1709386268 I39ll play until I can39t anymore Donald Brashear is still

“I'll play until I can't anymore”: Donald Brashear is still in the game at 52

SAGUENAY | The back door of the dilapidated Palais des Sports de Jonquière cracks open, letting in the icy breeze of a February evening in Saguenay. The shadow of a colossus stands in the doorway, shaved head, graying beard, Philadelphia Flyers equipment bag on his shoulder.

  • Read Sunday: Donald Brashear inspires respect, admiration… and a little hate

“Hey Bras! How are you, boy? Glad to see!”

In the lobby of the room that served as the locker room for the Gaillards de Jonquière of the College Hockey League a quarter century ago, Donald Brashear is greeted by his teammates and coach Bob Desjardins.

Despite his smile, Brashear appears shy and storms into what is now the Marquis de Jonquière's hiding place. Tonight, at the age of 52, he will play his 15th game in the jersey of this North American Hockey League team. A circuit in which he is active again after competing in other lower senior circuits in recent seasons.

I39ll play until I can39t anymore Donald Brashear is still

Photo Didier Debusschere

“I'll play until I can't anymore. I really like it,” Brashear told the author of these lines a little later in one of the rare interviews he has given in recent years.

Obviously, the veteran's physiognomy contrasts with that of his fellow soldiers, most of them in their early thirties. Still, there's not the slightest hint of a beer belly starting to appear across those abs, certainly a little more tired but still very much present.

Stand up to the young people

And skating is still there. Certainly average (maybe even a little more) for those on the ice next to him and against him in this league where the vast majority of players have had illustrious careers in the QMJHL.

Some were drafted into the NHL. Even in the first round. Among the Marquis, this is the case with Alexandre Picard (8th overall), selected by the Blue Jackets in 2004, and Philippe Paradis (27th overall), selected by the Hurricanes in 2009.

“I train at least three times a week. “If I don't do it, I feel it pretty quickly,” Brashear explains how he manages to stand up to the young people. In the NHL, too, there are performance losses from the age of 35 onwards for those who no longer want to train.

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Photo Didier Debusschere

Brashear knows this well. He played 1,025 games on the Bettman circuit. His career spanned 16 seasons, taking him from Montreal to Vancouver, Philadelphia and Washington to New York. He was 38 years old when he played his final season, his only one in a Rangers jersey.

“Some people think I’m cheating because I’m still playing at 52. If you think that, it's because you don't know what it means to stay in shape, he points out. When you get older you have to move. Plus, I feel the most pain everywhere when I don’t do anything.”

Crowd favorite

This Friday evening, 2,210 spectators took their seats in the Palais des Sports. Although they still enjoy the robust game, they know we are light years away from the time when they came to promote Jimmy Burns, the most prominent fighter of the Jonquière Condors, the first version of provincial senior hockey in the land of cornflowers.

However, we know they wouldn't spit on a demonstration of the fighting talents of the man who has had more than 200 fights in the NHL. We quickly understand this when we hear them chant the name of their favorite number, 87, every time it touches the playing surface.

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Photo Didier Debusschere

“If I do it (throw the gloves) it’s because I’m the one who feels like I have to do it. No one taps me on the shoulder and says, “Send! Go hit him.’ If I feel like a guy is bothering me and it needs to go there, that’s where it will go,” he explains.

“In the NHL I did it because it was my job. But ice hockey is about scoring goals and making passes. “A fight gives no goal, it brings no meaning,” he adds. I've always had this mentality. Now I can do it more.”

“The decision is mine”

And there was a time when he proved he could put the puck in the net. In his second season with the Fredericton Canadiens, the Habs' AHL farm club, Brashear scored 38 times in 62 games. He finished second in the team rankings (66 points).

Obviously, hockey fans don't remember his career. Neither do his opponents.

The guests of the moment, the Pétroliers de Laval, leaders of this six-man team, came to Jonquière with a few daredevils whose main task is not to light up the red light.

“It’s the only club in the league that still does that,” says a long-time Marquis employee. Plus, when we play against them, we have no choice but to dress a little nicer.”

Surely there will be a customer for Brashear.

“The decision is mine,” claims the strong man. Often we have our backs against the wall in this work, but at my age and with my experience I can choose what I want to do.”


“Ding Ding!”

The Oilers were leading 4-0 early in the second period when Brashear accepted Brett Gallant's invitation, prompting the local DJ to blast the sound effect of a boxing arena bell.

A moment that the audience thoroughly enjoys.

Gallant is not celery. Although it puts him at seven inches and a few dozen pounds, it's a size that suits Brashear.

