Troy Brouwer was in training camp with Florida this season on a tryout basis but didn't make the team. The intervening six weeks, as he's hoped another offer would come his way, reminded him how much he loved the game and how much he still wanted to play.
“This year, it really makes you think about how much you love the game,” Brouwer said Tuesday after his first skate with the Blues as he begins another tryout. “That month and a half there, I was at home, still training hard trying to get back in it because you miss it and you love it so much. The atmosphere, I've only been in here for a morning and I don't want to go already. It gives you that drive and that perspective. Careers are short and I've been really lucky to have a fairly long one, all things considering, but I don't want it to be over and I don't think I'm a player that can't play in this league and that's why I'm here trying to prove myself again.”
Brouwer and Jamie McGinn are in camp with the Blues for 10-day tryouts (McGinn's started on Monday) as the Blues look at some veteran players before turning to the youth that's waiting in San Antonio. Brouwer played with the Blues in the 2015-16 season that ended in the Western Conference finals. He then signed with Calgary as a free agent, but they bought him out halfway through a four-year deal and he played last season in Florida, finishing with 12 goals and nine assists in 75 games. They didn't re-sign him after the season but invited him back to camp on a PTO, but he didn't make the team.
Now he tries again. He felt he had a good camp in Florida.
“When I was released from Florida, they told me I did everything I needed to do to be on the team,” he said. “I deserved to be there but I knew going into camp that they were really tight on the cap and they had a pretty full roster. It was pretty crowded. But I wanted to go to a camp where I knew that I'd be comfortable there, obviously knowing the guys, playing the season there before, so I thought that would give me a good advantage and I didn't have to worry about the outside intangibles about learning the trainers' names and that kind of stuff and learning the city. The reason for me going to Florida in camp was the comfort factor of going in and being able to just play hockey and trying to make the club that way. It wasn't to be and now I'm happy to be here in St. Louis.”
It was that familiarity that led him back. When the Blues were in Calgary last week, he met some former teammates for dinner on Thursday, met Jaden Schwartz for lunch on Friday and then planned to see the others on Saturday at the morning skate. While he was there, he saw general manager Doug Armstrong and told him he was still looking for a job. He thinks that familiarity will also help.
"I feel like there's a lot of people that are here that know the player that I am," Brouwer said. "I won't even say the player that I was, the player that I am. I didn't have the greatest years in Calgary but I still feel like I'm a phenomenal player and I had a good season last year and I'm just looking to prove that again right now."
Brouwer, whose goal in the third period of Game 7 of the Blues' series with Chicago his one season here, still stands as one of the most memorable moments in Blues' history, non-Stanley Cup division, won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010 and still dreams of another.
“Because I want to do it again and I know they think they can do it again and believe in here that they can do it again and I want to be part of that,” he said. “It's so hard to do it year in and year out but the team Doug has built here, it's a team that can be competitive for years. You don't ever want to take a step back. They're having a great start to this season, which is always tough to do after you win because it's a long short summer and they put themselves in a good situation right now and I'm just hoping I can help out with little things here and there and do whatever's needed of me.”
At 34, Brouwer would be one of the oldest members of the team, behind only Jay Bouwmeester and Alexander Steen. He doesn't want to hang up his jersey.
“The friendships, the camaraderie, the competition, that drive, the competitiveness that you want to keep coming back and coming back and trying to win,” he said. “I was lucky enough to win my second full year in the league and I've been chasing it again ever since. I was talking to these guys last year, you can only describe it so much and then when your friends win it, you're just as happy for those guys as when you won it and now we can share that experience together and they know what I was talking about a few years ago. Steener kind of said it to me as well, You're right, you can kind of describe it but the feeling that you have, you want everyone of your friends and everyone one of the guys you play with and play hard with to win that Cup and for me, that's something I still keep chasing, even now.”
So there he was, back in a Blues dressing that has been remodeled since he was there last – “It was pretty good when I was here but now I'd say it's close to tops in the league,” he said – and with his old number, 36, waiting for him. No one has worn since Brouwer was last here.
“I don't think it's the most desirable number for guys when they come in,” Brouwer said. “They saved it for me. (Equipment manager) Joel (Farnsworth) didn't even ask if I wanted it. He just gave it to me and I couldn't be happier.”