The Trail Smoke Eaters have a long standing history not only in the City of Trail, but in junior and international hockey. With that history comes a long list of alumni who have gone on to play college hockey, play or work in the NHL or follow another passion in life once their Smoke Eater career comes to end.
This month the Smoke Eaters are excited to feature Cullen Bradshaw, from Medicine Hat, Alberta, who played in Trail ten years ago during the 2010/11 season.
Q: Since you finished playing hockey, where has life taken you, what have you been up to since you finished playing hockey?
A: Since finishing professional hockey I am located here in Calgary with my fiancée Claire Samulak. She is a Fruitvale native. The first place we met was at Gyro Park on a late summer day before training camp had started. I am currently working with Flare Skate Blade, in the last year we have gained a few high profile NHL clients so it has been a very exciting endeavor for myself and allows me to stay close to the game I love while using a lot of the skills I acquired during my time earning my degree at St. Norbert College. I am coaching the U-18 AAA team here in Calgary which has been an awesome experience. It has become a passion of mine to pass on the knowledge I have gained from all the years playing hockey.
Bradshaw was acquired via trade ahead of the 2010/11season from the Brooks Bandits, where he put up 97 points in 119 regular season games. During that summer, ahead of his 20 year old season, Bradshaw asked for the opportunity to play in the BCHL and says he was lucky enough that Trail picked him up. In his one season in Trail, Bradshaw finished 22nd in league scoring and third amongst his team mates with 30 goals and 33 assists for a 63 point in 60 games. He’d add five more in five games in the playoffs, before heading off to play NCAA Div. III hockey at St. Norbert College, where he’d win a National Championship.
Q: In your third year of playing NCAA Div. III hockey you won a national championship, what was that experience like?
A: I was really lucky to join an awesome program with a great coach in Tim Coghlin at St. Norbert College. When I arrived as a freshman they had won the National Championship the previous season and had a lot of veteran players returning. I learned a tonne on what it takes to win. We went on to defend our title and went back to back which was extremely exciting. Being the second leading scorer on the team and Freshmen of the Year it was truly a dream season. After losing to the eventual champions the next season, we were hungry and had an extremely strong team my Junior season and winning the national championship and sharing that with my brother and my mom and dad at the final game in Maine was a special moment I will always cherish. The bonds of winning championships and learning the attitude and work ethic it takes to win championships are skills that I use in my life after hockey and try to instill on the teams I coach.
Q: When you look back at your Smoke Eaters career what moment would you highlight or be your best memories?
A: I had so many special moments here as a Smoke Eater. I was lucky to have an awesome billet in Brian Koshey. He was so unselfish in taking care of me and making the best pre game meals. I was lucky to have played with a bunch of awesome players like Travis St. Denis and Scott Jacklin. We had great leadership from Paul Mailey, Steve Koshey, and Kiefer Smiley who were instrumental in making it so easy to join and feel comfortable after being traded to the Smokies. Our coaching staff especially Barry Zanier helped me improve my game immensely in my time as a Smoke Eater. My favourite moment would have to have been beating the West Kelowna Warriors in Game 6 in a sold out Memorial Centre to force a Game 7 back in Kelowna. We had such a good team and were really unlucky in running into such a strong West Kelowna team that beat us in Game 7 but the passion from the fans in the city was like something I had never seen before. Trail is the ultimate hockey town with such a rich history of teams and players that have come from this area.
After his NCAA career came to an end, Bradshaw played pro in the ECHL and the SPHL before going to Europe to play in Sweden and France. During his down time he and his Fiancé went to Denmark, England and Spain. Playing in Europe, Bradshaw says the style of play, the coaching techniques and training style is one of the biggest lessons he brought back and instills in his coaching today.
Q: What made you start coaching?
A: After being coached by Cail Maclean and Alex Loh in Adirondack I felt like it was something I could be really good at. Those two coaches were so knowledgeable, honest, and positive and I felt like my game really improved. I began to start thinking it was something I wanted to do after playing. The way they broke the game down and made the structure so easy to follow really made the game easier. Their door was always open and they were always willing to stay late after practice if there was a specific skill you needed some help working on. They were honest and direct with their expectations with you and pushed you to be the best. They worked tirelessly breaking down film and developing tactics so that the game was easy for us players. I try to use all of that knowledge when dealing with the players I am coaching. I love the challenge of game planning against different opponents and always striving to be a better coach and learning.
Q: If you could pass on some advice to today’s group of Smoke Eaters what would it be. What is something you wish you had known when you were playing?
A: I would just tell them to enjoy their time together. I’d tell them to try to come to the rink everyday and try to get better. Take in as much information as you can from your coaches and strive to be better everyday. I’d also encourage them to play as long as they can, I was lucky enough to meet some incredible people in my hockey journeys. Those are bonds I cherish to this day.