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The Talents Behind the Trophies: the Kevin Brooks Trophy


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@Motzaburger's graphical prowess shines as bright as the most polished trophies. 

 

Hello and welcome to Season Four of The Talents Behind the Trophies! In this series, we delve deep into the history of the Victory Hockey League to learn more about the players that the various awards of the VHL and VHLM are named after. Many times, people covet a trophy, yet they don't know the story behind the player the award is named for. Personally, I feel that the stories of these players should be told. You see, these awards were initially named after NHL players, eventually taking the name of VHL players who personified the spirit of that award. Naturally, these are some of the best to ever grace the league, and The Talents Behind the Trophies will ensure their stories are known. 

 

But before we get started, let's take a look at the VSN content that's out this week! Take a look into what's in store for the VHL in the future with the VHLM Review and the Future Watch, featuring the European Conference prospects. Catch up with what's going on in the pros with the VHL Weekly Review, along with @Berocka's examination into the recent expansion on VSN Australia. If this isn't enough to satisfy your fix for VHL history, @Matt_O's excellent series, Ringless, features the story of the Season 49 Quebec City Meute.

 

The VHLM Review | VHL Weekly Review | S73 Future Watch | VSN Australia | Ringless

 

For this edition, we'll be covering one of the more coveted trophies amongst forwards of the VHL: the Kevin Brooks Trophy. Annually awarded to the player, or players, who led the league in goals, the award was known as the Joe Malone Memorial Trophy until Season 32, in honour of VHL Hall of Famer Kevin Brooks. Interestingly enough, Brooks won the award just once, when he scored 63 goals in Season Nine. Prior to that, four players had won the award, two of them, Scotty Campbell and Brett Slobodzian, doing so multiple times. It's a trend that continues to the present day, with Julius Freeman having won the Kevin Brooks Trophy three of the past four seasons. But, what was it that made a player who had only won the award once the choice to have it renamed after? With the obvious answer of Scotty Campbell and Brett Slobodzian already having awards named after them, we'll dig a little deeper to learn about what made Kevin Brooks such a special talent in the early days of the VHL.

 

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The Kevin Brooks Trophy awarded annually to the player/s that scored the most goals in the VHL.

 

Kevin Brooks' story in the VHL began at the Season Six VHL Entry Draft when he was drafted by the Toronto Legion with the third overall pick. A young team in the process of rebuilding, Toronto needed Brooks to be a key contributor right away, immediately becoming the first-line centre for the Legion. He proved more than capable of the task, scoring 39 goals and 50 assists for a tremendous rookie season in which he amassed more than 20 points than the next closest rookie, making him an easy choice for the Bossy Trophy Award as the top rookie. However, his -41 +/- revealed that the Legion weren't a top team yet, and they would miss the playoffs. Brooks still dazzled on the international stage, however, as a member of the Silver Medalist Team USA in the World Cup. It was a sign of what was to come, as Toronto was a much better squad in Season Seven. A key reason to that improvement was the team's new first-line centre, the legendary Scotty Campbell. Rather than move Brooks to the second line, he became a winger, a decision that paid massive dividends for Toronto. Campbell and Brooks made a dominant pairing, as Brooks scored 57 goals and tallied 74 assists, totalling 127 points, earning him his first All-Star selection. The Legion reached the playoffs, facing off against the deadly Calgary Wranglers. Despite eight points from Brooks, Toronto was defeated by Calgary in a seven-game series, ending a promising season for the Legion. 

 

