Sports

Quinn O’Brien will sport the “C” on the Gee-Gees brand new threads this season. Photo: Robert Greeley/U of O Sports Services

Communication and team chemistry will be key to team success this season, O’Brien says

The University of Ottawa men’s hockey team opened up their season with a 3-2 win against McGill on Thursday in Montreal. 

This marked fourth-year finance student Quinn O’Brien’s first regular-season game as captain of the Gee-Gees after receiving the “C” in the preseason. O’Brien was one of the original Gee-Gees selected when the program was re-established in 2016 and has become a leader among the core group of players on the hockey team.

A native of Vinton, Que., a remote town in the Outaouais region, O’Brien took to the ice with his three brothers at a very young age

“From a young age, my two older brothers started playing (hockey) and I was obviously going to the rink with my parents to watch them and apparently that’s where it all started,” he told the Fulcrum. “I was eager to get on the ice, get going and play just like them;”

Reaching the highest level of minor hockey in Campbell’s Bay, O’Brien left the family nest at 15 years old to play for the Gatineau Intrepride of Quebec’s midget AAA league. 

“It was a great experience, it was the first time given how far I lived out of town that I had to move and live in a billet family,” he said. “I was 15 and my first year was kind of an adjustment period.” 

As a 15-year-old in a 16-year-old’s league, O’Brien struggled in his first season, scoring only one goal and collecting just six assists for a total of seven points in 39 games.

However, his frame and his strength impressed QMJHL scouts so much that the Rouyn Noranda Huskies selected him 74th overall in the 5th round of the 2011 QMJHL draft.

O’Brien had a strong first camp in the QMJHL but was ultimately cut by the Huskies and returned to Gatineau for a second season in midget AAA.

The 6”3 forward had a strong start to his second year with the Intrepide, but a broken hand meant his sophomore season was limited to only 26 games. He did manage to score 13 points in those 26 games. 

“I got off to a good start in my 16-year-old season with the team, and I ended up breaking my wrist, and missed half of the season but came back for playoffs,” O’Brien said. “Overall, it was a good experience, I enjoyed going to school there, the thought of only having school in the morning, study period and practice in the afternoon was cool.” 

In Gatineau, O’Brien played with future Gee-Gees teammates Kevin Domingue and Jonathan Bourcier. 

“O’B,” as he’s known by his teammates, made Rouyn-Noranda out of camp in 2012-13.

“After my first year of midget, I was drafted by Rouyn and stayed till the last day of camp but went back to finish midget AAA,” he said. “The following year I made the team out of camp.”

The large-format centreman put up 13 points in 47 games for the Huskies in his rookie season and played 13 games in the playoffs. The Huskies fell short to the Nathan McKinnon led Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL semi-finals.

In 2013-14, O’Brien had a junior career-high in points with 17 but a young Huskies squad lost out in the second round to the first-place Baie-Comeau Drakkar. 2014-15 was O’Brien’s last season with the Huskies, and after being named assistant captain he was traded just before Christmas to the Charlottetown Islanders. The Islanders were swept in the second round by the Quebec Remparts, while O’Brien had his best season in the “Q” with 14 points.

Before the start of the 2015-16 season, O’Brien was named captain of the Charlottetown Islanders. But O’Brien struggled with injuries and managed to only play 34 games in his last season in the QMJHL.

“It was a huge honour like any time you get named captain, it was fun in the sense that yeah, I’d only played half a year for Charlottetown, and at that point and my teammates already had enough faith to give me the honour.” 

“You learn how to deal with certain situations and how to lean on certain guys,” O’Brien said. “One of the most important lessons was yeah, you’re captain, but you’re not alone — you can use your assistants and even players with no letters that are often leaders.” 

“At the end of the day I wear the C but I’m not the only leader. Being a captain in the Q really taught me that.”

In the QMJHL, O’Brien played alongside 16 and 17 year olds. Now he’s in charge of a team of much older players… 

When asked about how this may have changed the way approaches the captaincy, the finance undergraduate student had this to say: “I think even as an individual I’ve matured. As for being captain, I think it builds off what I did in the Q as far as leaning on my assistant captains and older guys who are well respected in the room, and just making sure to have open communication between the guys because that’s the way you build good team chemistry and get results down the stretch.”    

With the U of O men’s hockey team now in their fourth year since being re-established, O’Brien will follow Gabriel Vermette and Eric Locke as captain of the program. O’Brien says he looks up to both his former captains.

In his first three seasons with the Gee-Gees, O’Brien was an assistant captain to Eric Locke and Gabriel Vermette. O’Brien is a hard-nosed player who isn’t afraid to battle for pucks in corners deep in the offensive zone. He usually centres the Gee-Gees’ third line. 

In his first three seasons with the Gees, O’Brien has scored 12 goals and collected four assists for 16 points in 63 games.   

The U of O men’s hockey team’s home opener will take place on Oct.18 at 7:30 p.m. against the Western Mustangs at the Minto Sports Complex. The team heads to Waterloo next weekend to take on both Wilfred Laurier University and the University of Waterloo on Friday and Saturday respectively.

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