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The ice hockey journey is complete for Austin Bruins’ goalscorer Barrett Brooks

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His dedication and passion for the sport has made him come full circle.

When I was coaching at Western Michigan (University) in the early 2000s, when our kids were first born, we had an unfinished basement and got the kids on roller skates early in life, Brooks dad said , Chris. Every morning they got up in their onesie and buzzed around the basement.

Since they were just around it, they got the fault for it.

Chris Job took the Brooks family from Kalamazoo to Hidalgo, Texas, a town on the Texas-Mexico border, and back north to Stevens Point, Wis.

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However, through all the travel and change, hockey was a constant for Barrett Brooks and his older sister Bryar. Even when there wasn’t organized hockey to play for the Brooks kids, they were always around the rink, alone or with the professional and college players their dad coached. Those are the benefits of being a coach child.

Where we lived in Texas, it wasn’t a very large hockey community, Barrett said. Hockey was very limited down there. I settled when we got to Wisconsin. Then I got really committed and started getting serious about it.

All this time on the rink and around a father who has coached the sport at a high level for 22 years, including 13 as an assistant coach at NCAA Division I level, has paid off for 19-year-old Barrett, a sophomore player for the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League.

The 5-foot-7,170-pound forward leads Bruins on and off the ice. He leads the team in goals (nine) and ranks second in points (15), one behind fellow Western Michigan who commits Carson Riddle. Indeed, Barrett Brooks follows in his father’s skates and will play Division I college hockey in the city where his hockey career began with inline skates and an unfinished basement.

Austin Bruins forward Barrett Brooks carries the puck during a game last season at Austin's Riverside Arena.  Sophomore Bruin will play college hockey at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, the city where his hockey career began at a young age.  (Photo courtesy of the Austin Bruins)

Austin Bruins forward Barrett Brooks carries the puck during a game last season at Austin’s Riverside Arena. Sophomore Bruin will play college hockey at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, the city where his hockey career began at a young age. (Photo courtesy of the Austin Bruins)

“Hes a coach kid, the spitting image of what you’d expect from that,” said Bruin’s fourth-year head coach Steve Howard. He’s very quiet, just doing things the right way.

He has good speed and has a year under his belt here. Barrett is learning and getting better and his confidence continues to grow. That is why he is our leading (goal) scorer. He was given the opportunities to flourish in the right situations, and loved the way he scavenge.

Barrett Brooks stands at just 1.75 yards, pretty close to the same size his father played when he played in Western Michigan from 1992-96, scoring 57 goals and 184 career points from 1992-96.

Size may be the first thing some coaches or opponents notice when they see Barrett, but that element quickly disappears when the puck drops. Once that happens, Brooks skill, hockey IQ, and passion for the game are evident.

He just has a fondness for the game, which I’ve experienced with many kids during my playing and coaching career, said Chris Brooks, now in his fourth season as an assistant coach at Michigan Tech after spending the past six seasons as head. . coach at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and one thing that sets most kids apart is love and dedication to play.

The details he has, mainly because of his size, his fundamentals and details must be very good, his love of the game and his will to separate himself must be good. It is no different from me as a player. He’s committed to the game, committed to the weight room. He lives it all the time.

During his two seasons in Austin, Barrett Brooks has not shied away from doing the necessary work to improve and stay on track to play at the highest levels of college hockey, and in one of college hockey’s toughest conferences.

Coach Howard wanted me to come in this year and take on a greater leadership role because I’m my sophomore year here, Brooks said in a low voice. The competition has gotten a lot better this year with the COVID situation, so we just have to hit the rink and be ready to go every day.

Barrett was only six years old when his family left Kalamazoo in the spring of 2008, when his father got a job as the head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League, a minor league that operated from 1992-2014 and included teams from Arizona to Tennessee to Texas.

Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University, however, were never far from Barrett’s mind. So when Division I coaches started knocking on him, he was delighted that Broncos head coach Andy Murray was one of them.

But no matter how strong the family ties to the Broncos program, Chris Brooks let his only son come to his own conclusion. There was no pressure on Barrett to play for the same program that his father was assistant captain 25 seasons ago.

I just wanted him to be in a situation where he could have an incredible college experience, Chris Brooks said. I don’t want him in my shadow, I want him to be his own person. I am recruiting players all the time and always telling kids to put themselves in a situation where they feel comfortable and feel they can succeed.

It’s more about getting that incredible experience where you can grow and also make academic dreams come true. You have to have that balance between academics and athletics.

As much as Barrett Brooks was flattered by the offers that came his way, his heart was in Kalamazoo and said he has a great level of comfort with the campus and the program.

In short, are at home.

The coaches just want me to get better every day (in Austin), he said. They will talk to me more about (my role on the team) once I get there. Right now, it’s concerned about getting better every day, about this team, and about helping it win. When I get there, have those conversations.

As for helping his current team, Bruins’ coaching staff couldn’t be happier with what Brooks brings to the locker room and the ice every day, practice or game.

On the ice, he moves his feet, completes his checks, and just knows where to go, Howard said. He can just learn from us by taking a dry erase board and saying, hey, we want you to go here and we want you to do this. Then go out and do it as we set it up.

He is very coachable and learns in any way you ask of him. Know exactly what you’re talking about and what you’re asking for, then go out and get it.

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