By Larry Wigge
Brent Seabrook has scored bigger goals before this -- all of them in his front yard as a kid growing up in British Columbia.
This one game in Game 7 ... in overtime.
It was Seabrook's goal at 3:35 of overtime that gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 win over the Red Wings of the Western Conference semifinals.
The goal was made possible, when Dave Bolland smashed the puck free of Detroit's Gustav Nyquist near the penalty box at center ice. Seabrook quickly lugged the puck into the Red Wings zone from the boards to the center and left go a wrister shot that deflected off defenseman Niklas Kronwall's stick and past goalie Jimmy Howard's glove hand.
"Shooting pucks around in the front yard, against the garage, breaking garage doors, it's always something you think about, scoring an overtime winner in Game 7," Seabrook said. "I love overtime. I think it's exciting and lots of fun. The stakes are really high."
The goal was the biggest goal of Seabrook's career.
"I don't think I've scored a bigger goal than that," he said. "With the Game 7 mentality, in overtime, against Detroit, it was pretty special."
At the end of a shift, the Richmond, B.C., native, had enough speed to beat Henrik Zetterberg and Danny Cleary in for the fatal shot.
"Nik Kromwall likes to go down to block shots like me," said Seabrook. "I just tried to get it on net and get it past Kronwall. I didn't want to get it blocked.
"I don't even know if I saw it go in, to be honest. I just heard the horn going and the boys jumping out. It was a pretty exhausting game, but I think I was more tired during the celebration. You don't get to do that too many times and it'll be something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Seabrook, 28, had drawn the ire of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville in Game 4. But, being reunited with veteran partner Duncan Keith gave him more confidence. Especially on the rush.
"Seabs kept going ... going ... going and got off a good shot," a satisfied Quenneville said.
Said Seabrook, "I was just trying to step up. The coaches have been on me about stepping up all year."
Seabrook has never scored more than nine goals in a season in his eight NHL seasons. However, in this lockout-shorted season, Brent managed eight goals and 12 assists in 47 games. You could justify this as his best season ever based on the number of games played and the Blackhawks recording the President's Trophy for having the best record.
In the playoffs, however, Seabrook had just one goal and one assists in 12 games.
You may remember, that it was Seabrook, whose last-second shots forced both overtimes and kept Chicago from falling into an 0-2 hole last year in the playoffs against Phoenix. He scored with 14.2 seconds left in Game 1 to tie it up before the Coyotes prevailed in overtime. And his hard shot in a frantic closing sequence of Game 2 was re-directed past Smith by Patrick Sharp with 5.5 seconds to go and Blackhawks went on to win in the extra period.
"When you look at those kids when they were 17- and 18-year-olds? Dion was way ahead of him," Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter says of the former Lethbridge Hurricanes linchpin. "When you look at that 2003 draft, Brent wasn't in the top three defensemen. There was Braydon Coburn, Ryan Suter, Phaneuf and then a gap to Brent. Then, as a 19-year-old last year, Seabrook really improved. You could see it when you watched him lots, how much his game elevated.
"You pull for them guys because they played out here. I really like Brent Seabrook."
Brent Seabrook gravitated towards hockey at a young age.
"My mother wasn't a fan, but when my brother Keith always wanted to play hockey she did a lot of research and became an expert," Seabrook explained.
Like most hockey players, their parents are a big of their career.
"Gary (his father), Suzanne (his mom) and a friend are co-owners of a steal fabricating business," he continued. "They started out making crab pots for fisheries and for fishermen. Now, they have gotten into garbage bins, garbarge containers."
Naturally, Chris Pronger was his favorite player growing. But, Seabrook enjoyed all sports. You should seen his room -- at decked out in a sports theme.
"I had a picture of the Bulls, when they won 72 games," Seabrook remembered, all the way out in B.C. a Chicago basketball fan. "I also had a Wayne Gretzky photo and one of Ken Griffey Jr."
It's already been mentioned about shooting pucks in his front yard. But there was a basketball goal there to that the neighbor kids would flock too.
Every player has sometime of an obstacle to over to get to the NHL.
"The knock on me was my footspeed and it's something I continue to work on," he said. "When I'm skating I'm at my best ... when I'm not skating I'm not so good."
At 6-3, 221-pounds, Seabrook is a mountain of a man. He is tough to move.
Another question I like to ask players is when they thought they might have an NHL future.
"My grade 7 teacher said it was then," Seabrook laughed. "We did a class project -- What do you want to be when you grow up? I told her that I wanted to play hockey in the NHL. She said I had to choose another profession, one with more options. I just looked at her and told her, "Nope I'm going to be an NHL hockey player.'
"She would always laugh. But, she invites me back to speak to her students."
Seabrook's coaches are too numerous to mention -- even though he wanted to name them all. But there were two he singled out.
"My summer coaches every year from 9 to 14 were former NHL players Harold Snepsts and John Grisdale," Seabrook added. "They taught me to 'Respect your opponent and respect yourself and your teammates.'"
You grow up and play, making many friends along the way. Current NHL playr Colin Fraser, Troy Brouwer and Andrew Ladd also grew up in B.C. They grew up watching the Canucks with interest ... and all four played for the Pacific Vipers.
"I don't know how many times I told my dad when we were driving home, 'I'm going to play in that building some day,' " Seabrook explained. "I stopped being a Canucks fan the day the Blackhawks drafted me (first round, 14th overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft)."
Colin Fraser once told me, "I'm sure we all wanted to play for the Canucks at some point when we were growing up, but they're the enemies now."
Seabrook, Ladd, Brower and Fraser all played for the 2010 Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup.
The first time Keith Seabrook beat his older brother Brent in a driveway hockey game, he returned inside their British Columbia home with a few more bruises than usual.
"It was a little tougher every game after that," said Keith. "He was mad."
Bumps, scratches and scrapes were part of growing up in the Seabrook household, where the brothers fostered the competitiveness that has launched professional hockey gigs for each.
They are crossing paths again, not in the competitive sense anymore, but as colleagues at different stages of their careers.
But they both commit to solid defense, Keith also wears No. 7 and have a mean competitive streak.
They talk every couple of days despite the rigors of their seasons, which often jets them to different time zones and induces strange sleeping patterns.
Brent tries to catch highlights of Keith's games on the Internet. Keith watches any televised Hawks game when his schedule permits and tries to catch nightly highlights.
The brothers share a home in Vancouver in the off-season, allowing them to train together and living close enough to their parents' home that they still stop by for dinner a few nights a week.
"Some things will never change in how we act around each other," Keith said.
Many draw comparisons between the way the Seabrook brothers play, looking to pass first. Keith said they learned it from their father, Gary, who coached his sons' hockey teams when they were young.
Their mother, Suzanne, an artist, painted a picture of former Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean on a wooden board that was part of the net they practiced on.
"We were out there for hours shooting on that every day," Keith said. "We had some driveway battles that were pretty vicious."
But none was quite like the memory Brent Seabrook will have for Game 7 overtime victory.