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Photo Didier Debusschere

Gallant played 14 seasons in the American League in Bridgeport, Lake Erie and Cleveland, winning the 2015-16 Calder Cup along the way. His hunting list is well filled. He fought against big names: Dylan McIlrath, Brian McGrattan. He even defeated George Parros in a fight at the Bell Center.

Tonight he'll add Brashear to his collection by knocking him down after trading blow for blow with him.

A narrow defeat for the former Canadian tough guy. A much more embarrassing affair for his team, which lost 6 to 2.

Much to the dismay of the spectators, some of them went to warm up their cars before the end of the event.

Being Donald Brashear means always having a goal on your back

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Photo QMI Agency, Steve Gauthier

The Marquis' signing of Donald Brashear certainly caused a stir in Jonquière. But the enthusiasm did not spread to other cities on the racetrack.

It's pretty quiet in Cardin Coliseum. Almost 790 people. The norm for a Saturday evening. Here in Sorel the big parties take place on Thursdays and Fridays. Brashear's visit alone isn't enough to change old habits.

That doesn't stop a few die-hard Éperviers supporters from sitting down near the visitors' bench and insulting the Marquis players.

“Be careful not to fall, Donald. “At the age you are, you need to have a hip replaced,” one of them says right at the start of the meeting.

Brashear will have trouble with the two Malouin brothers all evening. Jérémie, known for lighting fires, and Danick, who puts them out. The two brothers, two former members of the Marquis, appear to have passed on the message.

In the absence of Gaby Roch, the Éperviers' strongman, Danick becomes coach Christian Deschênes' henchman. Furthermore, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Éperviers did not even try to replenish his training.

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Photo QMI Agency, Steve Gauthier

“Guys like Donald, at 52, [Brett] Gallant, who played 10 years in the American League, and [Pierre-Cédric] Labrie, these are the last of the Mohicans. “There aren’t guys like that in their 20s anymore,” he told the author of these lines.

“Yes, in Senior AAA, the league below, there are people who are just there for that. “But they are big arms with no balance,” added Deschênes, who himself had an illustrious career in the LNAH after spending a few seasons in France. Let’s say I find two of the same kind and send them against Donald tonight, the boys are sure to get smashed.”

A sought-after customer

The strategy is the same throughout the game. Jérémie Picosse Brashear and Danick approach him to invite him. Each time, the former Canadian player exchanges a few words with his attacker and turns on his heel.

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Photo QMI Agency, Steve Gauthier

“We played three games against them and every time he does the same thing,” Brashear will say when he gets back to the locker room. He's trying to force me to take both [minutes de pénalité]. That night I came to the conclusion that I was playing the same game as him.”

“I did what I had to do,” Malouin replied in one of the corridors of the Cardin Colosseum. He uses a lot of what he's accomplished in his career to say, 'Of course you're scared.' The guy is 52 years old and you can tell he's still going strong. But I don’t have to back away from him.”

This play that the Marquis striker was talking about is about pulling the sweater, giving a little pat on the calves here and a jab on the shoulder there. Gestures that increase the frustration among the Éperviers' supporters.

“You are braver behind Brashear! “You have to be dangerous in the showers,” says one of them not very subtly.

Brashear doesn't flinch.

“It doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I've heard all this nonsense, he lets it go. It's always been that way, in all leagues. People are screaming all sorts of deals, they want to see the fight. Even in the National League it was the same.

He will get his revenge by assisting one of his team's six goals and giving his unit a few scoring opportunities.

Additionally, this assist will set the stage for a four-game streak of at least one point for Brashear. Not bad!

Mutual respect

However, the eldest of the Malouin brothers has the necessary physical fitness for this job. With a height of 1.80 meters, he is one of the few who can look Brashear (1.80 meters) directly in the eyes.

“With his size, he has to be tough,” Brashear admits.

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Photo QMI Agency, Steve Gauthier

Since the 33-year-old has failed to add Brashear's name to his well-stocked resume, he can at least boast that he has been recognized to some degree by the legendary slugger.

Respect is mutual, that goes without saying.

“I have all the respect in the world for this guy, for what he has achieved in his career. He played over 1000 games and fought against the toughest players. Besides, I’m convinced he’s a good guy.”

You're so beautiful, aren't you!

The 20 NHL players who played or were drafted in the NHL

Donald Brashear is certainly the one with the longest career, but he is not the only NHL player to have played games in the NHL. Others were draft picks for teams on the Bettman circuit without necessarily having played. Which proves that the caliber is increased. Here you are.

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