Brian Nugent is living the life of a pro hockey player in Las Vegas.

Brian Nugent is living the life of a pro hockey player in Las Vegas.

Tempting fate with pro hockey in Sin City

Former Victoria Grizzlies captain and NCAA grad talks hockey in the desert, playing pro in Sin City

Brian Nugent’s holiday return is happenstance, but it keeps his streak alive.

The 24-year-old is 21 games into his pro hockey career with the Las Vegas Wranglers after wrapping up his NCAA career with the Northern Michigan Wildcats in May.

With the Wildcats he was able to visit during his school holiday breaks, and because of a short break in the ECHL Wranglers’ schedule, he’s here until Boxing Day. Then it’s back to Vegas, where he lives with two teammates, one of them Geoff Irwin, a fellow Victoria product who won the 2006 RBC Cup junior A championship with the Burnaby Express.

“The experience is unbelievable, Vegas is an incredible city and I’m enjoying it so much,” Nugent said. “We live about eight to 10 minutes from the rink. As soon as I’m out of the complex I can see the strip.”

The trick with living in Vegas is picking your spots, he says.

“There’s so much to do. It’s all business at the rink but on off days, or after practice, we take in a lot of shows.”

The temptation of Sin City is often too great for visiting teams. ECHL scheduling limits travel by grouping games into two or three per visit, meaning visiting players are there for days at a time.

“We usually figure in the (two- to three-game) series at least one of the games the other team should be hung over, guys have a tough time with that,” Nugent laughs.

As much fun as it is there is a desire to move up. Nugent’s not sweating the fact his offence is dry with only a goal and two assists so far.

“I’m an energy type player and I think the ECHL definitely suits my style of play more than the NCAA,” Nugent said.

Back in junior he contributed 52 points in 53 games as the Victoria Grizzlies’ captain during the RBC Cup hosting year in 2008-09. But Nugent only scored nine times in four years of Div. 1 play in the NCAA’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference.

He’s hoping his two-way game will be appreciated by the many American Hockey League scouts who constantly comb the ECHL for undiscovered talent beyond goal scoring.

“Obviously there’s still a system to follow in the ECHL defensive and neutral zones. But in the offensive zone the Wranglers coaches tell us to be creative. In college, anywhere on the ice you were a robot and you were doing exactly what you were told to do.”

To be fair Nugent is happy with his time on the Wildcats. He’s chasing a pro career with the comfort of having his bachelor’s degree in business and marketing.

He is following a very similar to another pro player from Victoria, Adam Cracknell of the St. Louis Blues. Cracknell and Nugent are alumni of the junior B Saanich Braves. Cracknell played for the Wranglers in 2007-08 and one of his teammates was Make Madill, the Wranglers current head coach and general manager.

“Cracknell let (Madill) know about me and that’s how it all got started. Basically I have Cracknell to thank,” Nugent said.

One of the reasons Nugent was keen on the Wranglers is because it is without an AHL affiliation.

“Any AHL team can pick up players from the Wranglers, it doesn’t limit me to one AHL team,” he said.

Nugent saw what happened to everyday Salmon Kings players when its parent affiliates, the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose (AHL), assigned players to Victoria.

“No one can get sent here from the AHL and take your job. When your’e on an affiliate team, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing better than the player assigned to your team. They’re going to get your ice time because they’re signed to an AHL or NHL team,” he said.

In the meantime, it’s a pretty good life in Las Vegas.

sports@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rebecca Lang of Any Thyme Gardening installed a seed exchange library in front of her home on Beechwood Avenue. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Victoria gardeners scramble to create local seed exchanges

Fairfield resident’s seed exchange an instant hit

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read