Comets Tales: Brandon DeFazio

by Don Laible

Mar 6, 2015

Utica Comets’ Brandon DeFazio, an Oakville, Ontario native, did it – he made it to professional hockey’s “show” on Nov. 9, 2014.

In September, the Huffington Post ran an eye-opening article titled “How Hard Is It To Make It to the NHL,” written by sportswriter Emily Cornelius. For all parents or children daydreaming of seeing their family name on the back of any one of the 30 NHL team jerseys, statistics of this happening are rare.

Cornelius cited statistics from the book “Selling The Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids Are Paying the Price For Our National Obsession.” This Canadian-published account of how the deck is stacked against an individual’s reaching the NHL is numbing. Thirty thousand young NHL-want-to-bes were studied.

By the numbers
2013-2014Utica Comets761717
2014-2015Vancouver Canucks200

Of the 30,000 young men, 48 were drafted by an NHL team. Thirty-nine of the 48 were actually signed to NHL contracts. Thirty-two were fortunate to play in an NHL game, and only 15 of them were around for at least one full season. In review: It’s easier to dream of scoring or stopping pucks while playing an NHL video game, than ever having the honor of putting on the pads and playing alongside or opposite the Sedin brothers or Sidney Crosby.

Currently, the NHL has players coming from 18 different countries. 52.2 percent of the skaters and goalies come from Canada. With names on back of jerseys representing the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, as well as Western Europe and North America, this past month DeFazio joined the exclusive club of receiving “The Call.”

“It was a blessing,” said DeFazio on how he went from being in the Comets line-up to making his way west to join his new teammates for the time being – the Vancouver Canucks. “I didn’t have much time. My flights went from Rochester to Detroit to Los Angeles. I had just enough time to get my stuff to the rink.”

Labeled as one of hockey’s “odds-beaters” wasn’t given to DeFazio, it was earned. Heading into his second season with the Comets, after parts of three with other AHL and ECHL clubs, DeFazio logged 223 professional games before getting his first taste of the show. When first preparing for “the call,” Utica’s forward put in four seasons on the NCAA’s Division l level.

While at Clarkson University, DeFazio led the Golden Knights in scoring during the 2010-11 season with 26 points.

Getting a taste; a ‘cup of coffee,’ as they say to rookies up for a first and quick visit to “the show,” is one thing. Making a repeat performance with staying power is the next leg for those getting “the call.”

On Nov. 9, DeFazio stepped on the NHL ice as a participant for a total of 6:04. His family was in attendance to show their support during the Canucks’ road contest against the Anaheim Ducks. After the shootout finish, it was on to Vancouver’s Rogers Arena on Nov. 11 for a meeting with the Ottawa Senators.

More dramatics were in store for DeFazio and his teammates as the Canucks won in overtime. In DeFazio’s second NHL game, the stats sheet showed eight shifts taken and 5:49 of ice time served.

“They were all really good guys,” said DeFazio of his time with his Canucks teammates.  “They (Canucks) gave me my first game jersey. I gave it to my dad.”

His dad is Dean DeFazio, a card-carrying member who received “The Call.” During the 1983-84 NHL season, Dean DeFazio participated in 22 games as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

A proven “workhorse” throughout his pro career, Brandon DeFazio grinds his way to be as fast and as physically demanding on opponents from the drop of the puck. He was in the line-up for every Comets games last season. Currently, he has only missed one game for Utica, played in between his NHL service.

After playing the Comets’ 13th contest on the season against Rochester and before heading west to joining the Canucks, DeFazio does what he can to contribute to what is turning out to be a memorable season in Utica.

His recipe for NHL and AHL time served continues to be recognized for his efforts inside the dressing room and throughout the Utica community. Last April, prior to the season’s final home game, DeFazio made three visits with photographers, while he accepted as many awards. For his involvement in the community, DeFazio was voted by the fans as the winner of the Bill Horton Award. He also picked up the Dave Armstrong Award as the “Class Guy.”

Perhaps the single most inspirational trophy DeFazio has taken home was the Thomas M. Lindsey Foundation Award, which was voted on by members of Utica’s Police Department.

DeFazio, 26, was joined by fellow Oakville natives and NHL alumni John Tavares, Sam Gagner, and Adam Graves as guys who beat the odds to get “the call.” As DeFazio awaits in anticipation for a second and possibly lengthier trip to the NHL, he remains No. 24 in Comets’ programs, and No. 1 in fans’ hearts.

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