The University of Vermont hockey program has turned out a number of players who’ve made it to the National Hockey League. Among them is Tim Thomas, a goaltender who went on to play with three NHL clubs and lifted the Stanley Cup in 2011 as a member of the Boston Bruins. Now there’s another UVM goalie who hopes to follow in Thomas’ footsteps: Brody Hoffman.
The Saskatchewan native has decided to forego his senior year at UVM to sign with the Minnesota Wild. He joined Vermont Edition to talk about his decision to go pro just shy of his degree.
“I had a good end to the season and it’s something that has kind of been in the works for a while,” says Hoffman. “So I put myself in a position academically that moving forward, the plan is to still get my degree. But as a 24-year-old, you want to take that step because you only have a certain window that you’re able to play.”
Hoffman explains that 24 isn’t actually that old to be first breaking into the NHL. “As a goalie, I think generally the learning curve is a little longer … As a player you generally see younger guys break through, but goalies take a little longer. There’s a little more seasoning and stuff like that, so I think it’s a good age for me to step into the pro level,” he explains.
Hoffman says that although all NHL teams have great organizations, he especially likes the Midwestern feel of Minnesota. “They have a great facility there and a great fan base. I’m excited for the opportunity,” he says.
The way the leagues are organized, Hoffman won’t necessarily be playing for Minnesota’s NHL team this year, but hopes to be playing for their American Hockey League team. “You start in main camp in Minnesota, and if you’re lucky enough to make the team then you stick there. Or then they send you down and you start camp again in Iowa and the plan is to make that team. I’d like to play in the American League next year, because ... it would be a really big leap to go straight to the NHL,” explains Hoffman. “Obviously [the AHL] is a big step from college, but I’m hoping to put in the work this summer and make the team in Iowa.”
Hoffman says that moving from college hockey to the AHL means a quicker game, bigger guys and more evolved plays. “I’ll have to work on my foot work and reading plays so I’m anticipating what’s going to happen,” he says. “I think it’s kind of a fine line though, guys are so good at [the college] level that they kind of just break though. It might not be a big jump in some ways, but it will definitely be a faster game.” Hoffman says that as a big guy, if he can keep up with the play and stay square, he’s usually in a “pretty good spot.”
So, when does he think he’ll suit up for Minnesota’s NHL team?
“That’s a tough call,” says Hoffman. “To stay put obviously takes some time. I have a lot of learning to do. I’m excited to start working with the goalie coaches in Minnesota … I don’t see it happening next year or maybe even the year after. It will take some time, but it’s definitely the goal.”
Even though he’s leaving Vermont after three years at UVM, Hoffman says playing for the Catamounts was a good opportunity. “I needed the growth and there is a lot of exposure in the NCAA, especially Hockey East … I was able to improve and get noticed at this level.” Hoffman says Burlington was a great fit, coming from a small town in Saskatchewan, it didn’t seem too overwhelming for him. “It was probably the best three years of my life. I couldn’t have gotten much more out of the experience. I maybe would have liked to win a couple more games and still be playing, but it was definitely a good decision,” he says.
While at UVM, Hoffman says organization was key to balancing the rigor of athletics and academics. “Time management is a big thing. If you have a weekend without games, you definitely have to be working hard because when playoffs roll around, you leave Burlington on Wednesday or Thursday, so you miss two or [more] days of class,” says Hoffman. He adds that it is also important to develop relationships with the professors but that the key is to stay organized.
And, the 24-year-old notes, he’s promised his mom he’ll still get his degree, which will also be helpful after his hockey career ends. “Hopefully, by the end of my playing career, I’ll have my degree through summer courses and online courses,” he says. “I’m majoring in accounting, so maybe [I’ll do] account management in sports or financial stuff.”
Hoffman says his best memory with the Catamounts was when the team beat Boston College this season. “I was kind of going through a tough stretch and got a chance to play in the playoffs and played pretty well,” says the goaltender. “We were able to beat [them], which we hadn’t done before, so that was big not only for me, but for the program.”