Newell and Eleanor Brown watched grandson Matt Duchene's home debut for the Ottawa Senators from the comfort of their farmhouse near Cornwall, Ont., Thursday night.
Watching the game on TV wasn't quite the same as being there at the Canadian Tire Centre, but the Browns are thrilled just knowing the rink is now just a car ride away.
'He's a good hockey player, but he's a wonderful person.' - Eleanor Brown, Matt Duchene's grandmother
"We're so excited about Matthew. We can't believe that he's within an hour and 15 minutes or so from where we're sitting right now. He loves grandma's cooking," said Newell from the rural property that's been in the family since the Browns arrived from Scotland in 1840. "He loves coming to the farm."
The Senators snatched the talented 26-year-old centre from the Colorado Avalanche in a blockbuster, three-team deal earlier this month.
"It wasn't hard to tell from the time he was five years old growing up that he was going to be a good hockey player," Newell recalled.
"Something else about Matthew," Eleanor chimed in. "He's a good hockey player, but he's a wonderful person. He's a great grandson and he's a very kind, caring young man. He cares a lot about children and people who are having hardships. He's just a well-rounded, intelligent young man. And that's not just grandma talk."
Hockey in the blood
Matt's mother, Christine Duchene, who played varsity basketball at Queen's University, grew up on the farm with her siblings, all athletes in their own right. Matt's uncle, Newell Brown Jr., played in the NHL as well, and is currently an assistant coach with Vancouver. He played junior hockey for the Cornwall Royals alongside Sens associate coach Marc Crawford. As young men they were both put to work on the farm, Newell recalled.
"They all had to work on the farm before they played. And I felt bad about it at the time, but now they thank me for the work ethic that they created by having to do that."
The Browns realize the Senators had to give up a popular player in Kyle Turris in order to get Duchene. In fact, Turris was their favourite Senator.
'I was proud of the fact that he lived up to his contract and he acted very professional during all these trade talks.' - Newell Brown, Matt Duchene's grandfather
"You couldn't help having him as a favourite because he worked so hard and he was just such a nice young man," said Eleanor.
Newell believes his grandson will bring that same character to the Senators. "We hope that everybody's patient and allows him time to fit into the new system up there in Ottawa, and help out the team."
Ottawa was a goal away from advancing to the Stanley Cup final last season, and general manager Pierre Dorion said acquiring a centre of Duchene's calibre will allow the Senators to build on that success.
The third-overall pick in 2009 played his entire professional career for Colorado before trouble hit last year. Sensing the Avalanche were headed for another rebuild season, Duchene requested a trade from his general manager — and childhood idol — Joe Sakic.
Duchene said it was the hardest thing he's ever done.
"I was so proud of Matthew, the way he handled his career the last year or so," said Newell. "I was proud of the fact that he lived up to his contract and he acted very professional during all these trade talks."
The Browns plan to drive to Ottawa to meet up with a contingent of friends and relatives who will gather at Canadian Tire Centre to watch Matt play Saturday afternoon against the Arizona Coyotes.