When Regg Simon left the St. Louis Bandits to accept a coaching position at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, team owner Kelly Chase contacted longtime friend and teammate Jeff Brown, the St. Louis AAA Amateur Blues’ coaching director at the time, about the opening.
But Brown wasn’t the guy Chase had in mind to fill the vacant post.
“He called and said I just want to give you a heads-up that I’m going to be talking to a couple of your AAA coaches about the job,” Brown recalled. “I’d ask you, but I know you wouldn’t want it.”
That’s because Brown, a father of two young hockey-playing boys and a daughter, turned down the same offer in the past. But in this instance, the timing was right for the former NHL defenseman.
“I was up in Ottawa watching the Canadian National Junior Team evaluation camp (over the summer) and I just got fired up about junior hockey,” said Brown, an Ottawa native who played his junior hockey with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. “And then I talked to my wife (about the job) and it all seemed to fit.”
Early returns have been positive for the two-time defending Robertson Cup champions. The Bandits finished 2-1-1 at last month’s NAHL Showcase Tournament in Minnesota before skating to a two-game sweep over the Motor City Machine last weekend.
For Brown, a 13-year NHL veteran who played five seasons with the St. Louis Blues, his most difficult task to date has been filling out the lineup card every night.
“It’s hard to sit these kids when they’re doing everything you ask of them and you just don’t have enough jerseys for the night,” he said.
Brown likes the prospects of this year’s Bandits team, but knows there’s a lot of work ahead and more roster shuffling still yet to come.
“Am I encouraged? Yes. We’re not going to be a last-place team. But we have Wichita Falls this weekend and we haven’t seen Mahoning Valley and we haven’t seen Topeka and those are your three frontrunners this year, I would guess,” said Brown.
“Are we going to be able to compete with those guys? I hope so. But it’s way too early to tell. Right now, we’re not in any danger of three-peating, but hopefully by the end we can take another run at it.”
Brown has only seen a snapshot of the NAHL to date – much of it at the Showcase - but is pleasantly surprised with the talent level throughout the league.
“I’m very impressed,” he said. “The practices are good; they’re high-tempo, it’s fun… there’s some good players. And it’s exciting for me to both work with them on the ice and off the ice and hopefully get a lot of these guys D-I scholarships.”
The Bandits’ first divisional test comes this weekend when they host a pair of games against Wichita Falls on Saturday and Sunday. The Wildcats finished the NAHL Showcase Tournament with a 4-0 mark.
“They’re a good team, they beat some good teams up there (at the Showcase),” said Brown. “We have a real tough division. We’ll certainly find out early here where we are.
“We’ll see if I’m smiling on Monday.”