Sunday marked a different pre-game routine for forward Calder Brooks.

For the last few months as he recovered from shoulder surgery, he would visit to the media lounge, grab a coffee and head to the press box to watch his fellow Calgary Hitmen.

That changed Sunday against the Brandon Wheat Kings, where he waited patiently, albeit with a few butterflies, to hear his name called to the starting lineup.

“I was nervous the first few shifts, but after that, it was back to playing hockey,” he said about his 2013 season debut.

A shoulder injury ended his 2012 rookie season in the middle of March after 53 games, and a summer of rehabilitation failed to reach the anticipated results. In September, the 18-year-old went under the knife and took his spot on the injured reserve.

He’d been skating with the squad for a few weeks, and waiting for the final okay to come back.

Head coach Mike Williamson named Brooks to the starting lineup, a first for the Emerald Park, Sask. native.

“There is nothing like starting the game off and setting the tempo for how the team will play,” Brooks said. “I was happy to do that and contribute anyway that we can.”

He was held off the scoresheet, but Williamson was pleased with his debut.

“I was really happy (with him),” Williamson opined. “He provided us with a tonne of energy. He was great on the kill, he hounded pucks, tenacious on the forecheck, got a few chances in front of the net.

“We missed Calder, we saw that towards the end of last season how far his game had came and knew he was a very versatile player who can play in a lot of situations. We saw it tonight.”

Brooks will likely be slotted down the middle behind Cody Sylvester and Victor Rask. Sunday night, he centred a line with Chase Lang and Pavlo Padakin.

“I’m going to use him in the middle to add some depth to that position,” Williamson said. “We saw last year what can happen when a couple of guys went down. He’s a smart, hard working hockey player so he should compliment with the team well.

“His role will carve itself out as we go.”

Brooks said his strength is back to 100 per cent, but the mobility may not return.

“I’ll be skating every day as far as I’m concerned and hopefully playing every game if I stay healthy,” said Brooks, who managed 24 points in his rookie year.

Brooks and the rest of the Hitmen now head off on a 9-game 5,492 kilometer roadtrip through the Eastern Conference, and then the United States. The next home game will be on Feb. 16th against the Victoria Royals. 

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