Hockey dreams change to lacrosse

Brendan Rouse gave up lacrosse in favour of hockey five years ago, but is now back playing lacrosse. Photo below courtesy of Chris Relke/Vancouver Giants. - Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Brendan Rouse gave up lacrosse in favour of hockey five years ago, but is now back playing lacrosse. Photo below courtesy of Chris Relke/Vancouver Giants.
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

Brendan Rouse loved both hockey and lacrosse.

He played both sports since he was a child, beginning hockey at age five with the Langley Minor Hockey Association, and then joining the Langley Minor Lacrosse Association when he was six.

But when the time came to choose which sport he would concentrate on, Rouse chose hockey.

“Like most kids growing up, my goal was to play professional hockey,” he explained.

“I had an opportunity to play in the Western Hockey League and it was an opportunity I could not refuse. It was something I really wanted to do.”

So at age 16, he put his lacrosse stick aside and focused on hockey.

The two sports are played in different seasons — hockey in the fall and winter and lacrosse in the spring and summer  — and it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I missed the game,” he said. “I potentially could have played it, but chose to try and focus and get better at hockey during my summers.”

Rouse split his first WHL season between Brandon and Seattle and then spent two full seasons in Seattle.

His final season of junior eligibility was split between Seattle and the Vancouver Giants.

Rouse delivered his most productive season in the WHL with 14 goals and 51 points in 71 games. Going into the season, he was hoping an opportunity to continue playing would come forward, but nothing materialized.

“It was disappointing, but then this opportunity to play lacrosse came up,” he said.

Rouse always missed the game, especially the teammates and friends he had made along the way.

Every hockey off-season, Dan Perreault — a coach with the New Westminster Salmonbellies junior A program as well as the offensive coach of the National Lacrosse League’s Vancouver Stealth — would call Rouse to gauge his interest in returning to the box lacrosse game.

“Every summer, he would give me a shout and ask what my intentions are,” Rouse recalled.

The Stealth played out of Everett, Wash. — they relocated this past summer to Langley — and it was back in January when Perreault went and met Rouse after one of his junior games in Seattle.

The coach knew Rouse’s junior eligibility was up after the season but he didn’t know what the hockey player’s intentions were.

“I asked him again about lacrosse and he certainly warmed up to it,” Perreault recalled. “He said he was interested.”

Perreault’s persistence over the years stemmed from his coaching Rouse twice — once at the peewee level and once as a bantam — as part of the Team B.C. program.

“He was always very keen, very coachable,” the coach said. “And he had a high compete level.”

“I still loved the game, it just took time to get used to things again,” Rouse said.

The games have several similarities, including that both are five-on-five.

“It is just that one is on foot and one is on skates,” he said. “But they both help with your hand-eye coordination.”

He had watched a few games in his hiatus from the sport.

“I hadn’t really picked up my stick at all in those three years off,” he admitted. “I kind of lost my stick skills but my defensive game was still there from hockey.”

Rouse played this past season in the B.C. Junior Lacrosse Association, registering seven points in 18 games for the Salmonbellies.

And he showed well enough that the Vancouver Stealth selected him in the fifth round of the National Lacrosse League entry draft in September.

“He is an intelligent player, we saw that right away,” Perreault said.

In hockey, Rouse was a two-way forward and he plays a similar role in lacrosse as a defensive transition player, helping the team get the ball out of their own end and setting up the attack for the team’s offensive players.

At the time of the draft, Rouse was surprised to be selected, but Stealth head coach Chris Hall said they liked what they saw.

“We look for players that have good transitional capabilities and can play at both ends of the floor,” he said.

“And I think Brendan is a guy that fits that mould and has those skills.”

Hall said players don’t lose their instincts for the game and it is just a matter of picking them up again.

“It is kind of like riding a bike — once you know how to do it, you are pretty good at it,” he said.

For the past few weekends, Rouse has been among the 30-plus players battling it out at the Stealth’s training camp. Each team must be down to 20 players — and an additional four on their practice roster — by Dec. 16.

Rouse is one of three Langley players at training camp, alongside Brett Dobray and Sean Lundstrom.

Those two played junior with the Langley Thunder and Dobray was a third round pick while Lundstrom was invited to camp as a free agent.

Lundstrom had 29 goals and 67 points in 19 games last season and Dobray had 46 goals and 94 points in 21 games.

“That is my goal, first and foremost,” Rouse said about making the team.

“I don’t want to look past that. I want to get better and more comfortable and earn a roster spot.”

He also plans to play in the summer with the Western Lacrosse Association, which holds its junior player draft in February.

Rouse, who turns 22 in January, also plans to study to be an electrician at BCIT.

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