Written By: Stefanie-Rose Fontana / Brampton Beast
Photo By: John Warren / Brampton Beast
Making it to the NHL is every young hockey player’s dream. For some, that dream may one day come true. Brampton Beast defenceman, Mike Vernace is one of those players who made his dream a reality. Now, Vernace is using that experience to help the Brampton Beast climb their way to the top of the ECHL.
This isn’t the six-foot blue liner’s first time in Brampton, however. Vernace started his junior career in the Ontario Hockey League almost ten years ago with the now-defunct Brampton Battalion where he played three seasons. Between then and now, Vernace has amassed a plethora of experience in the world’s top hockey leagues. He has played 438 games in the AHL and a combined 22 games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He even made his way to Europe, playing in Germany and Sweden.
Back in Brampton for the first time since the 2005-06 season, Vernace admits he’s seen a lot over the years and has evolved as both a player and as a person.
“Everyone grows as they experience more things in life and you know, I feel like I’ve experienced quite a bit,” Vernace said.
“Especially in the last couple of years but I think just life experiences have helped me grow as an individual which translates to me growing as a hockey player because I think they go well together.”
When asked about his time in the NHL, Vernace could not express how grateful he was of the opportunity, even though his time there was not as lengthy as he would have hoped.
“It was great. Not really anything bad you can say about it. It was one of the best times of my life but I was at the time – and I still am very grateful for those times I was given,” Vernace said.
“In Colorado and in Tampa, it was something that I’ll never forget no matter what. Nobody can take that away from anyone who has played in the NHL, so I’m grateful for that.”
Being honoured with an ‘A’ on his jersey this season with the Beast, Vernace’s vast experience at almost every professional level provides him with the opportunity to be a mentor and bring certain leadership qualities to the team.
“The leadership group on this team is really strong. We have a lot of great character people,” Vernace explained.
“I came here and I introduced a few things to a couple of guys and it has been catching on like wildfire. I really enjoy the player development side, helping the younger guys grow, to mature and to get better and hopefully they can realize their dreams and play in the NHL too.”
He is currently ranked in the top ten amongst ECHL defenceman in assists and points scored and is the only Beast in that category. He credits his success this season to his teammates and his previous playing experience.
“The guys will say that I probably shoot a lot,” he said with a laugh. “But we have some really good players that have been playing really well around me and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of that too.”
“I do feel like my experiences, especially in the last couple of years, have led me to work really hard and get better as a player for sure and I don’t think that you, no matter what stage in your career you’re in, should ever stop developing. There’s always things that I’m trying to get better at.”
Vernace continues to prove his effectiveness as an influential figure for the Brampton Beast both on and off the ice. His experience and work ethic are admirable features that many of his younger teammates can look up to while trying to achieve their own goals.
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Watch Vernace and the Beast take on the Toledo Walleye at their next home game February 12. Single game tickets are now available, starting at $16.25. For more information or general media inquiries on the Brampton Beast please contact Chris Ballard, Public Relations Coordinator at (905) 564-1684 or firstname.lastname@example.org