Vancouver Canucks

Believing in Brock

January 16, 2024

Ian Wilson - @ianw1lson

Vancouver Canucks fans witnessed Brocktober, and then every moment thereafter has been quite Brocktacular.

When pucks are deposited to the back of the net at the exponential rate he has achieved this season, it's a clear sign that “The Flow '' has certainly found his mojo. Everyone loves to see a player rekindle their scoring touch, but oh does it go deeper than that.

Brock Boeser joined the Vancouver Canucks in 2017 after spending two seasons at the University of North Dakota and since then has proceeded to light the Lower Mainland on fire. An impressive 29-goal rookie season with a 26-goal encore in year two had everyone salivating at what was to become of the beauty from Burnsville, Minnesota.

That level of ability on display stems from a long-running care and commitment to the game. 

“Since I was a child, I was always passionate,” Boeser said. “Ever since I can remember, I had a hockey stick in my hand. So, I just really take a step back and think about how much passion, how much I loved the game when I was a kid and it just made me realize how much I should still love it today. And I do love it today.”

Everything was looking up for a young man this city embraced to lead the Canucks to the promised land on the blade of that scoring stick. 

Then the world changed forever.

The COVID pandemic hit. Hockey stopped for a brief time and then the entire way everyday life was approached, including sports, changed into something nobody could have imagined. That level of shock to a young developing player must have been immense, right?

“We got to practice a lot,” said Boeser. “And when you can practice a lot and help stuff development wise it helps your team learn things. It was such a weird year, the All-Canadian year. Lots of travel, long travel. But then you’re playing the same team multiple games in a row, so it is different, but I definitely don’t think it hindered anything.” 

The maturity of Boeser is well documented by his teammates but his ability to persist with an exemplary work ethic through challenging times is on another level. COVID was only the tip of the adversity iceberg, unfortunately.

Hardships breed pressures on the mind that can heavily affect a person’s ability to perform even the most basic of tasks. Immense then is the burden when your profession is to go out in front of thousands of screaming fans, physically push yourself to exhaustion, all while maintaining a high mental focus and executing a carefully designed strategy every single game.

Athletes are so often taken for granted to perform night in and night out. Lost then is the fact they are human. They face struggles, feel anxiety, get burnt out, persevere and crumble all the same, just like anyone else. Boeser’s story with his father Duke’s battle against Parkinson’s and Cancer and eventual passing was certainly not hidden from any eyes.

Despite this, the expectations for him to be the scorer he was before the pandemic remained, even intensified. These pressures can be life and game-altering for young athletes, but Boeser’s mentality underwent a shift that he hopes might help others.

“In my case, I looked at hockey and held hockey accountable for taking away time from my dad,” said Boeser. “I’d say it should never be like that. It’s a time that you can get away from all that and really have fun with your friends because whenever you’re dealing with something back home it’s obviously a tough situation. But just enjoy the time with whatever sport you might be playing.”

Because what comes with the sport? Teammates. And if you’re lucky, friendships.

“They’ve been great. A year like last year was a tough year for sure,” Boeser recalled. “I wasn’t scoring as much or playing as I know I can play and those guys were so supportive and still believed in me, and you see this year they still believe in me. They’re so happy for me and I just can’t thank them enough.”

It takes a village to raise a child, they say. In Boeser’s case, there’s been an incredible one. From when he first picked up a stick at two years old to now gliding across the NHL ice. The level of play the former first-rounder has shown does not come without the belief and support of those closest to him when it mattered most. JT Miller is among them and fondly recounted their friendship when asked about connecting on a huge goal against Carolina (on December 9th, the night of the Botchford Project).

“Oh, it’s nice,” said Miller of his teammate's success. “Brock and I have played a lot of games together since we’ve been here and this year, aside from the goals and the points and all that, he’s taken his game to another level. We’re good friends and I’m happy for him.”

Thatcher Demko is the only Canuck that has served longer than Boeser. Therefore, the goaltender has seen every step of his friend’s journey. From the 2015 draft and explosive first two seasons to the doldrums post-COVID, to his present-day resurgence. He spoke highly of his teammate and what Boeser has been through to get to where he is now.

“Brock and I are really tight,” said Demko. “We’ve been really good friends for pretty much our whole careers, so it’s awesome to see. I know how much work [Boeser] has put in. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Trying to get to his full potential. You’re seeing him take huge steps in that direction. It’s awesome.”

It’s clear to see how friends, teammates and loved ones believe in Boeser. That belief is such potent fuel for someone building their game into its next evolution. This is a new Brock Boeser, a better Brock Boeser. Case in point, Head Coach Rick Tocchet praises so much more than just his ability to put the puck in the net.

“He’s taking a lot of pride in the 200-foot game,” Tocchet highlighted. “He looks at me and he wants on the ice in those crucial moments to defend. And he’s an underrated passer, that’s a hell of a pass (on the Miller goal Botchford Project night versus Carolina). He knows to go to spots. He’s done a really nice job this year for us.”

The best are the best because they continually strive to be better. Their adversity is channelled into a dedication to power through the struggles. Boeser went through a self-identified mental reset this off-season and became another animal altogether. He’s hungry to excel in all aspects of his game. He feeds off that belief in himself that came from all stages of his journey, culminating in the spectacle the entire NHL bears witness to now. That faith is given right back to every single person who has stood beside him and never lost confidence that he would become this. He has truly embodied “The Flow”.

“I still hear (the nickname) all the time and even when I’m out in public people will randomly say it,” Boeser mused. “Botch (Jason Botchford) was a guy that believed in me from the start. Talking with him in my first couple years, he was really nice to me and sincere. I always really appreciated that.”

Five years ago, in a December 15th edition of the Athletties, Jason wrote the following line in response to highlighting Boeser not only coming back from an injury, but netting nine goals in a 10-game stretch and tallying yet another that game:

“What is: Boeser’s best is yet to come.”

That statement holds true to this very day. Yes, Boeser is one of the best goal scorers in the NHL at present but if you think for a second this metamorphosis is anywhere near its conclusion, ponder further. The defensive commitment is there more than ever and the hustle for his teammates has reached new heights. He ran the gauntlet and came out the other side a man bent on developing himself and his game. The challenges and adversity laid the foundation of a comeback story for the ages, but it is Boeser’s motivation, stoked by those who believe in him most, that solidifies his resolve to author that story and keep moving forward.

Grab your tickets for the Boest show around. The emergence has only just begun.