By Leif Skodnick
Special to ECHL.com
Brian Collins got an education in the game of ice hockey during his four years at Boston University, studying under legendary coach Jack Parker. Now he is applying his education at both ends of the ice for the Pee Dee Pride.
“The main thing I learned was pretty simple,” says Collins, who played in 159 games for the Terriers. “Coach Parker teaches his players how to play hockey. When I left Boston University I felt like I had a much better understanding of how to play the game and how to compete night in and night out.”
Now in his second season of professional hockey, the 6-0 and 195-pound Collins has played both offensive and defensive roles in his career, a versatility he developed in college.
“Last year in Pensacola, I was a third-line defensive center, and I played against the other team’s top line every night,” said Collins, who scored 42 points (18g-24a) in 72 games with the Ice Pilots in 2003-04. “Still, I tried to contribute offensively when I could.”
The concept of playing a defensive role while making the most of offensive opportunities mirrored the role Collins played in college.
“As I got older, I became more of a defensive forward who could still contribute offensively,” Collins says. “Because of what I learned at B.U., I felt comfortable in either an offensive or defensive role.”
This versatility caught the eye of Pee Dee head coach Perry Florio. When working out what his “future considerations” would be to complete a previous trade with Pensacola, Florio named his price. It was Brian Collins.
“What first caught my eye about Brian was what he was able to accomplish in his four years at Boston University,” Florio said. “He was a big scorer all four years and had a great rookie season with Pensacola.”
Florio, a veteran of 12 seasons in the ECHL, six as a player and six as a coach, has high expectations for Collins.
“I expect Brian to be our go-to guy up front,” Florio says. “We don’t have one bona-fide superstar, but we do have a solid cast of forwards who can put up some good offensive numbers. I believe Brian can and will be at the top of the pack.”
So far, Collins has been outstanding up front for Pee Dee, scoring 13 points (7g-6a) in his first 11 games.
“I got off to a pretty good start and due to that, I started to get my confidence,” said the Shrewsbury, Massachusetts native. “Right now, I am playing with a lot of confidence and I believe that is a huge key in being successful out there on the ice.”
Off the ice, Florio enjoys Collins’ personality, and enjoys his contribution to the atmosphere of the team.
“What I like most about Brian is his personality,” said Florio, a lifelong New York Yankees fan. “Growing up outside of Boston and being an avid Red Sox fan all his life, he has been all over me since the World Series ended. I’ve loved the Yankees all my life so you can imagine what I’m going through. His jaws are constantly flapping in the dressing room and he is not shy, he has a passion for life and a passion for hockey.”
Collins, however, claims modesty.
“I don’t really talk often, if at all, during games. I try to be consistently talking during practice, trying to have a have good time out there.”
Florio sees a lot of potential in his young forward.
“Brian has all the natural offensive skill to play in the American Hockey League,” Florio stated. “He must continue to work on his defensive play. Brian has been a pleasure to coach so far.”
Like most developing young players, Collins has goals that he has set for himself. However, the modesty of his goals is a reflection of his work ethic.
“The only goals I have really set for myself is that I try to play the best I can every night,” said the 24 year-old. “I try to play hard and contribute to the team in a positive way each night. I’ve had some early success scoring and it’s my goal to have that continue through the season.”