Wings add Brewer as 'coach concierge'
One of the Red Wings' new assistant coaches found his niche in hockey by chance seven years ago when as a business student at the University of New Brunswick, he made a motivational video to celebrate the school's 2007 CIS University Cup championship.
Andrew Brewer was hired by Mike Babcock in late July. He's 28 years old.
"So, I've kind of given up on guessing what I'm going to be doing in five or 10 years," Brewer said during a recent phone interview.
Brewer never played at a high level. He was, as he said, usually the last guy cut from the team. His father, Perley, was a goalie coach in the American Hockey League, but Brewer said he would have had to become a fighter if he wanted to continue playing beyond the age of 16.
"I had no desire to do that, so I kind of gave it up," Brewer said.
But Brewer, who said he has always admired coaches more than players because of his father, made a video for a school project that has led him down a career path that was once just a pipe dream and into a relationship with Babcock that has to be one of the most unique in the NHL.
Brewer was hired as an assistant coach even though his job responsibilities are more as a video coach/manager of the coaching staff. He calls himself a "coach concierge," and said it's his job to make sure Babcock and fellow assistants Tony Granato, Jim Hiller and goalie coach Jim Bedard have everything they need to be better coaches.
Babcock referred to Brewer as the Red Wings' "director of coaching."
"He ran our Olympic staff," Babcock said. "He's got a real good mind. I think he's going to be excellent for us. He's already been all over me about a few things and that's great. You want people to come in and make you better."
Brewer and Babcock met through Hockey Canada in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Babcock was Canada's head coach, Brewer was Canada's manager and video coach, a position he took in 2011 after three years working as an assistant coach at the University of New Brunswick.
Brewer's preparation prior to the Olympics helped Babcock and assistants Claude Julien, Ken Hitchcock, Lindy Ruff and Ralph Krueger guide Canada to a second straight gold-medal performance.
"We pre-scouted every other country. We pre-scouted every lineup. We knew who the fourth line right-winger was for everybody," Brewer said. "While all the coaches were working with their NHL teams on a full-time basis, it was my full-time job to prepare for the Olympics. I had a guy working with me and we worked on preparing as much information as possible so when our coaches arrived in Sochi they would have every piece of information, whatever they needed to do the best job coaching. We may have only used five percent of it, but I didn't want to be in Sochi and have coach ask for some information and not have it. So we went overboard. It's better to have too much and not use it than scramble at the last minute."
As Babcock mentioned, Brewer has already been in his ear about doing more for the Red Wings, including analytics.
Babcock said earlier this summer the Red Wings would eventually have to hire someone to be responsible for analytics. Though Brewer isn't an analytics guru, per se, he said he does dabble in the modern statistics and will be able to provide the coaching staff with that type of information.
"At the end of the day video is the same as analytics, it's information you provide to coaches to help them make better decisions with players to help the players improve," Brewer said. "I think that's part of my job. My job isn't just strictly doing video, it's bringing any information I can to make the coaching staff better, which in turn makes the team better. Whether that's information to our players, analytical evaluation of our team, or if it's evaluation of other teams, shootouts, things like that. It's whatever I need to do to help improve our coaching staff."
Brewer first started improving the staff at UNB in 2009. By sheer chance Brewer's now wife, Patricia, was a student working in gameday operations at the school in 2007 and was able to show her boss the video Brewer made to celebrate UNB's University Cup championship.
Patricia's boss liked Brewer's creation so much he decided to play it at the team's ring ceremony, where UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall saw it and first gained an appreciation for Brewer's talent.
"After that he gave me a call and asked if I would do a video for him," Brewer said. "So I did that video. Then he wanted to get into video analysis and asked if I would do that. So I became a video coach. Halfway through the season it became more and I started going on the ice for practice and started doing more, so I became an assistant coach. I just kept on saying yes to whatever he asked me to do."
Brewer worked under MacDougall for three seasons, helping UNB win two more national championships (2009 and 2011). He saw a job opening to be a video coach for Hockey Canada in 2011, applied and was selected for the job out of approximately 250 applicants.
Brewer contributed to the coaching staffs at three IIHF World Junior Championship tournaments, three World Championship tournaments and other international events, but his main priority was helping Babcock and Co. bring home another Olympic gold medal.
Now he gets to ply his trade in the NHL, seven years after making the video that changed his life.
"At the Olympics I was the sixth guy on the coaching staff, but I was still part of the coaching staff," Brewer said. "Mike, especially, treated me as part of it. He wanted it to be recognition that it's not just doing the video side of it. I think that's kind of the idea on my title with Detroit, but I understand my place. I'm the low man on the totem pole and more than happy. If it means getting the laundry every day, I'll do whatever I can to stay in the league."