While many Frederictonians were crammed into local bars or their living rooms to watch Canada win its second consecutive Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey, Andrew Brewer had a front-row seat.
The 24-year-old and former video coach for the UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey team was part of Mike Babcock’s Olympic coaching staff and played an invaluable role as Hockey Canada’s video manager.
Brewer has been to two World Hockey Championships and three World Junior Hockey Championships since starting with Hockey Canada in late 2011, but his first Olympics tops them all.
“It’s way more than just a hockey event, it’s a truly international sporting event. It’s just on a completely different stage than I had ever seen,” Brewer said. “You forget how big it is. When you see TV numbers afterward and 15-million Canadians watched the Canada-US semi final game, you’re just like ‘Oh wow, that’s half the country watching the hockey game for the team I’m working with.’ You kind of forget how much we’re united, even if you’re not a hockey fan, you still follow the Olympics.”
Brewer was one of the few members of the men’s hockey team who marched in the opening ceremonies – Babcock, who’s head coach of the Detroit Red Wings by day, and assistant coaches Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars, Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins all arrived days later because of the NHL schedule. He said the experience was a true honour.
“It’s just incredible. To represent your country, where there’s millions of people in your country and thousands of athletes, it’s a dream,” Brewer said. “But to be able to do it and walk in the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Games where a billion people are watching was a massive honour.”
Brewer took some time to see other events while in Sochi and mingle with the other athletes and coaches at the Canada Olympic House – a home away from home stocked with everything from Cheerios to Canadian beer.
He said the coaching staff mostly stuck together where Brewer was witness to many starstruck athletes introducing themselves to the NHL coaches. But as excited as the other Canadians were to meet the men who lead their NHL heroes, the feeling was mutual.
“In some ways everyone thinks the hockey players are so cool and everyone want to meet them, and we’re the opposite. We’re like ‘Oh, there’s Patrick Chan, that’s so cool’ or seeing Brad Jacobs and the curlers or whoever it is. We’re just the opposite way,” said Brewer. “We’re always thought of as the celebrities and in some ways we were more excited to see them. It was kind of a reverse effect.”
Brewer’s experience in working with elite NHL coaches extended beyond the national team. Leading up to the Olympics, he travelled with Babcock and the Red Wings for a week to get an idea of Babcock’s coaching style so he’d be comfortable working with a new coach during the Olympics.
Despite the pre-Olympic tension of possible terror threats, Brewer said he wasn’t overly nervous going into it.
“My family was probably a little more nervous than I was,” he said. “You know it’s the Olympics and there’s a lot of extra security precautions they put into place. It’s like getting into an accident on the Trans-Canada highway [there’s the risk] but it wouldn’t scare me away from it.”
Brewer wasn’t the only Frederictonian coach in Sochi as Tom Coolen served as an assistant coach alongside Ted Nolan on Team Latvia.
Although the coaches didn’t receive medals like the players, Brewer got something much more special soon after he returned home. He and his wife Patricia had their second child two weeks ago.
Edited by Nicola MacLeod