Look back on your first significant job interview. Remember how terrifying it was the night before?
You picked out your most impressive outfit and laid it out for the morning. Every possible question your future employer could’ve raise in the coming hours was typed out in a Word document with a carefully thought out answer attached below. You’d written the script and memorized it. The alarm was set on your bedside table, your favourite cereal sat in a box by a spoon and bowl downstairs in the kitchen - although it was almost a guarantee you wouldn’t be able to stomach any food in the morning - and your most trustworthy friend was scheduled to pick you up two hours before your meeting for the drive downtown.
Then it was time to psych yourself out. Calm down. Somehow.
“The key is mental preparation now,” explained Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki on the eve of the team’s season opener. “Physically, we’re prepared. If you’re not ready tonight, you’re not going to be ready. Now, it’s about getting dialled in. I don’t think you want to overthink it tonight, so make sure you’re ready to rock tomorrow and don’t lose focus.
“It’s almost a little bit surreal. Training camp on Day 1 and Day 2 feels like it’s never going to end and then this finally rolls around and you go ‘wow, I’ve got a real NHL ice hockey game tomorrow and it’s a pretty good team and guys are playing hard.’”
Even for a seasoned - he prefers the term “grizzled” - veteran, Borowiecki admitted to some pre-game jitters for the official start to his fourth full year in the NHL.
Now, imagine how a teenager, suiting up for his first ever game of professional hockey with everything to prove, must feel.
The Senators will have one not-yet-20-year-old in their lineup tonight. But if you hadn’t noticed already, Logan Brown isn’t simply any teenager.
“Yeah, I’ll get a good sleep tonight,” said Brown after practice on Wednesday. “I won’t be too nervous. Probably before the game, I’ll get some chills and stuff, probably should soon. But it’ll be just another game, I’ll get feeling good out there and just playing hockey.”
That’s not just a kid refusing to tell the media how he truly is holding up ahead of the biggest night of his young life. Watching and listening to the 19-year-old field questions from reporters, you feel obligated to believe he would actually get the doctor recommended amount of shut-eye the night before.
There’s an air of confidence in Brown’s voice and the way he conducts himself on and off the ice. It isn’t a trait of arrogance; it’s an appearance of experience.
That may seem odd when looking over his previous exposure to high level hockey - he’s played just over one full season in the OHL and has yet to participate in a World Junior Championship - but Brown’s mature, calm manner derives from the countless hours, days and weeks he’s spent learning from someone who’s been there before.
747 times in the regular season and 87 in the playoffs, to be exact.
There’s no doubt Brown’s father, Jeff, has played an enormous role in getting his son from peewee to pro.
“For a while he was a coach,” Brown recalled. “So we’d be watching hockey at home and he’d pause it on the DVR and show me stuff. Ever since I’ve been young he’s been teaching me, but now more of a dad and less so a coach.
“He criticizes me here and there for not moving my feet or whatever, but he’s pretty supportive and positive.”
At the rink every day together, on road trips and weekends away from their home in Missouri, the duo bonded over all things hockey during the early years of Brown’s still extremely young career. So when the decision was made for him to switch numbers from 51 to 21, it was obvious the reason why.
“He had some VHS tapes in our basement back in St. Louis when I was younger. I saw him wearing 21 in those, so I asked him, and I wore 21 when i was young, so I’ve worn it ever since I can remember.”
With dad’s number on his back and the man, himself, in the stands - along with the rest of the family - it’s going to be a special night for Brown. His presence in the lineup is no small feat, considering the season he endured last year, riddled with injuries, inconsistency and an underwhelming playoff performance.
“This was my goal all summer,” said Brown of making the opening night squad. “Last year was a tough year for me and I really didn’t want to have another year like that. I did everything I could this summer to put myself in this position, and the things I did, they’re really paying off now.
“It’s a good feeling to be on their roster for now. It’s just a start, though. I want to be here all year.”