Edmonton Oil Kings fans have taken to chanting goaltender Laurent Brossoit's initials during this Western Hockey League championship run - shouts of "L.B., L.B., L.B." echoing through Rexall Place.
And the Port Alberniborn netminder had his biggest fan join in the cheers when he and his teammates opened the Ed Chynoweth Cup series with a 3-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks in the Alberta capital on Thursday night.
Brossoit's father, John, who is battling multiple sclerosis, made the trip from Port Alberni to watch the first two games (the second goes tonight at 6 on Shaw Cable). He then hopes to hitch a ride to Portland with his friend Troy Wotherspoon, whose son Tyler is a member of the Winterhawks.
"It's great. I'm looking forward to that. He's probably my biggest fan and never misses a game," said Laurent, whose father watches on the web and has also witnessed a handful of his son's games first hand.
"He's a fighter who has taught me to not take anything for granted and it'll be great to have him here."
And John is just as thrilled to witness his son playing for the WHL crown.
"I'm looking forward to it," John said prior to the trip. "Oh my, if they can win this ... . He's tearing it up right now and he's gaining so much confidence from this.
"I am so proud of him," John continued of his son. "He's a real perfectionist and he takes it to heart if he has a bad game, but he's learning to let it go if it does."
It hasn't happened much of late as the Oil Kings, prior to Thursday, had lost just once in the last 25 games.
Brossoit, in fact, is coming off an Eastern Conference most valuable player performance in a five-game series win over Moose Jaw in which he allowed just 10 goals. Before Thursday's game, his 1.62 goals-against average leads all WHL playoff goaltenders and he's now three wins away from a league crown.
"This would be a dream come true. It's not often you get an experience like this and it's nice to be contributing along the way," said Laurent, who is a battler like his dad, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2007.
"Just knowing that he battles through, it makes me take nothing for granted," Laurent said of John. "He watches my games and keeps himself occupied by watching and he makes me want to play even harder."
As does his mother, Tania, who he describes as the "hardest-working person in my life, providing for the family."
Laurent's parents went through a marital split. The six-foot-three, 200-pound netminder was born in Port Alberni and moved to Surrey at age seven. That's where he began to play hockey.
After the separation, John moved back to Port Alberni while Laurent remained with his mother.
The netminder was eventually selected by the Oil Kings in the second round of the 2008 WHL bantan draft and was subsequently chosen in the sixth round of the National Hockey League draft by the Calgary Flames in 2011. He also played the 2009-10 season with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the B.C Hockey League prior to starting his WHL career.
"It's been a storybook season for them so far," said John. "The one thing he's doing real well is he's battling hard. Not that he didn't before, it's just that he seems so comfortable in the net and when he does that he seems even more aggressive. He's a battler and I'm proud of him."
"I feel the same about him," said Laurent.
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