With Season Eight being the final season of Scotty Campbell's career, there was an increased pressure added onto Toronto to finally hoist the Continental Cup in order to send Campbell into retirement on top. Again led by Campbell with 138 points and Brooks with 107, Toronto punched their ticket to the postseason with a 51-14-7 record. However, they ran into a familiar obstacle: the Calgary Wranglers. Despite the best efforts of Brooks, with ten points, the Wranglers won the series in six games, again ending Toronto's season and unceremoniously ending the career of Scotty Campbell. Brooks, selected to his second-straight All-Star Game and again represented Team USA in the World Cup, but came home empty-handed. With Campbell now gone, Kevin Brooks was now the main man in Toronto, and Season Nine was when the VHL was officially put on notice by Brooks. All he did was lead the entire league in goals with 63, adding on 65 assists to finish with a league-leading 128 points, earning him the Joe Malone Memorial Trophy and the Lemieux Trophy. As a result of his dominance, he also took home the Gretzky Trophy as the MVP of the VHL. Even the Calgary Wranglers, who had bounced Toronto from the postseason two years running, were no match for Kevin Brooks, as the Legion swept their rivals to advance to the Continental Cup Finals. The Riga Reign put up a tremendous fight, taking the series to overtime of Game Seven, but a power-play goal by Jochen Walser clinched the Cup for Brooks and Toronto, capping off a truly memorable season. 

 

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Kevin Brooks' stretch between Seasons Nine and Ten, leading the league in points both seasons and winning the Gretzky Trophy as VHL MVP in back-to-back seasons is among the most dominant performances in league history. 

 

After having a career season, how do you follow it up? For Brooks, it meant having an even bigger season, which he somehow managed to do in Season 10. His momentum from the season before not only carried over from Season Nine, it had intensified. Brooks potted 61 goals and a league-leading 96 assists, his career-high 157 points led the VHL for the second straight season. On top of winning the Mikita Trophy for leading the league in assists and earning his second straight Lemieux Trophy for leading the league in points, Brooks brought home his second-straight Gretzky Trophy as the VHL's most valuable player, finishing with 11 more points than the closest competitor. A rematch with Riga in the Continental Cup Finals, however, saw the Reign win Game Seven in overtime, denying Brooks and Toronto a repeat as VHL champions. 

 

It wound up being his final game with the Toronto Legion, as they traded Brooks, along with goaltender Alex Gegeny, to the Vasteras Black Eagles, looking for their first Continental Cup since Season One. It was an endeavour that would have to wait, as, despite 127 points from Brooks, Vasteras failed to reach the playoffs. He continued to add to his accolades with his fifth-straight All-Star selection, along with the Francis Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in the VHL. Season 12 saw Brooks' production dip, still putting up 95 points, but a better overall effort from Vasteras landed them a playoff berth, with the Riga Reign again standing in Brooks' way. Putting up seven points, Brooks and the Black Eagles pushed Riga to Game Seven, but Vasteras could not complete the upset, with the Reign again winning the decisive game. Brooks did, however, find success on the international stage, winning a Gold Medal with Team USA at the World Cup.

 

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After playing together in Toronto and Vasteras for most of their careers, it was only fitting for Brooks and Alex Gegeny to enter the VHL Hall of Fame together in Season 14.

 

Although Brooks took a bit of a backseat for his final year in Season 13, he still managed to put up numbers that I wish my player would. Even as a second liner, he scored 40 goals, adding 44 assists to finish with 84 points. Vasteras reached the playoffs again, but their postseason woes continued. Despite leading the Black Eagles with 10 points, it was future Hall of Fame goaltender Benoit Devereux and the HC Davos Dynamo who won Game Seven, despite a goal from Brooks in what wound up being his final game, and moved on to play for the Continental Cup. He did not need to wait long for immortality, as Kevin Brooks was inducted into the VHL Hall of Fame in Season 14, fittingly along with teammate Alex Gegeny. They had played together for most of their careers, and they appropriately entered VHL immortality together. In Season 32, the Joe Malone Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who scored the most goals in the VHL, was renamed in honour of the legendary Kevin Brooks. 

 

Despite only winning the award once himself, Brooks was a dominant force in the early days of the VHL. An All-Star selection for six seasons in a row, he was the epitome of consistent excellence. His back-to-back MVP seasons in Seasons Nine and Ten, in which he led the league in points both times, firmly cemented his status in VHL lore. Although his legacy is largely tied to scoring goals, Kevin Brooks did so much more than that, which makes striving to be a player of his calibre an admirable, yet difficult goal to achieve. 

 

Player Mentions: @brooks., @scotty, @Rybak_49, @rjfryman, @marshall_222, @Pominville29, @Cowboy

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