Bradley’s hockey genes aid Phantoms
By Kevin Connelly
Perhaps playing on the same ice where their 2013 season came to an end will give this years Youngstown Phantoms an added pep in their step.
At this point, any additional motivation couldn’t hurt as they’ve been results-challenged since their Eastern Conference Finals loss in five games to the Dubuque Fighting Saints last May.
“There’s always motivation to play a Dubuque team, the defending Clark Cup champions,” said Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen. “We have our work cut out for us and we’re going to have to be as good as we can possibly be to have a chance.”
One of the newest members of the Phantoms (8-23-5, 21 points) is forward Trey Bradley, who was preparing to celebrate his 17th birthday the same week the Phantoms bowed out of the playoffs last year. For him, this is just another road series in the United States Hockey League where he can continue to get acclimated with his new teammates.
“It’s hard moving [cities] and getting used to playing with different kids on a line, but I think now I’m getting used to it,” said Bradley, who has seven points in 10 games since joining the Phantoms. “It’s starting to show on the ice because I’m playing a lot better and with more confidence.”
Moving is something Bradley has experienced quite a bit in his relatively short hockey career. Growing up in Tampa, Fla., provided Bradley with some limitations when it came to learning a game that’s played on ice and mostly in cold- weather locations. However when your father’s a 13-year NHL veteran, it doesn’t much matter where you’re raised.
Brian Bradley spent the final six years of his NHL career a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He made two all-star games in 1993 and ’94 and finished with 503 career points in 651 games. So, naturally, Brian’s two sons, Cody and Trey, followed in their father’s footsteps — even if they weren’t born on skates.
“It was one of those things where if you try and tell them what to do, they might push back,” said Brian, who’s still with the Lightning after 20 years as a community relations ambassador. “I’m one of those people who thinks kids should play all sports.”
Despite developing into excellent baseball players, the Bradley brothers couldn’t be kept away from the ice.
“It was different going to the rink every day and coming out after games to the heat,” said Trey. “I’m sure a lot of kids aren’t used to that feeling, but I got into hockey at a young age and just loved it ever since.”
But the inevitable reality of playing hockey in Florida caught up to the Bradleys once they reached high school. They had to move north where the competition is better or pursue a different career. First it was Cody, who is now playing at Colorado College, then it was Trey, who left for Toronto at the age of 15. He called it, “probably the best move I’ve ever made,” despite the difficulties of leaving behind friends and family.
“It was hardest on my wife, Carrie,” Brian Bradley said. “She shed a few tears I think, but I had gone through the experience myself and knew if they wanted to continue on, this is what they had to do.”
After spending a year in Canada, Trey made stops in Cleveland, Wenatchee, Wash., and now Youngstown. Only this weekend he finds himself in Dubuque, Iowa, as the Phantoms try and earn a victory for just the second time in their last 16 contests.
“I know one thing — that Trey hates losing,” his father said. “He’s never been the biggest kid, but he’s always had the most skill and the biggest heart.”
Bradley and the Phantoms will need plenty of both this weekend.