WHEN Brendan Brooks lands back in the UK at Manchester Airport this morning he will do so fully aware he may be about to embark on his final season as a pro.
The 39-year-old GB international will have just a few hours to recover after his flight from Canada before being thrown into his debut for Sheffield Steelers as they take on Manchester Storm in a Challenge Cup rematch in Altrincham.
For Brooks, it is a fourth season in the UK’s top-flight, having had two campaigns with the Glasgow Clan split by a year under Todd Dutiaume at Fife Flyers.
Each year, Brooks’s points tally has improved meaning the Steelers will be more than happy if he can come close or maybe even better the 62 points – including 32 goals – that he amassed last season in his second spell in Glasgow.
For Brooks, there is an added incentive to perform well for Paul Thompson’s team, with the sizeable carrot of a place on the GB roster for next year’s World Championships in Slovakia on offer.
Canadian-born Brooks, who has picked up a gold medal in each of the last two campaigns under GB head coach Pete Russell, is desperate to pit himself against the world’s best, with tantalising games against Canada, USA and Finland among those scheduled for next May.
“For me, this could my final year so to win something with an organisation like the Steelers and then, hopefully, play in that World Championships with GB – that would be a great way to end my long, professional career,” said Brooks.
“Nothing is a given for a spot in that GB team next May. I don’t think in any sport when you’re going for the national team that anything is a given, different things come into play.
“But I think that if I can stay healthy and if I can play the way I know I can then I have a really good chance to make the team.
“Over the last two years it has been exceptional to be a part of it and I’m hoping to be a part of it one last time.”
But I think that if I can stay healthy and if I can play the way I know I can then I have a really good chance to make the team.Sheffield Steelers’ Brendan Brooks
Brooks joins a Steelers team enduring a difficult start to the 2018-19 campaign, with a 3-2 overtime defeat to Manchester at home last Saturday in the first Challenge Cup Group A clash between the two, being followed by a 5-1 defeat to Guildford Flames in the Elite League.
It prompted Steelers’ head coach Thompson to make early, drastic changes, with Brooks replacing one of Matt and Ryan Rupert, the twin brothers who were released on Monday after just six games.
After tonight – where the Steelers are looking to register their first win in the group phase – Brooks will tomorrow get his first taste of action at Sheffield Arena, with defending champions Cardiff Devils paying a visit with the Steelers scheduling a 4pm face-off time.
“We need to get two points and not give up a point in Manchester,” said Thompson. “It’s a crucial game, especially with it being a group of three.
“Obviously there has been a shake-up and that kind of sends a message to the group that we won’t wait around. But I still genuinely feel that we have a talented group of players here.”