The last time the world saw TJ Brodie sporting Toronto Maple Leafs threads, he was a pre-teen still living in Chatham, Ont., yet to make his mark in Saginaw, Barrie, or Calgary.
A clip of a young Brodie’s snipe show has made the rounds on social media since he inked a four-year, $20-million deal with his home province’s club. Joining Tim & Sid Tuesday to discuss his move to the Maple Leafs, Brodie reflected on the moment and the off-season that’s brought him full circle.
Turns out, T.J. Brodie is pretty comfortable in the blue and white.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 10, 2020
“I was 11 back then — I think it was just a complete fluke that that happened,” he said of his four-for-four target practice in front of the then-Air Canada Centre crowd. “But it was a great experience. It was pretty sweet to get to meet the NHL players at that age, and be that close to them, on the same ice.”
After that first foray in front of the Maple Leafs faithful as a boy and plenty more over the years as a Calgary Flame, the next time the 30-year-old steps on Toronto ice, it’ll be as a member for the home side. It’s a move that wasn’t wholly surprising for the hockey world given the team’s original attempt to acquire the longtime Flame in a nixed Nazem Kadri trade.
Brodie said the call from GM Kyle Dubas and Co. wasn’t much of a surprise for him, either.
“I thought there was a good chance of ending up in Toronto,” he told Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro. “And I’m glad to join them — they’ve got a great team that’s skilled and fast, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun to play with them.
“… I was hoping to go wherever they wanted me. I’m just grateful to be able to play, and I’m definitely happy to be in Toronto.”
Though that first spin in Toronto came in a number-less jersey, Brodie revealed the digits that’ll adorn his sweater when he eventually dons the real thing: No. 78, making him the first Leaf to ever wear the number.
“I wanted to stick with the 7,” he explained. “I was 79 in junior, so I didn’t really want to be that again. … It’s a number that I can’t really think of many guys that have worn it. I’m not really too particular on what number I am. I’ve always just gone with what’s available, and I thought I’d just change it up.”
While many a prognosticator assumes Brodie will line up alongside Morgan Rielly, providing some balance for the team’s No. 1 option on the back end, the new Leaf said a top-pairing assignment wasn’t a prerequisite to him signing on in Toronto.
“I didn’t really ask,” he said of whether he and the Maple Leafs brass discussed the possibility of him playing alongside Rielly. “I knew there was a good chance of playing top four, and for me, that’s good enough. No matter who I’m playing with, I’m going to do the best I can for the team, and try to make everyone better.”
As for how his game will allow him to do so, Brodie highlighted his tenure as a key puck-mover in Calgary as a blueprint for what Maple Leafs fans can expect from him in Toronto.
The approach certainly worked well with the Flames — while Brodie reached double-digits in goals only once in Calgary, his ability to connect with the club’s scorers allowed him to top the 30-point plateau six times in his 10 years there, finishing with 40 points twice and a career-best 45 in 70 games back in 2015-16.
“I just want to get the puck in the forwards’ hands as quick as I can,” he said, “and let them get to work with their skill.”
Listen to the entire interview with TJ Brodie on Tim & Sid via the audio clip embedded in this post.