Former Dinos captain Kearns returns with San Jose Sharks
Journeyman finally makes it to NHL level, but he was a healthy scratch against the Flames
Former Calgary Dinos captain and current San Jose Shark Bracken Kearns, right, battles with Canucks forward Cam Barker during Tuesday’s game in Vancouver. Kearns was over the moon to return to Calgary on Wednesday for the first time since he was last with the U of C in 2005, even if he was a healthy scratch.
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images
It’s been a long time since Bracken Kearns has been back in Calgary.
And certainly never under these circumstances.
Since graduating from the University of Calgary in 2005 where he captained the Dinos hockey team, the well-travelled 31-year-old forward has made his living playing hockey and, mostly, slugging it out in the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League.
But, in a chain of dreamlike events, Kearns was back in the city he briefly called home after being summoned to the San Jose Sharks earlier this week to fill a void left by the injured Martin Havlat.
“I honestly haven’t been back here since school,” Kearns said outside the visitor’s dressing room after Wednesday’s 4-1 pounding by the Calgary Flames. “Yeah, it feels pretty amazing to be back here and, obviously, in the NHL. I was hoping to play (Wednesday), but I didn’t get out there. I’ve got lots of buddies here that I went to school with that still live in the city.
“It’s nice to be back.”
In what seems like a lifetime ago now, Kearns cracked the Dinos squad back in 2001-02 and spent four years in the city before graduating with an economics degree.
From there, he had stints with — take a deep breath — the Toledo Storm, Cleveland Barons, Milwaukee Admirals, Reading Royals, Norfolk Admirals, Rockford IceHogs, San Antonio Rampage, had a cup of coffee (five games) with the Florida Panthers, and, this year with San Jose’s American Hockey League affiliate Worcester Sharks.
As timing would have it, too, Kearns was called up on Sunday just in time for Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks — the team his dad Dennis, a defenceman and veteran of 667 NHL games, used to play for from 1971-1981.
Although vacation plans prevented his dad to watch his game on Tuesday, Bracken Kearns had the next best thing. As a surprise, three of his friends from Calgary flew to Vancouver. They were also in attendance, again, on Wednesday.
“I’ve actually got a lot of buddies that still live here and are working,” said Kearns who calls Vancouver home with his wife Julien and are expecting their first child. “I just love this city. I’m real proud to have played for the Dinos. Tons of good memories here. It would have been nice to play. But that’s how it works in business.
“I’m actually coming to Banff in July, but, for whatever reason, I haven’t had a chance to come back here . . . I really miss it.”
A lifetime ago, for sure. In his final season with the Dinos, he had 12 goals and 23 assists in 43 games. This year with Worcester, Kearns has racked up 13 goals and 17 assists along with 63 penalty minutes in 50 games.
Apologizing profusely for his impaired speech — he recently had his bottom teeth knocked out — Kearns admitted he wanted to suit up against the Flames, but it just didn’t work out that way as Calgarian T.J. Galiardi drew in.
Such is life — and he’s used to it.
“A real long bumpy road playing in the minors,” Kearns said. “Just in the last year — getting that shot with Florida and then getting called up last week. I saw we were playing the Canucks in Vancouver where I’m from and then Calgary (Wednesday), it definitely gave me goosebumps.
“Playing in front of family and friends and playing against the Canucks, where my dad played a long time ago ... there was a lot of pressure but it was an amazing night.”
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