On Nov. 17, Brady Calla was on his way to take in the Buffalo Bills’ “Monday Night Football” game against the Cleveland Browns when his cell phone rang.
The purpose of the call was to inform the 20-year-old Kelowna, British Columbia, native that he had been reassigned from the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans to his major junior team in the Western Hockey League – the Kamloops Blazers.
“It was just another average day,” said Calla, who was traded from the Blazers to the Chiefs in January. “Then I got the phone call that I was heading back to (the WHL), and at the time I was really upset.”
That’s because the gritty, two-way forward – who was drafted by the NHL’s Florida Panthers in the third round of the 2006 draft and has already signed his NHL entry-level contract – felt like he was playing good hockey and was ready for the new challenge the AHL presented him with.
He’d joined Rochester for six games during the 2007-08 season as a 19-year-old, so he figured as a 20-year-old this year he would be ready for full-time work.
“At first when I got to go up at the end of last year I was really excited to see the lifestyle,” Calla said. “It was quite a bit different. I mean, up there it’s your job. You have to go and perform every day to play, and coming back (to junior) it’s just a lot more of a fun atmosphere.”
So eventually the idea of returning for a final season in the WHL sank in, and Calla liked the thought of playing his overage (20-year-old) season in Kamloops.
“You get to hang out with the guys at the rink and away from the rink,” he said. “At the next level, you can’t do that as much because guys have wives and kids and responsibilities. I’m going to miss junior hockey because of that – just having that fun every single day.”
The shipping back across the country wasn’t the hard part. Calla is used to moving.
His career began in the U.S. Division with the Everett Silvertips. He played three games as a 15-year-old during the 2003-04 season and joined the team full time the following year.
After two full seasons in Everett, he was traded 28 games into the 2006-07 season to the Moose Jaw Warriors. Early the following season, the Warriors dealt Calla to Kamloops, which sent Calla to Spokane in a trade-deadline deal.
“We (Kamloops) played on a Wednesday night against the Portland Winter Hawks, and I ended up scoring the last goal in that game,” Calla said. “It was a real good atmosphere, and it’s funny because the line I was playing on was just starting to have real good chemistry, but I had a feeling (the trade) was going to happen.”
Since joining the Chiefs 13 games ago, Calla has scored six goals and notched six assists playing on the top line with left-winger and leading scorer Drayson Bowman, whom Calla lives with, and center Ondrej Roman.
“It’s been awesome,” Calla said of his start in Spokane. “I was given another opportunity to come to a good team and hopefully have another chance to win. But it’s been a good transition. I’d say of all the places I’ve gone, it’s been one of the smoothest transitions.”
Now he’s settling in and lending his size, strong skating abilities and grit to the Chiefs – who have already clinched their playoff berth and are working to smooth out certain aspects of their team game prior to postseason play.
“I haven’t been on a team that’s had a good playoff run since I was in Everett,” Calla said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.
“We’re all real excited to get going.”
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