Keeping the fun alive

Former Queen’s star Brady Olsen perseveres through pain in the Central Hockey League

Former Queen’s forward Brady Olsen battles a Ryerson Rams’ defender for the puck in a Feb. 9, 2007 game. He now plays in the Central Hockey League for the Rapid City Rush of South Dakota.
Former Queen’s forward Brady Olsen battles a Ryerson Rams’ defender for the puck in a Feb. 9, 2007 game. He now plays in the Central Hockey League for the Rapid City Rush of South Dakota.
Journal File Photo

Brady Olsen, member of the South Dakota-based Rapid City Rush of the Central Hockey League and former Gaels’ forward, said finding fun in the game has seen him through a tough season.

“It was a challenge, because in hockey, if you’re not having fun, you’re not playing your best,” he said. “The biggest adjustment I found was having fun while having that element of seriousness to it.”

Olsen said he was able to stay positive throughout by focusing on the benefits of pro hockey.

“I think a lot of that has to do with thinking about what I’d be doing otherwise,” he said. “I’m getting up and going to the rink, and that’s about it. It’s the same mentality I’ve had forever. I love going to the rink and, once I get on that ice, I forget about everything else.”

Olsen said one of the key differences between the university game and the pros is the increased expectations and the consequences of failure.

“Treating it like a job, you do what you do best and stick to it,” he said. “You make sure you’re doing that, or else you won’t be around long.”

Olsen said he’d hoped to put up more points, though. This season he recorded 10 points in 33 games.

“I’m not by any means satisfied with how the year went,” he said.

Olsen said his first injury came early in the season.

“I played one exhibition game in Colorado and at the end of the game I had my finger stepped on,” he said. “It sliced the end off and they just kind of stitched it back on. I was out for four weeks, almost five weeks. I got sidelined for a bit right off the hop, which was frustrating.”

Olsen made a strong return, but calamity soon struck again.

“I came back and scored a couple goals right away, set my spot in the lineup and then I blew my tricep,” work ethic. He works like a dog every day in practice and in the games.”

Olsen was the Gaels’ top scorer in 2007-2008, but Ferras said he excelled at both ends of the ice with the Rush.

“He did everything that was asked of him,” Ferras said. “When we had to put him in a third-line role as a shutdown guy he did that perfectly. He turned into one of our better penalty killers as well. Brady was always one of our top four penalty killers because of his skating ability and hockey sense.” Ferras said Olsen made the transition to the pros pretty easily, despite his injuries.

“He had a real good training camp and then he got injured and it kind of slowed him down a bit,” Ferras said. “Once he got used to the speed, because he’s such a good skater, he started realizing ‘I can play at this level, I can start putting up numbers.’”

Ferras said Olsen’s low point production was largely due to the injuries he sustained.

“He competed hard every day and his hockey sense was outstanding for a first-year guy,” Ferras said. “I think the injuries kind of held him back a bit all year. He probably would have put up a lot better numbers that he knows he’s capable of and so do we.”

Olsen said it was a different team dynamic than what he’d experienced at Queen’s.

“This group, it was different, because at Queen’s it was like-minded. We’re all in school. Here, you’ve got guys who never went to school and guys who have touched a little bit of the NHL, so the age group is a little bit of a mess. … It’s different because people have wives and kids and that’s what they’re going to do until their body says no or they don’t want to do it any more.”

He said he didn’t have trouble fitting in, though.

“Everyone understands down there that we’re there for six to eight months and it will be a much better time if we all get along,” he said. “We work together and live together, so the guys are very accepting. There weren’t really any problems fitting in.”

The quality of the competition in the CHL also impressed him, he said.

“I went in prepared for competitive hockey and a step up in the level of smarts and speed from college, but to be honest, it hit me by surprise how good it was,” he said. “I knew it was good hockey, but it’s very challenging.”

It’s more physical than the CIS, he added.

“Canadians like fighting in hockey too, but down there, they love the fighting and the big hits.” Travel was an added bonus.

“I’m happy that I got to travel around the southern states; I’d never been down there and we were all over the countryside,” he said. “It was nice being in South Dakota too, with the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. The travel side of things was awesome, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people and make a lot of contacts.”

Olsen said he plans to stay in professional hockey for the time being, but added that he’s investigating options in other countries.

“I think I’m going to play again, but I don’t think I’ll be in the Central League again,” he said. “My goal was to play one year and go to Europe somewhere.”

Olsen isn’t sure yet what he’ll do after hanging up his skates, but he’s hoping to make use of his Queen’s degree in economics. He said his love for hockey is still burning though, so it may be a while before he considers off-ice careers.

“I think when the time comes, it will be the right one to quit playing hockey,” he said. “I can tell I’m not ready to quit yet. After such a discouraging year, I still love going to the rink.”

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