Simply put, Devin Brosseau was a big part of one of the most dynamic duos in Nanaimo Clippers history.
Over his three seasons in the BC Hockey League, he developed a special bond both on and off the ice with fellow star Sheldon Rempal.
Now making the climb through the pro ranks, Brosseau spent some time with me to reflect on what was a spectacular run with the Clippers.
“It’s actually a funny story how it all started. Both of us just turned 18 and we didn’t know each other and when we were at camp everyone would look at Remps and think, ‘Who is this scrawny kid?’,” Brosseau described.
“After a scrimmage, we played the first two exhibition (games) together, I played with him and Brendan Taylor. Then about two weeks into the season we were figuring out the billet situation and they asked me if it was okay for them to take another player on.”
“When I asked who it was, it was Sheldon Rempal, so that is how our friendship began.”
Brosseau was also new to BC, making the cross-country trek from Quebec where he played for the Longueuil College-Francais and had 37 points in 45 games.
“I knew the BCHL was a much better league than the one I was coming from. I was nervous as it was the first time leaving home at 18 years old, (and) it was pretty nerve-wracking after the first few practices. I wasn’t sure if I was making the team, but things turned around and I settled in and ended up being one of the assistant captains right away, which was pretty cool.”
In his rookie season, Brosseau reached the 20-goal plateau while playing 54 games on a Clippers team that hovered around the .500 mark at 27-28-1-2.
While the on-ice success wasn’t didn’t translate to a deep playoff run, it didn’t take long for Rempal and Brosseau to be noticed by the NCAA.
“If I remember correctly, both of us had a pretty solid Showcase and we talked to multiple schools, which was a first for me as I never spoke to a college before. When you think of personal goals, that was a good year for me and I think just being able to build that chemistry with Remps and Taylor leading into the following season was a big thing for us.”
Nanaimo took a big step in the 2014-15 season, going 37-16-0-5, to claim first place in the Island Division.
Despite being bitten by the injury bug in his sophomore season, Brosseau still accomplished a point-per-game pace with 33 points in 34 contests.
“It wasn’t the type of season that I wanted. I broke my collarbone early in the season and it was after parents’ weekend. Right after they left, I got hurt in practice and I was out for quite a while. I remember our trainer Brett White telling me, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll make those up in the playoffs.’ so I stayed optimistic and we ended up playing the exact amount of games I missed.”
“That team was one of the best teams I have ever been a part of, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. We were really close and that transitioned well to our game.”
Brosseau made up for lost time in the playoff run, posting eight points in 23 games. He mentions that the Clippers endured some tense moments on their way to the Fred Page Cup Final.
“I remember we were up 3-0 against Alberni Valley and somebody threw a broom on the ice and (the Bulldogs) came back to tie the series 3-3. We ended up taking game seven in the third period, so that was a special series.”
“I also deeply remember that final series against Penticton where we were able to take both games in their building. You could just feel the excitement in the town. Unfortunately, we lost four straight that series, but they had an awesome team as well.”
While the star players more than did their jobs during the Clippers’ 2015 run to the Fred Page Final, a couple of unsung heroes named Brett Roulston and Nicholas Gushue had 17 points each.
“I remember Roulston played a phenomenal role that season and in the playoffs. He was a good role model for us. We looked up to him, he worked hard and he scored a couple of big goals, one of them I wanna say was in overtime for us. Gushue was always a great player for us, he stepped up in a big way, so you always have those guys in the playoffs.”
“It’s nice when it’s not necessarily your star players (who) step up and that always helps the team.”
Racking up the points
The duo of Rempal and Brosseau saved their best for last in 2015-16, notching 194 points between them.
To take it one step further, the Clippers added Matt Hoover via trade to play on that line and he posted 84 points.
The Clippers were once again among the cream of the crop in the BCHL, going 38-18-1-1 to clinch a second straight Island Division crown.
“That year was pretty special. I think we took a huge step and Hoover was also a big part of that line. (He) was full of energy and complimented us very well. (Rempal and I) kind of debated going to Clarkson a year early, but both of us stayed (in Nanaimo) and wanted to take the next step. We got going after a really hot start.”
“All three of us look back at that year and we laugh because we were all at or over 100 penalty minutes and we still had those kinds of points.”
Off to Clarkson
While both Rempal and Brosseau committed to play college hockey at Clarkson University, it wasn’t a slam dunk that it would happen.
Each player received lots of interest from schools and made it a point that they pick the school best for their development – at the end of it all, the dynamic duo had similar tastes.
“I remember one night we said, ‘Let’s not pick a school together, let’s pick (the) school we feel is the best for us and not talk about it.’ and when we were ready, a discussion took place. One night, we were in the hot tub and I made my decision where I wanted to go and we both said Clarkson.”
“The friendship goes a lot further than just Nanaimo. Every season, I would drive back with him to Calgary and spend a couple (of) weeks there and then we would go to Montreal and visit Clarkson in the summer. I remember we would get to Nanaimo early, skate together, and work on things. It translates very well to the ice.”
Once with the Golden Knights, it didn’t long for either one to have success. Brosseau posted seven goals and 14 assists while Rempal lit the lamp 11 times and tallied 23 points in their freshman year.
However, Clarkson finished a mediocre 10-9-3 in the ECAC and bowed out to Cornell in three-games during its quarterfinal series.
“During that year, our class came from pretty successful junior teams and there were a lot of discussions where this couldn’t be how our four years (of college hockey) would turn out. We wanted to switch the culture to a more winning one. It’s all about putting in the work.”
Rempal and Brosseau predominantly played with Nico Sturm for the better part of two seasons before Rempal elected to sign with the Los Angeles Kings.
“It was bittersweet for me, I knew the day was coming and that he wasn’t going to last his four years in college. His sophomore season was fantastic (and) he was ready to sign that pro deal. “
“For me, I still had some things to develop, so staying was the right choice for me, and the following year we were really, really good and won the ECAC Championship, which was really cool.”
After being an alternate captain in year two, Brosseau wore the “C” for his final two years at Clarkson. In 2019, the Golden Knights claimed the ECAC title in overtime upending Cornell 3-2.
“The step we took from the second year translated into the third year. Obviously, we lost a few good players, but the guys had an awesome season and we had a very deep team just committed to winning (and) doing the things defensively. The whole year we took steps towards winning the championship. The previous year we fell short against Princeton and wanted to switch that around.”
“It was nice to get bragging rights on Yanni Kaldis, who was the captain at Cornell, and we played two years together in Nanaimo.”
The Golden Knights fell in the regional semi-final of the NCAA Hockey Tournament, falling to Notre Dame 3-2 in overtime.
Brosseau and the rest of his Clarkson teammates were geared up for another long run last season, going 16-5-1, but the ECAC Tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19.
After exhausting his college eligibility, Brosseau made the jump to the American Hockey League by signing with the Bakersfield Condors.
With the uncertainty surrounding the season, Brosseau was loaned to the Dornbirner Bulldogs of the Austrian Hockey League where he compiled 21 points in 34 games and was reunited with Kaldis.
“We knew the (AHL) season wasn’t going to start for a while so they asked me and Kaldis if we wanted to play in Austria. We thought it was a great opportunity for us to transition our game and get some experience under our belt.”
“So, we went and it was an awesome experience, but everything was under lockdown and there were no fans. Being able to travel in that beautiful country sharpened up the details of our game.”
Brosseau scored his first AHL goal against the San Diego Gulls on opening weekend last month.