When one thinks of hockey, the first country that comes to mind is Canada, but for Reading Royals forward and former University of Alberta Golden Bear Brayden Low, the game took him to the last place you would ever think of hockey: Australia.
He is now playing with the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers in Reading, Pennsylvania, but last summer, he ventured to the unknown world of Australian ice hockey.
Hailing From Richmond, British Columbia, Brayden Low has never been the hotshot hockey player at the top of his class. “I was always on the B team as a kid, but I managed to find my way onto the golden Bears and that launched my career,” he said to Junior Hockey Journal back in 2016.
It was not until he was 15-years-old did he really realize that professional hockey could be a potential career path. He crawled his way up to the top division of major midget hockey in BC and eventually started to rise through the junior ranks.
First, it was the Richmond Sockeyes who threw him a chance. “They knew I wanted to make the WHL with Portland (Winterhawks), I’m lucky they were happy with that,” he said after putting up 29 points in his first season in the Vancouver suburb. That campaign earned himself a quadruplet of games with the Winterhawks after they had been eliminated from playoff contention, but that was only his first taste of major junior hockey.
The next year he began in Richmond, but rose quickly through the junior ranks, moving up to the BCHL’s Junior “A” Merrit Centennials and eventually into a regular roster position with the Winterhawks. He was playing alongside star NHL prospects such as 2017 fifth overall pick Cody Glass, but lining up against that calibre of player, he realized he may not be drafted himself. He played four years in the WHL with the Winterhawks and Everett Silvertips before ageing out of junior undrafted.
He was in hockey purgatory, no longer a young prospect and nowhere to play – so he went to school, suiting up for the Alberta Golden Bears of U Sport’s Canada West conference. Low played a single season with the Golden Bears before turning back to the professional hockey pathway, signing with the Quad City Mallards of the ECHL. He’s been in the ECHL for three years, now with the Reading Royals, but to get to this point, he threw in a little Australian flavour.
Following his first full season in Pennsylvania, he made the rare decision to take his talent’s south for the summer to play for the Canberra Brave of the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL). Low played a mere seven games in the nation’s capital but ingrained himself in the hearts of the few Brave fans, a feeling was mutually felt.
Playing in Australia is totally different than playing in North America. First of all, the arenas are tiny, the Brave play in a community centre. But that atmosphere, now that’s a different story altogether. “I had never experienced anything like that before, all the crowds in [North] America are similar, but this was something different,” he said after Reading’s loss in Brampton, Ontario.
In many of the areas in Australia, the fans would be right on top of the players, even right on the glass- certainly something that is seldom seen in North America.
“I guess the closest type of crowd to what I had in Australia would have been in Richmond. Really passionate fans and a small arena,” he said when talking about how his experience on the island compared to North America.
He’s a rare breed of player to take his talents overseas and even rarer to do so in Australia. Although he has yet to play a game in the NHL, he has played at nearly every level he has had the chance to, but the funniest thing is that he was not the first former U Sports player to suit up in Canberra Blue. That would belong to goaltender and former University of British Columbia Thunderbird Matt Hewitt who played a whole season in Australia after graduating from UBC. “I know a lot about him and played against him with Alberta, but we’ve never spoken,” said Low, but went on to say that Hewitt’s move was one of the reasons he caught Canberra’s eye.
As for going back to Aussie land this season, he’s unsure. “We want to make the ECHL playoffs and win, but if that doesn’t happen, you never know.”
For a kid who grew up in suburban Vancouver, who would’ve guessed that the game would take him halfway across the world and now to a small town in Pennsylvania. You could say that’s the result of a magical equation when you combine passion and sports, something that Low has done every time he steps on the ice.