Over the course of the long 76 game schedule in the American Hockey League, teams across the league will hold mass amounts of team meetings for various reasons whether it be about game planning, goals for the team or to spread some news. One team meeting for the Rockford IceHogs recently caught the attention of defensemen T.J. Brennan by surprise in a good way.
“Coach Ted Dent called a team meeting a few weeks ago and was going over some game planning for the upcoming games,” said Brennan. “Towards the end of the meeting coach announced to the team Joakim Nordstrom and I were named to the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic roster. It caught me by surprise but at the same time it was a confidence boost knowing my hard work over the course of the season has paid off.”
For the 25 year-old, this is Brennan’s second nomination as an all-star after representing the Toronto Marlies a year ago. Through 48 games at the All-Star break last season, his 20 goals and 51 points led all defensemen. He was one assist shy of tying current IceHogs d-man, Adam Clendening, for the lead among blueliners with 32 helpers.
At the break for the Marlies during the 2013-14 campaign, they were 3rd in the Western Conference and 1st in their division-just like the IceHogs are currently this season. That is what Brennan likes more than his personal stats as he would rather focus on the team's success.
While not having a point in last year’s competition against Färjestad BK, one of the top professional teams in the Swedish Hockey League, the game was still a great experience for Brennan.
“Last year we all were on one team and I was attending my first all-star game like most of the other guys on the team,” said Brennan. “It was fun to showcase yourself, skills, and represent the team you played for as well as the league.”
While there no AHL games being played during the break, there are still chances during the All-Star Game festivities that allows a player to learn about the game.
“Some of the guys probably do talk strategy as almost all of us have been on the wrong end of a pretty goal or been danced around,” said Brennan. “But as for me, I like to see some guys that I do not normally get to see in the league and learn how they handle various things both on the ice as well as off the playing surface.”
The Willingboro, N.J. native has received and still continues to get a lot of support from his large family both on hockey and in life. Brennan is the son of Terrance and Kim Brennan, has three older sisters and one younger brother who all have helped him make it as a professional hockey player.
“I found out before the rest of the general public about making this year’s all-star team so my dad was the first person I called,” said Brennan. “With a big family, I knew he would very be proud of me along with the rest of my family. He was able to spread the word with the rest of my family. I am excited because with the exception of my one sister and brother, the rest of my family will make the trip.”
As a hockey player, there is not always a lot time for a player to see or spend a lot time with family or home friends especially, if they are several states away. The All-Star break allows some time off for players to accomplish that but it is even better Brennan, as he gets to enjoy his time with his loved ones, while taking in all the All-Star Classic festivities.
“Family time for me is few and far between since being traded here to Rockford but I am able to spend some time with them at the game and over the break,” said Brennan. “Hockey is hockey but to see and spend time with family is always good.”
For Brennan, who was acquired in a trade from the New York Islanders on Oct. 4 with defenseman Ville Pokka and goaltender Anders Nilsson in exchange for Nick Leddy and Kent Simpson, his personal goals from start of the 2014-15 campaign have not changed after last season’s success.
“I came into this season wanting to be successful as a team and focus on the team stats more than focusing on my own personal goals,” Brennan said. “Those are not going to change after being named an all-star.”
Brennan has been paired with Pokka for the majority of the season on the backend for Rockford and at times with Adam Clendening. Even though Brennan is older and has more experience than both Clendening and Pokka, he is still learning from two of them.
“Adam and Ville both are great players,” said Brennan. “They both offer different playing styles by the way they react to different situations, I am still learning and wanting to improve with both players.”
After the All-Star break, the IceHogs have 32 games remaining on the 2014-15 slate and a hopeful playoffs spot on the horizon. Brennan and the rest of his teammates are motivated for the second half of the campaign to play their way into the postseason.
“In the second half of the season, the goals from the beginning of the campaign will not change,” said Brennan. “One thing that will change, is that the game will tighten up because every team wants to make the playoffs. As a result there will be more obstacles, but hockey is a process so you just have to enjoy the exciting part of the game.”