Stay hungry, stay humble
Biddeford High graduate makes it to the big leagues after years of hard work and determination.
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“Anton Stralman tries to keep this play alive, but look at the support from Brian Dumoulin, who wins the footrace on Brian Boyle. Second chance opportunity, and the Penguins lead one to nothing.”
At 6’4” and 207 lbs, 24-year-old defenseman and Biddeford-native Brian Dumoulin holds the blue line for the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins, a blue line he’s held since he was just a kid. With many championship trophies on his shelf already, the 2009 Biddeford High School graduate currently hangs tough in the playoffs to earn the biggest prize yet: the Stanley Cup.
From playing roller hockey with his friends, to skating with some of the best names in professional hockey, Dumoulin’s success story started a little over 20 years ago.
“I started playing hockey when I was three,” said Dumoulin. “My parents said I had a lot of energy as a kid, and that [hockey] was the only organized sport I could play in at that age.”
Searching everywhere for a place to make their two boys tired, his parents, Pete and Deb Dumoulin, found the learn-to-skate program at the Biddeford Ice Arena (BIA).
“I checked into all the sports,” said his mom, Deb. “Pete wanted them to play football, but they couldn’t at that age. They couldn’t play tee-ball quite yet, so the one thing they could do was play hockey, so I signed them up.”
According to his dad, Dumoulin was a natural right away.
“He just seemed to get it,” said his dad, Pete. “We attributed it to him playing with his older brother. He was a natural little athlete, and he seemed to grasp the game and like it.”
Along with his older brother, his parents said they lived in a “great neighborhood of boys” that were very athletic and played outside whenever they could, which helped Dumoulin grow as an athlete.
“They [the boys in the neighborhood] were all a year or two older than Brian,” said his dad. “So it was pushing Brian to compete at a higher level from the first time he started playing.”
From ages three to five, Dumoulin played at BIA with the “Atoms,” the youngest learn-to-skate program. Then, after being forced to take a year off at age six due to the birth of his little sister, and after another year of Atoms at age seven, Dumoulin started to branch out.
“He played some summer hockey, and they basically convinced us to go to Maine Renegades at that time, and Brian had a great time with them” said his dad. “From that point on, he just started doing those select travel teams outside of BIA.”
Dumoulin played with the Maine Renegades, a youth ice hockey Tier I program, up until middle school.
“He did the Renegades for a few years, then he came back to Biddeford just to play more with his friends,” said his dad. “But he didn’t get on the team they were on, so he ended up going to the Spartans in New Hampshire, and then stayed there for the rest of his youth hockey career.”
When high school hit, Dumoulin was still playing a full season schedule with the Spartans, while also playing on the varsity team for Biddeford High School.
“I think, that year, I recall 155 ice slots from September to April that he was supposed to be on the ice,” said his dad. “He didn’t make them all, but he made a lot of them. It was a matter of high school practices being from 2-3:30 or 4 in the afternoon, and then his Spartan practices weren’t until 8 or 9 in Rochester, New Hampshire. So it worked.”
The Maine Principal’s Association now has rules in place that limit high schooler’s involvement with other organizations if they’re playing for their high school team as well. So according to his parents, Dumoulin was lucky to get exposure with the Spartans, while having fun with the Tigers at the same time.
“He really enjoyed playing with his friends,” said his mom. “You know, because there weren’t many people from Biddeford on the Spartans or the other teams that he played on.”
Dumoulin helped Biddeford win back-to-back state championships, one in 2007 and one in 2008 to cap off an undefeated season. Although he decided to leave after his junior year, Dumoulin treasures the time he had with the Tigers.
“Playing high school hockey for Biddeford was a blast,” said Dumoulin. “It was so much fun representing my high school for three years and being able to play with my friends.”
For developmental reasons, and for a better chance of exposure, Dumoulin decided to play for the Junior Monarchs, a Tier III Junior A team, out of Hooksett, New Hampshire, where he won the national championship his senior year. According to Dumoulin’s dad, playing junior hockey instead of high school hockey is the path that 99.9% of kids take to get to the Division I college level.
“If he wanted to go Division I, he had to go play against the guys that were going to go Division I,” said his dad. “The earlier you do that, the better opportunity you have to showcase your skills.”
Despite the amount of time and gas his family spent traveling to and from games and practices throughout Dumoulin’s career, his parents didn’t think anything of it. They thought of themselves as any other hockey parents.
“I never looked at it as really sacrifices, it was just what you wanted to do as a parent,” said his dad. “You want to see your kid play, and compete, and do well, and enjoy, and have fun. As long as that’s all happening, it really didn’t seem like we were giving up anything.”
By the end of his junior year, Dumoulin started getting calls from agents and advisors interested in him. They helped him set up visits with various schools, such as Providence College, Northeastern University, Harvard University, University of New Hampshire, Boston College, and the University of Maine.
“They were just unofficial visits so the coaches could tell Brian they knew who he was, and that they were anxious to continue to watch him play,” said his dad. “They were anxious to see how he stacked up with those kind of players in junior league the next year.”
Although some schools wanted to watch him play more, by the fall of his senior year, other schools were already offering him scholarships to play for them.
