Ty Brassington remembers bundling up in his snow pants and warm winter gear as a child, and heading to the outdoor rink in the small B.C. town of Tulameen, located about 25 kilometres northwest of Princeton, to play hockey with his dad.
His family has a cabin in the community, known for its Tulameen Days parade and festivities every August long weekend, and the rink is close to his family’s property.
“It’s almost my backyard – like a 30 second walk… that’s kind of where it all started,” said the defenceman for the Surrey Eagles BCHL (British Columbia Hockey League) hockey team.
“I just remember going out there with my dad with my snow pants on… enjoying the ice and just playing shinny hockey. That’s where I fell in love with the game. Then my mom put me in skating lessons.”
He first started playing hockey with a team when he was in Grade 1.
Now in his third year with the Eagles, the 19-year-old was recently named the new captain of the South Surrey-based squad, whose arena is located in South Surrey Athletic Park.
“I was super super honoured. It was honestly a moment I’ll never forget – when my coach first told me, I was truly honoured and so happy,” Brassington said, praising Eagles’ head coach Cam Keith for being the greatest coach he’s ever had “to this day.”
“He makes everyone feel comfortable… he allows players to be themselves and do what they love.”
Having lived in White Rock his whole life, Brassington grew up watching the Eagles play hockey. Brassington said being a captain is a position that is reflected both on and off the ice, and making sure his teammates know he’s there for them.
“Being captain means being there for all your teammates, and putting players before you – putting their needs before your wants and needs,” he said.
“It’s making sure everyone is comfortable in the hockey room environment. Every player goes through the young phase of being a hockey player, and I just want to be there for the young guys, and show them what it means to be an Eagle. Being captain means being there for your teammates, day in and day out. If they have any problems, they come to you.”
“The captain – he’s a mediary, an in-between person between the coach and players, a voice when it comes to where the team is going, how the team feels,” he said Monday, noting the process in selecting Brassington was made quite easy this year.
Usually, you bring the team in and have a vote, Keith explained.
Last year, when Brassington was still only a second-year, 18-year-old player, he still got several votes for the captaincy.
Then, each year, Keith does exit interviews with each player, whether they’re staying to play or ‘aging out’ at 20, and asks who they would pick out of returning players to be the captain.
“It was every kid. There wasn’t one that didn’t say Ty Brassington. It was a no-brainer, ” Keith said.
“Ty is a local kid. He grew up watching the Eagles, (played) Semiahmoo hockey, and he has a true love for the community. He’s a natural leader – he plays a selfless game, and that’s what you want in a captain… someone who isn’t focused on points, and their play exemplifies helping the team,” he said.
From a dressing room perspective, Brassington is the player other players have to feel comfortable confiding in when issues might arise, Keith noted.
From a game standpoint, it’s a little different.
“Things more fall on him. There’s more pressure involved, because everyone’s looking at the captain to lead the team. He has to answer to things if the team effort isn’t there,” Keith said. “It’s a big responsibility for a 19-year-old’s shoulders.”
Still, he’s confident he chose wisely.
“This’ll be my eighth year in junior (hockey), and no one even comes close to Ty as far as character, charity, and competitiveness – he checks every box,” he said.
“Whenever you have someone like that as a captain, you get pretty excited.”
Brassington credits both of his parents for who he is today.
“My dad – he showed me the path to being a good man, and being there for other people. I give kudos to my dad. I’d say he’s at 95 per cent of my games, and he comes on road trips. He loves it just as much as me,” he said.
“My mom has also been my rock and my biggest supporter. She’s always there to cheer you up after a bad game.”
He and his teammate Tate Taylor have both garnered full-ride scholarships to Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, he noted, where they’ll both eventually, get to continue playing hockey together, after their years with the Eagles are complete.
“Making new friends and being friends with the guys you’ve played with since Day 1 – it’s where your best, best friends come from. The best part about playing hockey is getting to enjoy it with your buddies, your friends,” he said.
Moving forward, he’s going to focus on being the best captain he can be.
“I’m going to try to be the best I can for my teammates, and create a well-rounded environment of hockey… making sure everyone brings energy to games and practices,” he said.
“Most of all, making sure everyone is coming to the rink with a smile on their face. I really want to create a happy environment and make sure everyone is enjoying it.”