In a season that has been dominated by the emergence of the CBR Brave and Melbourne Mustangs as bona fide AIHL contenders, it’s some of the individuals from other clubs that are well and truly making waves on Australian ice hockey scene. One of these players is the Melbourne Ice’s Jeremy Brown, who has burst onto the scene with almost a point per game, a clear indication of the talent in the next generation of AIHL stars.
Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Brown was like most Canadians: if there was ice, he would skate on it. If there was a puck, he would find a stick. If there was a net, he would shoot at it.
"I was born in Canada, so it's natural for all Canadians to play hockey. If you're not playing hockey there has to be something wrong with you," said Brown with a laugh.
Strapping on the skates for the first time at age four, Brown’s dad showed him the way.
"I started skating when I was four years old; my Dad taught me how to skate,” Brown said. “He actually built an ice rink in our backyard, because it's so freezing in the winter it's perfect conditions to play hockey. I tried to go out and play any time I could and just enjoy it while I was young.”
Jeremy’s father, Lee Brown, is currently the head coach of the Australian national women’s ice hockey team and plays Night Owls (over 35 hockey) on Sunday nights. His Mother, Annie, also plays in the Night Owls competition, and previously played for the Women’s Melbourne Ice squad during 2011-12.
Melbourne Ice President Emma Poynton claims that Jeremy’s sister, Emily, struggles on skates. Jeremy claims they ‘tried to get her into skating when she was younger back in Canada’ but she took to, and excelled at ballet. Emily volunteers her time to be an AIHL Scorekeeper in order to be a part of her family’s hockey passion.
The Browns have hockey in their blood.
After briefly taking part in Melbourne Ice’s 2012 season as a seventeen year-old (playing two games and recording zero points), Brown has become a consistent contributor to the Ice’s 2014 Goodall Cup campaign, having played 18 games and sitting on 17 points after tallying five goals and 12 assists.
One of the aforementioned goals was the potential goal-of-the-year against the CBR Brave in late June, when the young gun went coast-to-coast following a hip-check from teammate Todd Graham on the defensive end.
Brown commented on his side’s form during the season, saying that it’s not unusual for teams to go through form slumps during the season.
"We were in a bit of a slump at one stage, but every team has those, it's natural,” Brown said. “You just have to find a way to get back up, and honestly, right now we're getting back up in the right direction. Winning a couple in a row has given the team a bit of confidence, but we just have to keep working and take it one game at a time".
Clinching a spot in the 2014 AIHL Finals after defeating the cross town rival Mustangs 5-1 was a proud moment not only for himself, but the team.
"[The victory against the Mustangs] was a good pre-finals game for us,” Brown said. “We played focused hockey and stuck to our game plan. We listened to the coaches and the veterans and we just applied it on the ice. We got out of that down-slope and got our confidence back and it's helped us clinch a spot in the finals. We have to keep that momentum going into the finals and show that it wasn't a fluke."
Brown said he’s looking to go back to Canada after the AIHL post-season to play one more year of junior level hockey. The cut off age is 20, and while it’s likely that he’ll take that route, he has a few options to consider.
"I’m at that stage of my hockey career where I've got one more junior season back overseas and I have to decide whether I want to go play CIS [University in Canada], or look at the States or even go back to Europe,” Brown said. “But at this stage it’s looking like I'm going back to Canada for the final junior season, then every Australian winter I'll come back and visit my family.”
There’s no doubt that Brown sacrifices many things to improve as a hockey player - as sacrifice is what makes great players even greater. One consistent sacrifice is summer, which, as an Australian, sounds difficult, but it isn’t for Jeremy Brown.
"I basically don't have any summers after spending winter in Canada then winter in Australia, but it doesn't matter- as long as I'm playing hockey," Brown said.
As one of the Ice’s younger players, Brown is appreciative of the older players on the list and the guidance they bring with them.
"The veterans are great to learn from, especially the imports that come from playing in overseas leagues to experience the Aussie league,” Brown said. “It’s good for the locals to feed off these older players because of the extra knowledge they may have picked up. Every time they say something to us, you have to listen, because they've lived it, and they've learned it. Every time they give you constructive criticism you have to take it on board, because it's going to help make you a better player at the end of the day.”
While Canada is the plan post-AIHL season, the present has all focus is on himself and the Melbourne Ice. Brown believes in the culture within the club, and wants to become part of its history. He has the makings of a future leader at the Melbourne Ice hockey club through determination, teamwork and true grit.
“It’s a great mix of veterans and rookies that make us a complete hockey team” Brown said. "It's a great experience to play for the Melbourne Ice - once you get in that boat you don't want to get off".
The Melbourne Ice host the Perth Thunder in the final week of the season proper in a double header this Saturday at 5pm, and Sunday at 4pm at the Medibank Icehouse.