Photo by Rena Laverty
Family, as it often does, has long shaped Brady Berard’s future plans. His dad, David, was on the coaching staff at Providence College when Brady was born. His older brother, Brett, a former National Team Development Program forward, was one of the first people to take Brady out on the ice. Of course, the younger Berard brother wanted to follow in the other’s footsteps.
"I started getting into hockey when I was about five years old," Brady recalled. "My dad and my brother took me to a rink just to glide around and see how I liked it. My brother played at such a young age and he loved it, so I tried it out and obviously I loved it. I'm just really glad I kept going with it. I look up to him [Brett] a lot, I just wanted to be like him."
Brett provided quite the path for the duo to follow. From lacing up the skates for the South Shore Kings and Bishop Hendricken High School, Brady was following the same pattern, just two years after. It was when Brett got to Michigan for his U17 season at the NTDP that Brady veered off to his own path.
In the season prior to coming to USA Hockey Arena, Brady found his home at the acclaimed Mount St. Charles Academy in his home state of Rhode Island. It was during his time as a Mountie that Brady was fully confident in what he wanted to do next.
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"I always wanted to go to the NTDP since Brett made the team, but I think when it really hit me that I wanted to take the next step was the start of my U15 year at Mount," said Berard. "I loved my coaches there and they pushed me to be the best every day and I can't thank them enough. The beginning of that year I really wanted to make the next step [to the NTDP]."
One of the biggest differences between the brothers was how they entered the NTDP. The program traditionally holds its Evaluation Camp every March to select the incoming crop of Under-17 players. It’s in that situation where an undersized skater like Brett can really showcase his skillset to the NTDP group that picks the incoming crop.
Brady was afforded no such opportunity to stand out among his peers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the camp for the 2004-born players was canceled and the team was chosen based off their performance until the shutdown.
"It was stressful, one of the most stressful times of my life because I couldn't prove myself at the camp," Berard said. "I didn't know what direction they were going. When I got the offer, there was no hesitation at all to accept. This has been a dream since my brother came here and I'm really glad this year worked out the way it did and to have this opportunity.
And if the team selection process was a bit wonky, the actual hockey season was anyone’s guess. Not knowing how many, or even if any, games would be played, or against which competition, Berard’s goals were more on the large-scale, not focused on stats on the ice. As he got closer to the season and realized the USHL would be playing a full schedule against players two and three years older, the goals became more clear.
"I just wanted to do the best I can. I knew playing older kids was going to be tough so I just tried to stay confident in myself. I just wanted to go in there and not stress about too much, have fun and play my game."
Part of that gameplan came from leaning on his older brother once again.
"He [Brett] just said don't get down on yourself. It's going to be a process, it's going to be hard. And it was definitely hard. He just said to have fun with it."
On the ice, Brady could regain his comfort level. While there weren’t any international competitions for the U17 group this season, they played a bevy of competition across the USHL, NAHL and Division III colleges, where Berard scored in a 9-2 win over Elmira College. Through teamwide COVID scares and a two-week shutdown period, the 6-foot tall, 177-pound forward was really coming into his own after the new year and showcased that with his first three-point performance in a win over Youngstown in January.
But in cadence with the season, nothing could stay on a regular schedule for too long. In February, Berard suffered an upper-body injury that would take him off the ice for the rest of the season. He finished the year with 15 points in 32 games, but he vowed to himself to not let his injury get him down.
"I just tried to be a leader. You can be a leader on the ice and off the ice and I just tried to stay close with the guys. For me, it was trying to be a leader off the ice and in the weight room. It's not what I wanted the season to end like, but I think being there for everyone and trying to be a good role model to everyone else and being the best version of myself was how I could help."
The Providence college commit got a head start on his teammates in the weight room during his recovery period. But after the season, the rest of the squad got to join in for the grueling May training period. Berard’s goals for the month were not only to get bigger and stronger in the weight room, but improve his mentality as well.
"I think the thing for me is to try and have more confidence in myself. I think I lacked confidence a little bit this year. I need to get stronger so that when I'm playing kids who are older and bigger, I won't be knocked around."
While big plans are in store for his U18 season, where he will hopefully suit up for Team USA at the Under-18 Men’s World Championship, an opportunity his brother did not get with the COVID cancellation, he will be certain to regain walking in the footsteps of Brett after the season.
Brett is a forward for the Providence College Friars and Brady is committed to play with him after his time at the NTDP. He couldn’t be more excited to finally be able to play with Brett and find his role on the Providence roster. To make it even better, David Berard will be able to watch his sons play as he recently took the role as associate athletic director for men’s and women’s hockey at the school.
"The biggest thing is me and my brother have never played on the same team before, that's a dream come true to play together. They have a great coaching staff; Coach Leaman is a great coach and Coach Rolston and Coach Biel are all such great people. They make me feel welcome there. My brother tells me how much fun it is and how great the hockey is and it's definitely a dream to go there."
It's not just the hockey, either. For the Berard’s, Providence is where the heart is.
"Providence is home for our family. My dad went there, my mom went there, my brother is there and I'm committed there. That's home and that's the biggest thing for us."