photo credit: Dinur Blum
SAN JOSE- There is a scene in Disney’s “The Rookie” where a reporter asks Jim Morris, a 35-year-old former high school chemistry teacher, how it felt to finally pitch in the major leagues.
Well, yours truly got to do something similar on Sunday night. I asked Sharks forward Bracken Kearns, a 32-year-old career minor leaguer, how it felt to score his first NHL goal in San Jose’s 3-1 win.
“It was amazing, absolutely amazing” responded the veteran of 588 minor league games. “Felt so good.”
Kearns, undrafted, played four years of college hockey at the University of Calgary from 2001-2005, while he was between 20 and 24-years-old. He then proceeded to play almost 100 ECHL games before settling into the AHL level in 2007. However, the veteran forward was not once called up to the NHL until after his 30th birthday.
That eventual debut came for the Florida Panthers on Oct. 20, 2011. Yet Kearns only played in five NHL games that season. With San Jose last year he played just one regular season game all season but did play tremendous fourth line hockey in the 2013 playoffs. He appeared in all seven games in the second round against the Los Angeles Kings. With San Jose facing elimination in Game 6, it was Kearns, Andrew Desjardins and Adam Burish that gave a great effort in helping San Jose force the decisive seventh game.
Coming into this season, Kearns had played just six regular season NHL games and seven postseason games and hadn’t registered a single point.
Despite playing well against the Kings, Kearns was unable to land a spot on the Sharks roster out of training camp. But Kearns didn’t pout nor complain. He simply went back to Worcester and put in even more time at the AHL level. With 18 points, he remains the Worcester Sharks’ leading scorer but now he has what he’s always dreamed about, an NHL goal.
“I’ve dreamt about scoring in the NHL since I was a kid, so it’s an amazing feeling.” added Kearns. “I owe it to this organization, I don’t know many organizations out there that would give a 32-year-old an opportunity like they’ve given me.”
What has to be realized about Kearns is that nobody takes this kind of route to the NHL. It is incredibly rare for a player to debut in the league on the wrong side of 30. The vast majority of minor leaguers would have moved on long ago.
But Kearns never gave up and now he is an NHL goal scorer. If he is to get his name on the Stanley Cup, Hollywood would be put to shame for not making his career into a movie.
A guy who was never been given a chance, looked over, and passed on by scout, after scout, team, after team, and to persevere like that is absolutely awesome.
Many times we as fans like to comment about how professional athletes have it easy and are overpaid. But the long, grueling bus rides and physical pounding in minor league hockey is far from easy. Kearns has stuck with it and now one of his childhood dreams has become a reality.
And that’s just really neat.
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