As Saturday turned into Sunday and the Denver Pioneers’ celebration continued, Andy and Holly Brink found out their son Bobby’s hockey career would be continuing, too.
The players and their families partied until almost 4 a.m., and in those late-night and early-morning hours, Bobby and his agent confirmed he would be signing with the Flyers the next day.
It may sound weird, Andy said, but they really didn’t talk to Bobby about his plans through most of the season. They certainly didn’t talk to him about it during the Frozen Four, and they didn’t want to bring it up while he was celebrating, either.
“The timing was so tight,” Andy said. “I didn’t want to talk to him about it (during the playoffs) because Denver was playing its biggest games of the year. He’s really good about staying in the moment and kind of being where his feet are at. And so if he was having those conversations, they surely weren’t happening with me.”
Brink said he started leaning toward signing about 30 games into the season. Andy said the national championship probably was the final thing that pushed him into signing.
Andy is most proud of how Bobby worked for all his accomplishments.It’s part of why he and Holly didn’t feel the need to sit down with their son and have the conversation about whether 20-year-old Bobby, who went to college a year early, should leave college a year early.
“There was never a plan,” Andy said. “The focus was just be the best version of yourself that you can be, and if it’s good enough to move on, it is.”
It already had been a hectic few days for the Brinks. They were on vacation in Florida when the Pioneers made the Frozen Four. They booked a last-minute flight with a connection in New York the morning of the game against Michigan.
They’re self-proclaimed inexperienced travelers, and when the connecting flight to Boston was delayed, they started to worry. So they rented a car and, with his foot firmly on the gas pedal, Andy got them there in time for the game. From there, they weren’t sure how long Denver would be in the Frozen Four, although they knew they had to be there for the Hobey Baker Award presentation. They also weren’t sure Bobby was going to sign with the Flyers, and if he did, if he would play.
“I guess we were just kind of reserved to the fact that our plans might change and we’re gonna have to roll with the punches,” Andy said. “And if they did have to change for him to play more hockey, that was a pretty good thing.”
A few hours after finding out Bobby would be heading to Philadelphia, the Brinks had an email from the Flyers in their inbox, detailing their travel plans. Five hours after they finally found their beds, they were on their way to the Boston airport, and seven hours later, they were landing in Philadelphia.
The family was greeted by Flyers skills coach Angelo Ricci, a fellow University of Denver alumnus. He took them shopping to refill their depleted supplies and then to dinner, and “he was pretty pumped about UD winning.”
And then they crashed.
On Monday, they had the chance to watch as their son took the ice for his first NHL practice. When Andy previously watched practice, he’d usually see Bobby out there early shooting one-timers. This time, he watched as Bobby lingered in the neutral zone, not quite sure about his new team and new role.
Andy and Flyers defenseman Cam York, who played with Bobby when they were younger, said it will take Bobby a little while to warm up.
“Once he settles in, he’s super funny and a guy that everyone in the locker room really likes,” York said. “I think he just needs time to settle in.”
There’s nothing that makes Bobby happier than hanging with his buddies, Andy and Holly said. Knowing that, they tried to keep in the background and let their son get to know his new team without his parents and brother hanging around. So when they found themselves sitting on the train to Washington, D.C., with the Flyers, Andy, Holly, and Joey Brink were grateful but also a little embarrassed.
In seats provided by the Flyers, the Brinks watched as Bobby took his rookie lap for warmups ahead of the game against the Capitals. Surrounded by opposing fans, they were quiet, but big smiles split their faces.
Joey, Bobby’s 19-year-old brother, said it was crazy to think they went from playing knee hockey and Xbox hockey to an NHL debut. It was extra cool because Bobby got to play Alex Ovechkin, one of his favorite players — “but also Ovi is really scary,” Joey added.
Holly’s main goal for Bobby in his NHL debut was that he just have fun. Unfortunately, the Flyers suffered their most embarrassing loss during that game. But, on the bright side, interim coach Mike Yeo mentioned Bobby as one of the highlights.
Regardless of the outcome, the night still was a “dream come true” for Bobby and his parents.
“As a family, you put so much into it,” Andy said. “You’re never putting it into it thinking your kid’s gonna play in the NHL, but you’re hoping that’s going to happen. And then when it happens, it’s, it’s a pretty amazing moment.”
The Flyers’ season hasn’t gotten better since then. They’ve lost six in a row, five of which Brink has been part of. Amidst the struggles, it’s hard to shine, but Brink has had his flashes, including two assists and some impressive offensive zone entries, through his 13-18 minutes a night.
Yeo can see him being a huge key to the Flyers.
“He seems to have, like, a sticky stick,” Yeo said. “Sometimes, we’re a little bit guilty of throwing pucks away too easily. He’s a guy that’s going to hang onto it, not throw it away, not make a hope play, not make a blind pass. He’s going to hang onto it. So he’s got some poise.”