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By: Ken Wiebe

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VANCOUVER – Once Laurent Brossoit strapped on the pads for the first time at the age of 10, he felt right at home.

He didn’t need convincing, nor was he changing positions like so many other youngsters do in minor hockey.

Brossoit didn’t start playing hockey until he was 10.

Soccer was his sport of choice prior to that time, but once he tried it, he was immediately hooked.

Given the family history, it was almost as though Brossoit was destined to be between the pipes.

“My grandpa and my dad and my three uncles were all goalies. It was in the bloodstream,” Brossoit said earlier this week in a one-on-one conversation. “I didn’t start skating until I was 10. I was playing soccer. I always wanted to play hockey, but I couldn’t afford to play both. I moved to the mainland of Vancouver after being born on Vancouver Island, there was more opportunity to play.

“I went to a goalie camp one summer and picked it up pretty quickly, I guess. I had a knack for it and that drove my motivation.”

The path to the NHL is rarely a straight one, though Brossoit did enjoy some early success despite his late start to the position.

“It’s funny, the first year that I played, I said to my dad, ‘I think I’m going to be in the NHL. I’m pretty good.’ And he said, ‘keep dreaming buddy.’ It was way too early to be thinking about that,” said Brossoit, without a hint of cockiness. “I always thought I was good enough.”

Brossoit’s dream became a bit more real as he was chosen in the Western Hockey League bantam draft by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the second round, 26th overall in 2008.

“When you’re drafted in the Western League, then you start thinking about it as a future,” said Brossoit. “And once you get an agent, then you know it’s for real.”

After appearing in 34 games during his rookie WHL season, Brossoit was chosen in the sixth round (164th overall) by the Calgary Flames.

In just his second NHL season, Brossoit had taken over the starting job and led the Oil Kings to a WHL title and a berth in the Memorial Cup, posting strong numbers along the way.

The following year, the Oil Kings reached the WHL final but fell to a Portland Winterhawks club that included Nic Petan.

Things were progressing for Brossoit, but before he had even played a game in the minors for the Flames, the goalie was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a package that included defenceman Ladislav Smid.

Talk about getting an introduction to the business side of hockey.

“That was a shock. I was a pretty naive kid,” said Brossoit, 25. “All of the things an organization tells you, like ‘you’re our guy and we want you to be our starter in the near future and this and that.’ And then, they traded me. But it was kind of nice because the team that saw me the most (in the WHL) was Edmonton because I was playing for the Oil Kings.

“Because they had seen me the most and wanted me, that was a nice vote of confidence.”

Coming into the season, one of the biggest questions around the Jets pertained to the backup goalie situation.

Sure, Brossoit had been a solid goalie prospect not long ago, but he lost his backup job with the Oilers last season to former Jets goalie Al Montoya (who was claimed off waivers).

That’s why some eyebrows were raised when Brossoit was signed to a one-year, one-way deal worth $650,000.

The price was right and the Jets had some limitations when it came to how much money they were willing to spend on the backup position, but the investment has proven to be a bargain through 35 games.

Not only has Brossoit fit in seamlessly, he’s delivered when called upon, posting a 7-1-1 record with a 2.35 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in eight starts and nine appearances.

Last season, the Jets only managed to get eight victories out of the backup position, five from Steve Mason, two from Michael Hutchinson and one from Eric Comrie.

The combination of injuries and a big salary ($4.1 million for one more season) for a backup were the impetus behind the trade of Mason to the Montreal Canadiens during the off-season.

Brossoit’s familiarity with Connor Hellebuyck from training together with Adam Francilia and the NET360 group in Kelowna was one of several factors in the final decision.

Jets goalie coach Wade Flaherty and Moose goalie coach Rick St. Croix also spoke highly of Brossoit.

“Well, when we talked about obviously making a change and having to bring someone in, we talked a lot about the different people that were available and who might be a good fit with (Hellebuyck),” said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “Who might be someone that might push him and yet work with him. Those were things that did come into play. But there was a strong support from the goalie coaches in our organization to go in that direction.”

It’s tough to imagine Brossoit having a better start to the season, but not surprisingly, he’s the kind of guy who continues to push for more.

“I’ve always known that I’ve had this – and more than this – to give,” said Brossoit. “It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together. I’ve always had the puzzle pieces, but I’ve never really had them connected together.

“I always had some physical superiority to my peers, a lot of strength and flexibility that a lot of other NHL goalies don’t have. I’ve always been confident in the way that I move around. It was just a matter of putting that mental game together and believing that you’re good enough to play at this level. Once that happens, the rest is just progress and improvement.”

BUMPS IN THE ROAD HELPED

VANCOUVER – Losing your job to someone else is never the preferred path for any player in the NHL.

But Winnipeg Jets backup Laurent Brossoit is convinced the turbulent times he went through last season with the Edmonton Oilers are part of the reason he’s bounced back nicely this season.

Brossoit lost the backup job behind Cam Talbot to Al Montoya and finished last season with the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.

It gave him more time to get into game action, though it was tough mentally.

“I made a lot of adjustments in those two years, a lot of them I didn’t necessarily need to make, but I made them anyway,” said Brossoit. “Now I’m more aware of who I am as a goalie and as a professional, if that makes any sense. It was unfortunate I had to go through those growing pains during my biggest opportunity with that club. I wouldn’t say I performed at the level I normally do.”

Brossoit didn’t receive a qualify offer from the Oilers, making him an unrestricted free agent.

But while the Oilers made a more lucrative offer, Brossoit was ready for a change, which is why he chose the Jets.

“Edmonton wanted me back quite badly, but I wanted a fresh start, so I took other offers more seriously and I thought this one was the most stable,” said Brossoit, who will be a restricted free agent on July 1. “I don’t think I was anywhere close to the same realm as good of a goalie as I am now, just in one year.

“I wouldn’t be as good as I am now without going through it.”