David M Singer
Dec 26, 2003
Brent Severyn spent part of seven seasons in the NHL. He wore the jerseys of six different teams over the course of 328 games, earning 40 points and amassing 825 penalty minutes. He brought a strong work ethic to each one of those teams along with a reputation as a character guy on and off the ice. In both of his last NHL season, he won the team awards for community service in Anaheim and Dallas.
However nice his reputation off the ice was, his tough reputation on it may have hindered his career a bit. The label of enforcer is a hard one to break and grow out of. Always a tough defenseman, he was pretty solid at every level he played at, but as he became the team’s tough guy instead of part of the defensive core, the number of games played and ice-time for him began to decrease. Despite two solid years for Utica in the AHL, including being named a first-team All-Star in the second, the Devils never gave him a call-up.
I had a chance to ask Brent about how his career developed, and how he looks back on it.
David: How'd you get into hockey?
Brent: My dad loved hockey and played it all the time. He was instrumental in establishing the love of this great game of hockey
David: Your PIMs rise steadily from your days in the Juniors, was that when you discovered what your role would be? Did you see that role as a tough defenseman or an enforcer?
Brent: I was always a good fighter, but did not enjoy mixing it up. I started to grow into my body when I start to play in the minors. I was determined to make it to the NHL and my enthusiasm was the only thing that was going to get me there. I was a tough defenseman. I didn't have great coaches in junior and didn't start to improve until I went to the University of Alberta. They showed me what hard work and a team concept was about. I really wasn't an enforcer until my last few years in the NHL. Until that point I was an all-star in college and a runner up for defenseman of the year in the minors.
David: When did you start to think you may be designated as the team's enforcer?
Brent: I got a call from the Colorado Avalanche. They had just lost Chris Simon and were looking for an enforcer. They had won the Cup the year before and I thought this would be my chance to win the Stanley Cup. I had to take the job having never done it before.
David: Were you happy with that role?
Brent: Being an enforcer got me a Stanley cup but I also think it shortened my NHL career. People only regarded me as a tough player and a great fighter. Tough to swallow having worked so hard to be a good player in the NHL.
David: Were you always a defenseman?
Brent: I was always a defenseman until I played in Colorado. I had to have Mike Keane show me how to play forward.
David: Do you think more hockey players will come out of the college ranks one day?
Brent: It is tough to come out of any league. People forget only 1% of all players will get a sniff in the NHL. Fewer will make a career out of it. Determination and persistence are the only ways to make it.
David: Your first pro games were in Halifax, how'd they go?
Brent: That first year in Halifax was tough. Quebec wanted to send us to the East Coast league, but the coach Doug Carpenter stuck with me and Gerald Bzdel because be busted our asses every day to be better. The vets use to tell us to "settle down and not work so hard". They called us the Psycho Twins because of the insane work ethic we had. It is what kept us there.
Don't remember the first game.
David: Quebec, your first step into the bigs. What was it like? Did you do anything special for your first game?
Brent: I do remember the first game. Vs Montreal in 1990. I remember being so excited before the game that I could not sleep. I think I got to the rink at 2pm for a 7pm game just to sit and enjoy the dressing room. Since that day I was always the first one in the room. Guy Lafleur has been the only guy to beat me to the room on a game day. I also remember sitting on the bench and thinking that it was the greatest day. I also thought "sure there are more people watching, but this is the same game I have been playing my whole life...just a lot faster.”
David: After Quebec, there were a few years before you'd get to play in an NHL game again? At any point did you get discouraged that you'd seen your last days in the NHL?
Brent: Quebec had an awful team that year. The next year they canned everyone and new management came in to turn it around. I was not considered. They had a whole new philosophy and I was not part of the plan. I went to Halifax and kept working. A few days before I was to be called up I broke my back lifting weights and missed 30 or so games. It took me a great deal of time to get back to full speed; and a great deal of pain to get to the games after that.
David: You had a couple of very good seasons in Utica, were you disappointed you never got a shot with the Devils during that stretch?
Brent: Had absolutely great camps with the Devils, but with their D those years there was no room. I worked hard and kept my mouth shut. I came close to being buried in that organization. Fortunately expansion was coming and my great years got me noticed. Fighting was part of my game, but my last year I had 21 goals and I think over 30 assists with 240 minutes in penalties. Very frustrating not to get called up, but it was out of my control.
David: You joined the Islanders just when the rocky times started for them. What was your time like on Long Island?
Brent: Met Bryan McCabe and Todd Bertuzzi. Great guys and I am glad they are having outstanding careers.
David: Your thoughts on your former teammates who had to take on the enforcer role?
Brent: Toughest job in professional sports, hats off to all of them for doing it for so many years. I had only three years of it and did not like the enforcer role one bit.
David: Are there any punches you wish you could take back? A cheap shot somewhere, or a fight against a non-fighter?
Brent: When I was with Anaheim we brawled the Stars. I hit Daryl Sydor in the back of the head when his head was on the ice. Hurt him with that. Wouldn't do it again if had the chance.
David: What's the breaking point where a tough guy takes on a not-so-tough guy and it should be expected?
Brent: A) When they take liberties with your teammates and don't back off.
B) Force the issue with you. Try to show you up in front of everyone. i.e. Syd, but you don't have to pummel them. Just send a message.
David: Did you ever take on any teammates in training camp? Many teams have tried to ban that, yet the players still go - your thoughts on teammates fighting in camp.
Brent: Yes, Jim McKenzie. We came to camp together and we knew we had to have a least one fight. We had it and then moved on.
Young guys should come in to camp and challenge vets. Established teammates don't have to go at it. I saw my first camp as part of the media this year and the young guys rarely pushed the veterans.
I’d like to thank Brent for taking the time to answer our questions. He can be seen and heard broadcasting as a hockey analyst for various radio, television and internet productions.
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