Cool story here from TSN’s Bob McKenzie about Bracken Kearns, Florida’s 30-year-old rookie that will make his NHL debut this evening against the Buffalo Sabres. He’ll be taking the place of Shawn Matthias, who is out with an illness.
Kearns, the son of former NHL defenseman Dennis Kearns, traveled a rather unorthodox route to the bigs. He spent four years playing Canadian university hockey in Calgary before bouncing around the ECHL and AHL with stops in Toledo, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Reading, Norfolk, Rockford and San Antonio.
He was first signed by the Nashville Predators after Mike Santos — now the assistant to Florida GM Dale Tallon — took notice of him as an ECHLer. Historically, the Preds have done well plucking guys out of the “E” (Jerred Smithson and Rich Peverley most notably) so after leaving the Nashville organization, Santos kept an eye on Kearns as he continued to bounce around.
Then, Kearns’ big break occurred.
This past summer, Florida GM Dale Tallon signed Kearns to a two-way NHL-AHL contract. Tallon and Dennis Kearns were teammates back in the early days of the Canucks.
Bracken Kearns had three goals in his first three AHL games with the Rampage this season. So when Shawn Matthias went down with an injury, the call went out to to the 30-year-old forward this morning.
“It’s funny,” Panthers’ GM Tallon said, “I got a phone call from Dennis (Kearns) wishing me well on my birthday yesterday and I told him Bracken had a good camp and he would get an opportunity at some time down the road. I didn’t realize it would be today.”
Having learned about Bracken Kearns, you’re probably now wondering who the oldest rookie in league history is. (And if you’re not, whatever, you’re about to find out.) The answer is Connie “Mad Dog” Madigan who, at age 38, made his NHL debut with the St. Louis Blues in 1973.
Bonafide hockey nerds will note that Madigan had a minor role in the cult classic Slap Shot, playing the role of notorious goon Ross “Mad Dog” Madison.