By Gerry Cantlon
Special to Manitoba Hockey News
HARTFORD — Hockey is a tough business. You can be up one minute and down the next.
For Brodie Dupont who was born in Russell, Man., and grew up in St. Lazare, riding the hockey rollercoaster has been the story of his season (OK, his entire career). He started in Hartford, in the American Hockey League, and now he’s back in Europe, playing in the German Elite League. It’s been quite a ride.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Dupont, a one-time member of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Swan Valley Stampeders, was a bit of a surprise to make the Wolf Pack as a training camp invitee as both he and rookie Shawn O’Donnell of Halifax had been re-signed on their PTO deals.
Dupont was slated to play center in Hartford simply because the team had a lack of center-ice presence and Dupont, who had played left wing in junior with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, was already comfortable in the middle.
“There is no real preference, there is really advantages and disadvantages to both positions,” he said. “As a center you have to be more aware of your defensive responsibilities and taking faceoffs. As a winger you are along the wall a lot more and you’re ahead of the centermen a little more. It’s a more North-South game as a winger and I’m a North-South player.”
However, he does understand the center’s mentality.
“It’s a one on one battle and many times you’re going up against guys who are more skilled than you are and stronger than you are,” Dupont said. “The mental part is to outsmart your opponent. A lot of times it comes down to will in this league and sometimes you have to will it back or put you head down and power it back. I can’t give you all my secrets.”
Still, Dupont and his teammates struggled this season. The seven-year pro had just one goal and six points through 26 games. He missed five games due to a high ankle sprain suffered in Springfield back in November and that started the team’s two month swan dive, a dive that has left it either as the worst or the second to last team in the entire 30-team American Hockey League.
After the injury, Dupont became a victim of the numbers games and was often a “veteran scratch.” AHL teams can only play five veterans in the lineup and when the Wolf Pack acquired T.J. Hensick off the waiver wire from Abbotsford three weeks ago, Dupont knew he was going to lose more ice time.
“I kind of suspected something might be up when we got T.J. (Hensick) and we had 31 players in the room,” said Dupont, who looked around the locker room and saw seven veterans. “This is a business. I’m not a player like TJ is. I‘m not a point-a-game guy, never have been. I know how contracts work and figured mine was the easiest (to let go). I just didn’t know if it would be a week, two weeks or a month.
“So I had a real good meeting with the coaches, I really am super grateful for the chance and I have no hard feelings at all. It was kind of weird. I thought I did better starting my second PTO than my first. I’m not surprised when you’re in last place, the team is gonna make changes. This is a place a Hartford team has never been in.”
There was a surreal feeling about the day he was released. Especially after playing 323 games for the Wolf Pack – the third highest total in franchise history.
“To be honest it felt like the last day of training camp or on (NHL) trade day — everybody was waiting for something to happen,” Dupont said. “I just reintroduced myself to (goalie) David LeNeveu who I played with my first year. 20 minutes later I was shaking his hand telling him I was leaving.”
Dupont wasted little time in accepting an offer from the German DEL team Iserlohn Roosters just 24 hours later. The team lost its leading scorer, Michael York, to a season-ending injury and had one foreign license to give out. That license went to Dupont.
In just 48 hours he was in the lineup against the Krefield Penguins, a team that was getting its captain back in the lineup, former Manitoba Moose rightwinger Herberts Vasiljevs, who was back from a pre-season injury.
This is Dupont’s second European stint. Last season he played with HC Valpellice in the Italian Serie A League, in part because of the NHL lockout: AHL roster spots were limited because many of the available jobs were taken by NHL two-way contract players waiting for the lockout to end.
“Everybody is looking for stability,” he said. “Getting a standard (AHL) player’s contract was the goal for m,e. I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t want one, but like I said this was a starting point, otherwise I might be sitting on my couch eating potato chips. I’m playing and a lot of guys aren’t. It was an opportunity and I had to run with it and see what happens. I’m 26 years old and coming into my prime.”