“UNH [University of New Hampshire] wanted him to make a decision, so that kind of pushed the time table up,” said Pete Dumoulin. “So Brian actually called BC [Boston College], and they invited him down for another visit, more of an official visit, where they offered him a full scholarship.”
Dumoulin was drafted and interviewed by many NHL teams before he even went to college, but he and his parents knew a higher education was the better option. However, just like high school, his career at Boston College was cut short, but not until after winning two national championships, making first team all-american his sophomore and junior year, being Hockey East Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row, making all-tournament team both times BC won the Frozen Four, and being Boston College MVP his junior year.
“He was very well decorated, and they really appreciated what he did [for the team],” said his dad. “He had a great career at BC.”
The Carolina Hurricanes approached him after his sophomore year, but rather than make the leap to the pros right then, Dumoulin’s dad said he was conservative enough to stay another year at Boston College. Plus, Dumoulin’s mom mentioned he still wanted to earn his degree regardless.
“They basically told him that it’s impossible to get his degree if he left after sophomore year,” said his mom. “You only have seven years to complete your degree, and they said it’s hard to do after your junior year, but it’s doable.”
So, he waited, and when Boston College won the national championship in Tampa, Florida his junior year, Dumoulin signed to the Carolina Hurricanes the next day in April of 2012. His younger sister, Katherine, was shocked when she heard the news.
“Growing up watching the high school team, everyone seemed like they were good enough to play in the NHL,” said his sister. “My brother didn’t seem like anything special.”
But according to the NHL, he was. Unfortunately, due to playoffs, Dumoulin didn’t get any playing time with the Hurricanes, and was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the draft that June. Then, three months later came the NHL lockout. Dumoulin had no choice but to play for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League (AHL) team.
“The strike happened and there was no place for Brian to go other than Wilkes-Barre,” said his dad. “But at least he could go to Wilkes-Barre. He was at least able to work because the AHL didn’t go on strike.”
According to Dumoulin, his path to the NHL took almost three full years of playing in the AHL.
“Those years were tough because I would see guys getting called up to the NHL on other teams that I thought I was better than,” said Dumoulin. “I couldn’t control that though, and once I just focused on becoming better every day, that helped me in the long run.”
His chance to play with the pros came from years of hard work and dedication.
“I tried to push myself everyday so when I did earn my way, or had to go up to the NHL, that I would be ready and prove I could stay there,” said Dumoulin. “A lot of times players get opportunities, and they aren’t ready, and then never get that chance again.”
He played his first NHL game on December 14, 2013. Although his parents believe his motivation to succeed is what has driven him to success, they can’t help but think pure luck has played a small part in his journey.
“He’s a good kid. He’s kept his nose clean, he really loves hockey a lot, and he’s good at it,” said his dad. “You know, I guess luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Luck met opportunity at all the right times for Dumoulin, and because of his unwavering commitment to the sport, he was able to make it all the way. According to his sister, he’s “made her realize how much hard work pays off.”
“When I was little, I would watch him shoot pucks outside every single day after school,” said his sister. “Rather than spending the weekend hanging out with his friends, he would be in Massachusetts, New York, or Connecticut playing hockey.”
While playing in those out-of-state tournaments, there were coaches and recruiters evaluating Dumoulin as a person, as well as a player, and Dumoulin’s dad believes his attitude and personality helped him thrive.
“I mean if you put 20 goals in, they’re going to love you,” said his dad. “That’s the way it is. But if you’re just the regular player, a good player that plays really well, and you’re a good kid, that can go a long way too. I think that helped Brian a lot.”
According to Dumoulin, hockey has its ups and downs, and his biggest challenge is never getting too high during the success, and never getting too low during the rough times. His advice to young hockey players is to “have fun, always smile, and stay level-headed.”
So far, his family thinks he’s handled his success very well. According to this parents, he’s not spending his money foolishly; he’s not spontaneous with important decisions, and he never forgets birthdays. His sister even claims he’s become more humble.
“Ever since the sparking of his hockey career, Brian has known how lucky he’s been to get the opportunities he has,” said his sister. “Brian has learned not to take anything for granted, which is one thing that I think contributed greatly to his success. Throughout the journey, he’s stayed true to himself.”
While staying true to himself, Dumoulin competes with and against the best players in the NHL as he, and his team, vies for the Stanley Cup in the Eastern Conference Finals. He says his biggest goal is to win the Cup and stay in the league for as long as he’s able to. Just like many others, his love for the game will never die.
“I love hockey because I know I can get better at it. I know if I give my best effort everyday and every game, I will get better, which makes me enjoy it even more,” said Dumoulin. “I love being around the locker room and my teammates. Hockey has given me the opportunity to travel the world and meet some of my best friends. It always puts a smile on my face, and I try to never have a bad day because I play a kids game for a living.”
As a soon-to-be college graduate, with only two credits left, and an impact player in the Penguin’s lineup, Dumoulin continues to make his family, his former coaches, and his hometown proud. His success story started twenty years ago, and there’s no signs of the end.
“Kunitz able to pass it through, taking it– Oh no, it’s Rust! He’s able to fight his way by. Save by Vasilevskiy… AND SCORE! Dumoulin with 7/10ths of a second to go! His first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal!”