is.

How would you describe him?

We used to call him Crispy. For no real reason though (laughs). He always did things the right way. He was a real pro. He was a young father with three young boys, and a lot of the younger players looked up to him. He was a great role model on and off the ice. He was the ultimate teammate. Guys loved and respected him.

Mikko Koivu (Minnesota Wild)

What made him a good teammate?

A lot of things. It was never about him; it was always about the team first. I think that is something that if you are able to do in the long run, the players who play with you respect that. You earn that respect from not only the players, but from the training staff and coaches. He is a unique guy where everyone who played with him really liked him and appreciated his work ethic. It is easier to have your team come together when you have guys like him.

What about those practice battles with him? Jared Spurgeon said they were great and when Kyle won a battle he’d let out a yell or give you a smirk. Did it irk you?

I think it was always in a good way, but those battles make you better as a player and it made it fun. We became good friends and we sat beside each other in the dressing room. Once you get in those drills it gets competitive. To me that is the best part of the game when you get to create those types of relationships and when you compete, you improve. Sure, sometimes you get pissed off, but you laugh about it later.

Do you have a funny off-ice memory of him?

He was always the one wrestling off the ice. There is a story about him and our trainer Tony DaCosta, where they had a wrestling match in the locker room. Who won, I won’t give you that, but the entire team was watching as they went at it. It ended up being funny and safe, no injuries, and that really stands out. Sometimes we are all little kids again and at the right time those things are a great fun part of the game.

What about his willingness to accept a defensive role?

His team first mentality allowed him to be successful. I respect those guys a lot and I remember them. You won’t have a success as a team if you don’t have players who are willing to do that. For sure everyone wants to do well for themselves and be good, and you have to be good to play as many years as he did.

He was a big piece of our team when he played here and he was a big piece with the Blues. He was a tough player to play against. When you had guys like him who you knew are going to give 100% every shift and are hard to play against, it makes your team better. He was a great teammate and someone I really respect.

Head coach Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis and Edmonton)

What did you appreciate most about his game?

When Kyle played for us in St. Louis, the line he played on was a veteran line, a 4th line in name only — really a third line. He played in that three spot for much of his career. It is a very hard spot, because you are asked to play in tough situations, against very good opponents. When the game was on the line, we would move him up to play in tough spots. We used his line to set the tempo of the game and the edge that we played with.

When he came in (to St. Louis) we were looking for glue people. People who could keep things in perspective and help both the coaching staff and the players tell the difference between right and wrong. He led that group and he led them with integrity. He played with a conscience and he competed with a conscience and he made sure the players were held accountable to play the right way. He did so in a quiet matter.

He was the worrier. He was the guy if things didn’t look right, sound right or feel right he carried the weight of that. He did a good job of keeping the team in line. He didn’t do it with a bunch of announcements, but more through actions and they noticed. That’s the type of human being he is.

A GREAT CAREER…

Brodziak skated in 917 NHL games and was universally beloved by his teammates. I’m happy he agreed to discuss his career, share some insight into his injury, and recount the past 15 years of his life.

He is a wonderful example of how far hard work, perseverance, dedication and integrity can take you.

Kyle, congrats on an outstanding career. All the best in the next phase of your life.