David Broll helping to make everyone around him better

Author: Adam Reid, for PHPA.com
Date: Apr 27, 2017

Professional athletes are each known for something unique, whether it’s their incredible strength, lighting fast speed, or ridiculous hand-eye coordination, their physical abilities are nothing short of astounding.  While these characteristics are often the first thing that come to mind, a quality often overlooked is an athlete’s character and the intangibles they bring to their team.  As David Broll of the St. John’s Ice Caps realized his dream of playing professional hockey, he recognized the importance of having good character and giving back to the communities that support the athletes.

On the ice, Broll is the furthest thing from a humanitarian. Listed at 6’3 and 235 pounds the Mississauga, Ontario native is not one to be trifled with.  Broll has been in 41 fights during his 4-year professional hockey career, and is widely regarded as one of the toughest guys in hockey. While Broll acknowledges its great to be well known for toughness, that is not at the top of his priority list.  “While I was in Syracuse I played with Eric Nielson and Mike Angelidis and viewed them as two of the most generous guys with great spirits who always gave back to their community,” said Broll.  “I asked myself, ‘why can’t I be the guy that the hockey world views like that?’ They pushed me down the right path and now that I’ve learned how to balance my hockey career and life, I enjoy giving back to the community as much as I can.”

Broll grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, a city located just outside Toronto where playing hockey is almost as normal as going to school. “Growing up in Southern Ontario definitely helped my early development as a player.  It was so natural to be a hockey player, it was something where you and all your buddies could meet up and play everyday.” 

Around the Greater Toronto Area, there are so many hockey related resources available to kids including after school programs, renowned and knowledgeable coaches, countless winter and summer hockey leagues, and hundreds of hockey role models from all sorts of leagues such as the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), American Hockey League (AHL), and the National Hockey League (NHL). “I remember as a kid when some OHL players came out to one of our practices, it was a great opportunity for us to skate with our heroes, someone we look up to and someone we may want to be like when we grow up,” said Broll, “I still remember that vividly to this day, so if I can provide the same sort of feeling or experience to some local kids then I’m doing my job right.”

In 2009, Broll was selected 10th overall in the OHL Priority Draft by the Erie Otters, where he played a season and a half before being traded to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Broll would finish his OHL career with the Greyhounds, having recorded 139 points and 256 penalty minutes in 255 games.

While with the Greyhounds, Broll was selected by his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in the 6th Round (152nd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft where he proceeded to sign a 3-year entry-level contract with the Leafs. “I had met with the Leafs a couple of times leading up to the draft.  I think my dad might have been more excited than I was just because he was such a diehard Leafs fan, but it was definitely exciting getting drafted to my hometown and by a team as historic as the Maple Leafs.”

Following both his 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with the Greyhounds, Broll would join the Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs to gain some invaluable experience at the pro level including being in the line-up during the Marlies’ playoff run both years.

Then, at the start of the 2013-14 season, Broll made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Nashville Predators. “I didn’t even know I was playing until after warm-ups,” recalls Broll.  “As I walked out of the tunnel to skate onto the ice, I saw my uncle and cousin sitting front row waiting for me, I had no idea they were going to be there.”  Although the build up towards his first NHL game was a nerve-wracking experience, Broll says that as soon as he started doing what he knows best, the nerves subsided.  “I was nervous and tense at first, but then as soon as I laid a big hit it felt like any other game.  I had a fight in the game too against Matt Hendricks, and the Leafs won which is the most important part.”

Although he has had some memorable moments throughout his young career, Broll has experienced some adversity.  In 2014-15, he was loaned to the Orlando Solar Bears, the Maple Leafs’ ECHL affiliate. “It was tough, it was my first time in the ECHL and considering I had a taste of the NHL and was an AHL regular in the season prior, it didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth,” Broll recalls.  “I took a few weeks to rethink everything and get my mindset right to do the best I could in whatever league I was in.”  Broll credits this experience to be a turning point in his career, and where his true inner character began to show. “I realized then that if I get down on myself, it brings everyone else around me down too and that’s a selfish way to live.  Why should I obsess over something I can’t control.  You want to be the person that everyone turns to when they need their spirits lifted, and hopefully then people will treat you the same in return.” 

Broll not only shows his positive character in the dressing room, but he has become one of the most active community leaders in the AHL, as evidenced by being the St. John’s Ice Caps nominee for the AHL’s Man of the Year Award for outstanding contributions to the local community and charitable organizations during the 2016-17 season.  “When you’re younger in the league, its tough to make a big difference because you’re still getting used to the routine of being an athlete,” Broll recalled.  “Now I see how easy it is to make a difference wherever I can. There are a lot of less fortunate kids out there, why would I take for granted being a professional hockey player when I can take 30 minutes out of my day to see a kid in the hospital or run a youth hockey camp.” 

Broll loves being involved in the community and giving back to those who support his teams.  “Something that takes such a short amount of time could create a memory these kids have for the rest of their lives.  I think more players should view it as their duty to devote that small amount of time and energy to various causes.”

True to form, Broll recently assisted the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) by serving as a Player Mentor for the Meridian Grow with the Pros! Mentor Program in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Along with fellow Ice Caps players Tom Parisi and Daniel Carr, the trio ran an hour-long interactive on-ice practice with two Newfoundland minor hockey teams, followed by a 45-minute question and answer session off the ice.  The event culminated with an official contract signing between each minor hockey player and the Ice Caps mentors.  “It was a blast taking over the practice,” said Broll. “Rather than being told what to do for once, we got to run the show.  It really brought me back to my roots as to why I started playing the game in the first place.”  Although the practice did involve some high-intensity skating drills, the Ice Caps players chose some of their favorite drills from their childhood, to remind the kids that having fun is the most important part of the game.

The off-ice session involved discussion about healthy living, hockey development, the importance of having good character, and discussion of one of Broll’s favourite parts of being a pro hockey player; free buffets. All joking aside, all three Ice Caps players acknowledged these discussions as being crucial to development as hockey players and as people, leaving a lasting impression on every participant.

Off the ice, David Broll also serves as the Ice Caps’ Player Representative for the PHPA.  “They do so much for us as players, I don’t think a lot of guys really grasp how much the PHPA does for us.  Knowing you have someone at your back to stand up for you is huge, I think every professional sport needs this support at every level.”  Broll has been active with the PHPA over the past few years, and has attended the PHPA’s Annual Meeting of Player Representative in Orlando. “I didn’t really know what to expect before attending my first PHPA Annual Meeting.  You don’t really understand how much they do and the respect they get from the leagues and various partners until you see it first hand.  It’s nice to gain a full understanding of everything so that I can then go back to my teammates and help educate them.”

Broll is currently enrolled in the FESTI (Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute) firefighting program through the PHPA’s Career Enhancement Program so that he can transition to being a firefighter following his hockey career. “I don’t think people understand or take advantage of all the resources the PHPA provides.  This gives me the opportunity to prepare for life after hockey while I’m still playing, it’s going to benefit me for a lifetime.”

As he moves forward with his career, Broll will continue to work his hardest to be the best player he can be.  He recently signed a one-year AHL contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens affiliate for the 2017-18 season.  And while there may be ups and downs, the one thing that is guaranteed will be his ability to lift his teammates in moments of hardship, and make everyone around him better players and people.

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