Rockets set stage for two Foote brothers

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EDMONTON OILERS V COLORADO AVALANCHE DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Matt Duchene #9 and Adam Foote #52 of the Colorado Avalanche stand with Foote's sons Callan and Nolan prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center on April 10, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

August 31, 2015

Courtesy of Kelowna Daily Courier

by Larry Fisher

 

Adam Foote’s boys are going to be a big part of the Kelowna Rockets’ future (pictured above with Adam in 2011).

That much is almost for certain, with Cal expected to crack this season’s roster out of training camp and the younger Nolan likely to join the fold next fall.

Cal is a chip off the old block, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenceman who won’t turn 17 years old until December. He’s gritty, just like his father was as an NHL blue-liner, but offers more offensive upside than the old man.

Nolan is the odd-ball in the family, a skilled forward albeit with similar size — already 6-2 and only turning 15 at the end of November. He also shoots left-handed, while Cal and Adam are both righties.

Nolan’s too young to stick with the Rockets this season and has already returned home to Denver, Colorado, where he’ll play for the Under-16 Thunderbirds, coached by Adam.

Despite their differences, the Foote brothers were both second-round picks in the WHL bantam draft — Cal going 43rd overall in 2013 and Nolan at the exact same spot this spring — and both are considered legitimate NHL prospects.

Because of their late birthdays, Cal isn’t draft eligible until 2017 and Nolan not until 2019, so they will have plenty of time to develop here in Kelowna.

“We were very fortunate this happened,” said Lorne Frey, the Rockets’ director of player personnel. “When we drafted Callan, we had no idea really what was going to take place. Certainly both kids have been extremely sought after by teams in the U.S. and U.S. colleges.

“Adam came here last year to camp and liked our program, he’s followed our program quite extensively, and I think the amount of players we have in the NHL, especially on the defensive side, certainly was a contributing factor.”

Connections helped in the recruiting process as well. Adam Foote had won a Stanley Cup with Scott Parker in 2001 and later played with another Rockets alum in Scott Hannan, both with the Colorado Avalanche. Hannan was also a teammate of Foote’s on Canada’s gold-medal-winning team at the 2004 World Cup. Prior to retiring in 2011, Foote had gotten to know the likes of Shea Weber and Duncan Keith as opponents with a mutual respect.

“I know even Joe Sakic, who I know very well from coaching him in junior (with the Swift Current Broncos), was really good to recommend us here,” Frey said. “All of that sort of played into it, but we feel very fortunate to have drafted both of them and we’re excited to have them here.”

That feeling is also mutual.

“It’s good to have connections for sure, but it was our decision in the end,” Cal said upon arriving in the Okanagan for his second training camp. “You can’t really go wrong here, it’s a great organization with great people and the city is unreal. It was kind of hard to go so far away from home, but I feel like it was the right decision.”

That Kelowna has become such a defence factory for the NHL in recent years was not lost on Cal. He follows the Avalanche and knew exactly where Tyson Barrie came from.

“If you look at all the defencemen that they’ve produced, it’s been quite amazing,” Cal said. “If you look at the list, that kind of caught my eye. That’s one of the big reasons.”

The Footes got introduced to the Rockets’ winning culture by flying in shortly after the bantam draft in May to watch Kelowna face off against Brandon in the WHL final.

“That was a great experience, they swept, and it was really good hockey,” said Nolan, who looked worthy of his draft status during last week’s rookie camp.

Nolan was re-assigned after just a couple days of main camp, but not before he got to battle his brother in a scrimmage over the weekend. Two years apart, those opportunities have been few and far between having never played on the same hockey team before.

With Adam in attendance, it was asked whether their dad would tell Cal to take it easy on Nolan or to go ahead and get physical with him. The question was directed at Cal, but Nolan beat him to the punch.

“He’ll tell him to give it,” Nolan quipped with a smirk.

“Yeah, I’ll give it to him if I get a chance,” Cal chirped. “But he’s actually got some really good moves and I’m excited to play against him (in camp), and hopefully get that chance to play with him here, maybe even next year. It’ll be really cool.”

You can sense a bit of a sibling rivalry. Just listening to the boys talk, you can also tell they are fiercely competitive like their father.

“Even at home, sometimes we get into it,” Nolan admitted. “But I’ve always looked up to (Cal). He’s a great player . . . and it’s good for me to go up against him because he’s two years older and it makes me a better player.

“I really want to play in the NHL, that’s 100 per cent in my heart,” added Nolan, who idolizes Pavel Datsyuk yet despises the Detroit Red Wings, a nemesis of the Avs dating back to Adam’s heyday.

Cal just wants to play for the Rockets for the time being.

“Right now, that’s my focus, just being a guy that they pick to be on the team,” Cal said.

Frey all but guaranteed that in his high praise.

“We think he likely could’ve made our team last year had they decided to stay, so he’s a very impressive prospect for us,” Frey said of Cal. “He’s similar (to Adam), he’s very good defensively, you can tell he’s been well taught, but he has some very good offensive skills as well.

“He’s probably ahead of Adam on the offensive side of things.”

When you think of Adam Foote’s career, toughness is a trait that immediately comes to mind. He played an honest, workmanlike game but enjoyed getting his nose dirty too.

Can the same feistiness be expected of Cal as a WHL rookie?

“At times, but we’ll see how it goes,” Cal said with a chuckle. “I like to see myself as a two-way guy. I like being up in the play, but I also want to make sure we don’t get scored on.”

The Foote brothers would love to follow in their father’s footsteps and are grateful for his help in getting them to where they are now.

“He’s been head coach for my team for the last two years, and an assistant with Cal’s teams, but even when he played in the NHL, he was still always trying to be there for us,” Nolan said. “He pushes us because he’s obviously been there, 20 years in the league. He knows what it takes and that’s really good for Cal and I, just because of the stuff he knows and what he’s been through.”

“We were very fortunate to be around the Avalanche,” added Cal. “It was really cool to see how they function and how a player goes to work day-to-day, to see what their routine is. We’re really lucky to witness that and to be able to use it to our advantage.”