As his plane touched down in Saint John, New Brunswick in mid-August, Will Brown’s head was spinning.
Visiting his third city in as many weeks, Brown thought the East Coast was going to be his home for the year. Although he didn’t know it then, in just a week’s time he would be walking through Queen’s campus — with a debut for the men’s hockey team on the way.
Over the course of his 16-year hockey career, the Ottawa native played for the Junior B Metcalf Jets and the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. This past summer, Brown was picked up on waivers by the Windsor Spitfires, who later traded him to the Saint John Seadogs on the fifth day of training camp. But after about two weeks on the East Coast, Brown realized his priorities had shifted.
“I decided that I wanted to try to go to school and get an education rather than focusing solely on hockey,” he said.
After calling his parents and notifying the team of his decision, Brown packed up his bags and got on the next flight to Ottawa so he could collect his belongings. Within the day, he was officially enrolled as a student at Queen’s.
“I was in Saint John, Ottawa, and Kingston all within 24 hours,” Brown said.
Arriving on campus in the midst of the first week of classes, Brown spent his first days in Kingston trying to get his bearings. After settling into residence, Brown met with men’s hockey head coach Brett Gibson to see if there was a place for him in the lineup. Gibson explained the team wasn’t holding a tryout due to the number of returning players and rookies that had committed to Queen’s earlier in the year. Overall, Brown’s chances of playing were slim.
“We had a few brief conversations about my background, but that was sort of the gist of it,” Brown said. “They didn’t need another guy.”
But things didn’t stay that way for the Gaels.
After their first 12 games, Queen’s lost four of their eight defensemen to injury. With their blue line in need of assistance, Gibson called Brown asking if he would be available to play. Last Tuesday, Brown showed up for his first practice with the Gaels.
In an interview with The Journal, Gibson said Brown was the only reasonable option given the battered state of his team. With many of the injuries expected to be long-term problems for the Gaels, Gibson looked for a solution.
“This has been a really interesting first half with the injuries we’ve had,” Gibson said. “I needed to find someone because we don’t have anyone on our roster that can move from forward to defense.”
Brown made his Gaels debut over the weekend against Western and Windsor. With a combined 22 minutes of ice-time over the two games, Brown’s efforts gave his teammates a chance to rest on the bench.
“He’s handled himself well,” Gibson noted of Brown’s first two games at Queen’s. “We’re putting him in situations where he can succeed and not fail but he’s done pretty well … I’m feeling very comfortable with him right now.”
“I wouldn’t say I played a big role but I definitely helped out on the back end and made sure the guys were rested up enough to go and make a difference,” Brown said.
While the Gaels injury woes aren’t anticipated to come to an end soon, Brown’s future on the team remains uncertain when their players return to the lineup. As of right now, Gibson said they’re taking it by “a week-to-week basis.”
“If he keeps improving, who knows what can happen,” the coach added.
Meanwhile, Brown is keeping a positive attitude and approaching every day as an opportunity.
“I love the game,” he said. “I love playing and I love being around the guys.”
“I got lucky and I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
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