Features | 7/11/2011 9:32:19 AM | Rob Crean
For defenseman T.J. Brennan, the 2011 Sabres Development Camp at Niagara University represented a return to a more conventional style of hockey training. The 22-year-old Brennan had spent the earlier part of the off-season working out with current and former members of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
“It was a little different training with some of the Eagles, but same type of stuff – a lot of power, agility and speed, real essential to today’s game, especially with hockey,” Brennan said. “I tried to fit it with Buffalo’s (off-season training) program and it was a good atmosphere, a lot of competition, so it was a good experience.”
Brennan explained that he has a friend who plays professional lacrosse in Philadelphia who was involved in the training sessions with the group of professional football players and invited Brennan to come out. Once Brennan determined that the program would provide the necessary training he would need to prepare for the upcoming hockey season, the native of Willingboro, New Jersey decided to join in.
Among the athletes with whom he trained were former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and current Eagles such as strong safety Quintin Mikell and defensive tackle Trevor Laws.
Now that his fifth development camp with the Sabres organization has come and gone, the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Brennan plans to continue preparing for training camp in the fall.
The upcoming 2011-12 season will be Brennan’s third professional season. His first two were spent with the Buffalo Sabres’ former American Hockey League affiliate, the Portland Pirates.
In his second AHL season in 2010-11, Brennan posted 39 points on 15 goals and 24 assists in 72 games to rank second among all Portland defensemen in scoring behind only Marc-Andre Gragnani, who was awarded with the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award as the league’s Outstanding Defenseman . He also led all Pirates blue-liners with five power play goals. Buffalo’s first pick (2nd round, 31st overall) in the 2007 Entry Draft, Brennan has 62 points and a +9 rating through his first two AHL seasons.
“When I’m playing real good defense, that’s when I get the best offense. With my offensive abilities and instincts, it shows most when I’m playing good defense with confidence,” Brennan said of his increased offensive production last season after recording 23 points (6-17-23) as a rookie. “I don’t think I have the finesse of Drew Scheistel or Marc-Andre Gragnani, but I think I can be a real offensive threat. I think I have a good shot, especially when I hit the net; I think it creates a lot of offense.”
Prior to making his professional debut in October of 2009, Brennan spent three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, including two with St. John’s and one with Montreal.
While he’ll be involved in a heated competition for a spot on Buffalo’s blue line in training camp – a competition that just became even tighter with the recent acquisitions of proven NHL defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr – Brennan acknowledged that players are excited about the renewed relationship between the Sabres and Amerks after hearing good things about the city from former teammates Mark Mancari and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
“I know there’s a whole bunch of history and it’s right down the street from Buffalo, so it’ll be great. I’m excited. It will be tough leaving Portland, but I’m real excited for Rochester, it seems like a great town.”