Over the course of hockey history, it has not been too unusual to see players with the same name. With the commonality of both first and last names, the chances of two similarly-named individuals is always quite substantial. In the OHL this season, there are two players in the league named Connor Brown and what these two young men managed to accomplish on the afternoon of September 29, 2012, was quite remarkable, perhaps not just a first in major junior hockey but in all of the sport altogether.
The game between the visiting Erie Otters and the hosting Ottawa 67’s that Saturday afternoon was expected to be an interesting one. The 3981 fans in attendance at Scotiabank Place were eager to see their hometown team get their first win of the young season, one that has seen the team go 0-3 to start the year. It must have been quite intriguing for all fans to look at the rosters for each team, only to find that each team had a player named Connor Brown.
Each Connor Brown has had an incredible path to the OHL, as well.
Born on January 14, 1994, in Etobicoke, Ontario, Connor Brown of the Erie Otters was a thirteenth-round pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection out of the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midgets, being selected an incredible 251st overall. His older brother Jeff (who also shares his name with a former NHL player) spent three years in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals and the Windsor Spitfires. A smaller player especially in his OHL draft year at only 5’10”, the right winger spent a year of tier II junior A hockey with the St. Michael’s Buzzers before joining the Otters full-time during the 2011-12 season. Brown scored 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) in a complete 68-game schedule, warranting a selection to the OHL First All-Rookie Team and even getting himself picked in the sixth round (156th overall) by the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. This season, Erie head coach Robbie Ftorek saw so much leadership in the red-haired winger that he named him captain of the Otters for the 2012-13 campaign, leading the charge for a young team including the likes of Connor McDavid, Stephen Harper and Hayden Hodgson, as well as with veteran presence such as Troy Donnay, Dane Fox, Anthony Cortellessa and Connor Crisp.
Born on July 22, 1995, in Georgetown, Ontario, Connor Brown of the Ottawa 67’s was a ninth-round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection out of the Halton Hurricanes Minor Midgets, going 179th overall. Like his namesake, the left winger could also be considered a smaller player at 5’11” and 175 pounds. When he did not make the Ottawa 67’s in his first year of eligibility, Brown returned to play another year of minor midget hockey instead of going a traditional tier II junior A route. This season, the 67’s are going through a substantial rebuild, especially with the graduations of players such as Tyler Toffoli, Shane Prince, Marc Zanetti and Petr Mrázek. In his second year of eligibility, he made the team out of training camp, joining a young corps that includes fellow rookies Nevin Guy, Jonathan Duchesne, Andrew Abou-Assaly and Dante Salituro, as well as returnees Cody Ceci, Sean Monahan and Brett Gustavsen.
Fast forward to the game on this past Saturday afternoon. As mentioned, the Ottawa 67’s were still looking for their first win of the 2012-13 season. The Erie Otters had gotten their first win of the year on Thursday, 5-1 against the Peterborough Petes, and they had gotten a point in a 6-5 loss against the Kingston Frontenacs the night before. Little did both teams know that it was going to be the Connor Brown show… somewhat, anyway.
The first half of the first period belonged, however, to Tyler Graovac. The oft-injured Minnesota Wild draft pick scored only 28 seconds into the game (perhaps that number was a sign of things to come) to give the home side an early 1-0 lead. He scored again only 3:12 later and capped off the natural hat trick on a shorthanded breakaway at 8:20 of the opening frame. The history was about to start being made after that since Connor Brown of the Erie Otters scored his third goal of the campaign at 14:28 on a powerplay off a great feed from Connor McDavid. It helped give him somewhat a boost of confidence as he was already -3 in the frame, being on the ice for each of Graovac’s goals.
In the second period, the 67’s made it clear that they were going to get their first win of the year when they added two goals 29 seconds apart. Sean Monahan scored at 5:14 and Remy Giftopoulos scored at 5:43 to give the 67’s a 5-1 advantage. It seemed as though Ottawa was poised to win their first game of the campaign. They only asserted it in the third period. At 2:51 of the final twenty, Brett Gustavsen got his first goal of the year and, at 11:36, he set up Giftopoulos’ second goal of the game on the powerplay to cap off a three-point afternoon. It was 3:26 after that when history was made. At 15:02, off a rebound from Ryan Van Stralen, the Ottawa 67’s rookie Connor Brown tallied his first OHL career goal, stuffing the puck behind Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Oscar Dansk. The 67’s won by that 8-1 score, giving rookie goaltender Jacob Blair his first OHL career victory.
The fact that each Connor Brown was able to score was remarkable. That being said, however, there were some other incredible coincidences. For starters, the Erie Otters captain was on the ice when the Ottawa 67’s rookie scored. The secondary assist on the 1995-born forward’s goal was given to Sean Monahan, himself a good friend of the other Connor Brown. Most remarkable of all, both players wore the same jersey number: 28.
According to Bobby Murray, who runs the OHL Alumni page on Facebook, this could very well be the first time in league history when two players with the same name have scored in the same contest. In my estimation, the fact that these two teams only see each other twice a year makes it all the more incredible and poignant. As impressive as this feat is, it could actually happen again this season. On December 7, 2012, the Ottawa 67’s make their only trip of the campaign to Louis J. Tullio Arena down in Pennsylvania. We will have to wait and see if each Connor Brown will score again.
Wouldn’t that be remarkable?