By Scott Taylor
Photos By Jeff Miller
There are half a dozen Manitoba Junior Hockey League teams with a legitimate chance to win the Turnbull Cup. Gifted, veteran defenseman Channing Bresciani believes his Winnipeg Blues are one of those teams.
There’s always somebody around who claims he could skate before he could walk. Winnipeg Blues defenseman and captain Channing Bresciani isn’t one of them. However, there is a very good chance that he learned to skate not long after he took his first steps.
“My dad always had a backyard rink when we lived in Thompson,” said Bresciani, shortly after a Blues practice last month. “I can remember my dad putting skates on me when I was two-years-old and I pushed around the chair on that rink chasing my two older sisters.”
When you watch the 20-year-old Blues defenseman, it’s quite obvious that skating comes easily. He has a long, fluid stride and starts powerfully. He can get to top speed quickly and that’s something not all junior players do well.
Of course, when you’re 20 and you’ve actually been playing the game for 17 years, you’d better be able to skate.
“I started playing organized hockey in Thompson when I was three,” he said. “I played part of a season and I learned what it was like pretty quickly. I was the smallest kid and I got knocked on my butt a few times.”
The important thing was, he got up. After that half-season, his family moved back to Winnipeg and by then, he was ready to play with anybody.
“I’ve played hockey a couple of years,” he said with a laugh. “I was always on skates and I always loved the game. My first full season was with the South Winnipeg Storm when I was four-years-old. I played with five- and six-year-olds. I played my whole career in South Winnipeg with the Double A Twins and Triple A Monarchs.”
As good as he is, Bresciani is no different than any other young Manitoba player. He grew up playing hockey, football and soccer, but by age 14, he had to make a decision. If he was going to take that next big step in the game, he had to give up the other activities and concentrate on hockey all year round.
“When I was really young I played football, hockey and soccer and then I actually narrowed it down to football and hockey for a bit,” he said. “I played football for the Fort Garry Lions and I really loved playing football. I played until minor bantam with the Monarchs in Grade 8 and then I just concentrated on hockey.”
Bresciani, who is just 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, is a tad undersized, but certainly not under-skilled. This is his fourth season with the Blues and head coach Don MacGillivary is quite happy that he’s been on the roster this long.
“If you were starting a team, Channing would definitely be a player that you would want because he plays hard every night and you know what you would be getting night in and night out,” MacGillivray said. “He is a true competitor.
“He’s a very smart puck moving defenseman, but he doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a very good, all-around defensive defenseman, as well. He has a good shot from the point and sees the ice very well and people think of him as an offensive-type defenseman, but he’s very good in all parts of the rink.”
Bresciani’s greatest moment in the game occurred back in 2007-08 when he played on the undefeated Winnipeg Monarchs and won the provincial bantam championship. After that, in the spring of 2008, he was selected by the Red Deer Rebels in the sixth round (118th overall) of the Western Hockey League bantam draft.
However, after that terrific final year in bantam, he decided not to head West and instead played two seasons of Triple A midget with the Winnipeg Wild. Then he moved up to the Blues in 2010 and he’s been with his current team for four seasons.
“It’s been really good here,” Bresciani said. “My first year, we started off with the new room in the new facility and every year it’s just been getting better and better. I have no complaints. It’s a good organization.”
MacGillivray has no complaints, either.
“Channing has been with our team for four years and he’s really established himself as a top defenseman in the league,” the coach said. “He’s well respected among his peer group and is the captain of this year’s edition of the Blues and that tells you something. He’s really developed into a take charge player and leader.”
He’s also playing on a good team. At press times, the Blues were 11-9-3 in the ultra-tough Addison Division of the MJHL. When you compete every night against solid clubs in Portage (18-5-2), Steinbach (16-4-0) and Selkirk (15-4-2), you’re either going to get better or completely fade away. So far the Blues have hung in with the league’s top teams and Bresciani, last year’s Top Defenseman Trophy winner on the Blues, expects his team to compete hard all season.
“We’re a different team than we were last year,” he said. “Last year we had a lot of skill. This year we have grittiness. This year we’re relying on our toughness and our ability to play in the corners and creating chances off hard work. I think we’re a good playoff-type team so hopefully that will carry us through.”
He’s a leader now, but as it is for most kids, it wasn’t always easy. When Bresciani arrived as a 17-year-old, he had not developed the consistency required for a 62-game junior schedule.
“Obviously, in my first year, I had my ups and downs,” he said. “It was my rookie season and that’s just the way things go. But ever since then, it’s just been getting better and better.”
These days, Bresciani spends his time away from the rink working a little construction, playing video games and watching football on TV with his dad. But after this season, the graduate of Vincent Massey High School wants to move on and play either NCAA hockey in the United States or CIS hockey in Canada.
“Obviously I want to keep playing and it doesn’t matter if I play CIS or in the States. The plan is to go back to school to play,” he said. “I’ve talked to one or two schools, but it really doesn’t matter at this stage where I decide to go because hockey’s just a great sport and no matter what happens, I’m going to get a good education out of it.
“Not everyone gets to play hockey for a living but there are still a lot of good reasons to keep playing and playing at university is definitely one of them. My ultimate goal in the game is to go to university and play hockey.”
(Re-published from the December issue of Manitoba Hockey News)