Tampa Bay Lightning

Boys of Summer: Eric Brewer

Friday, 08.17.2012 / 8:49 AM ET / Best of the Web
By Lonnie Herman  - TBL.com correspondent
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Boys of Summer: Eric Brewer
For 82 games last season defenseman Eric Brewer was in the middle of the action.

He lead the Tampa Bay Lightning with an average of 23:16 of ice time a game and was tops in hits delivered with 197. He also put his body on the line to block 176 shots.

Those achievements don't count the leadership that the 14-year NHL veteran supplied in the locker room, or as a mentor to a young defensive corps.

And, in the off-season, Brewer is at his home in Vancouver, still in the center of the proceedings, but now all the attention is focused on his two daughters, Reese, 4, and Hadley, 1, along with his wife, Rebecca.

"You can't replace face time," Brewer said. "It's wonderful for me and wonderful for them. The four of us spend a lot of time together.

Defenseman Eric Brewer has gained a practiced perspective on what it takes to survive in the NHL
"Our little one is on her feet now, she's running around, so we'll get out in the morning and try to take the kids to the park or we'll take them down to the beach. Just get them some air. We have a big preserve by the University here in Vancouver and we take them through the trails there. Even sometimes just playing in the yard with a sandbox and toys is enough. They have some garden tools and they seem to like to rip up the garden."

There is extended family nearby, too. Brewer's sister and her husband and their two kids live just seven blocks away, so the visits go back and forth regularly, and then his parents, from Kamloops in South Central British Columbia and in-laws, from Prince George in Northern British Columbia, make several visits over the summer.

When his time isn't occupied with kids and family, the 33-year-old Brewer works hard at keeping in condition. He usually works out alone in the morning, and then will mix in some physiotherapy with a group in Vancouver that has proved to be helpful over the years.

After appearing in 840 games over the course of his career, Brewer has gained a practiced perspective on what it takes to survive in the NHL.

"I think a lot of guys now, and certainly the top players in the League, use a variety of methods for whatever their needs are," Brewer said. "A lot of it isn't really talked about but it's done. There is just so much hockey and so much performance put into a season that you need to stay on top of it. The best players, here and in Europe, are the best players because they take care of themselves."

With just a month to go until training camp, Brewer has begun to put in some time on skates. At the rink, he works with a power skating coach, curing any imbalances or smoothing out any issues from the past season.

"I should probably get on the ice a few more times, the way that I looked this week, but we'll fix that as well," Brewer said.

This season, the former first-round draft pick will be entering his third campaign with the Lightning, and the second year of a four-year contract he signed after the 2011 season.

After the team missed the Stanley Cup Finals by one game that season, expectations were especially high for 2011-12, which Brewer sees as one of the reasons that the Lightning got out of the blocks so slowly.

"The turnaround from one season to the next is quick, and because it is quick, you think you'll be closer to the same level than if you had more time off, but that's not the case; you're really back to square one again," Brewer said. "We weren't surprising the other teams anymore and they didn't take 17 penalties in a game like they did against us the year before. So we weren't on the power play as much and we were playing the other teams' game as opposed to playing ours, and it didn't work as well early on. Our first half last season was not very good and our second half was very good."

But he is sizing up this year differently.

"I'm anxious to get the season going," Brewer said. "I think we've addressed some areas that we needed to and we've got a little bit more experience, which I think will help. I think we can be a little better and a better start will be a huge difference."

Brewer was only one of three players who managed to appear in every Lightning game in 2011-12. A full season, injury-free, is a rare accomplishment which Brewer does not take lightly.

"To do that, you certainly need some luck and you just have to stay on top of stuff," Brewer said. "We have a really good staff in Tampa and you have to use the people that are available to you. You have to be honest with them and give them the proper feedback. They don't do well when you come in and say, 'I can't play', but they can do well if they hear, 'I don't feel so good', three or four days earlier."

And then, from a veteran's perspective, there is this one final tip for answering the bell every night of a long season.

"I try to make my defense partner do all the heavy lifting," Brewer said. "That way I can manage a couple of extra games. Hedman's got plenty of years ahead of him; he can go get the puck in the corner."