SALT LAKE CITY — Trevor Lewis and Daniel Brickley had a unique homecoming experience Monday night.
About 16 miles northwest of the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center ice rink where they learned how to skate as little boys, the Utah natives played a rare NHL game in their hometown.
If Vivint Arena officials were going to bring any top-tier team to town for the Salt Lake Showdown, it was smart to choose the Kings. L.A. had a built-in cheering section for the former Salt Lake City standouts, who are among just five Utahns to ever play in the NHL.
Though the Utahns were given a raucous ovation, it was another Tyler who stole the show for the Kings. Forward Tyler Toffoli scored two goals to lead L.A. to a 4-1 victory over the Canucks in this preseason duel.
Lewis, a 10-year NHL veteran, called it “a pretty cool night” to be home. With groovy organ music in the background all night, the rowdy crowd of 12,367 loudly concurred — especially after Lewis assisted on the Kings' fourth goal.
“It’s exciting,” the 31-year-old Lewis said. “Get to see a bunch of family and friends and also play a game here, playing with Daniel, too.”
Lewis played hockey in Utah until he was 15, when he moved to Colorado to sharpen his skills against better competition in the junior league.
The 6-foot-1 forward was drafted 17th overall in the NHL early entry draft by the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. He worked his way through their system — playing in Des Moines, Owen Sound and Manchester — before finally getting his opportunity to skate in the NHL in 2008.
A day after being called up to the NHL, Lewis scored his first goal on Dec. 20, 2008. Since then, he’s skated in 574 NHL games and been a contributing member of two Stanley Cup championship-winning teams.
This isn’t the first time Lewis has played on the Wasatch Front as a pro. He was with the Utah Grizzlies for six games during the NHL lockout in the 2012-13 season. During that short-but-sweet stint, he collected nine points with three goals and six assists.
“It’s been a long time since I played here,” Lewis said. "It’s cool. I never really thought I’d play an NHL game here."
The NHL vet bought about 30 tickets for friends and family members and said others bought their own, so it was a fun reunion.
“I think Daniel’s (supporters) might be louder,” he joked after the morning skate-around.
Brickley, a 6-foot-3 defenseman, stayed around in Utah longer than his NHL teammate and lifelong friend. Now 23 years old, he skated to two championships with the Skyline High club team not too long ago (2010 and ’11). He played juniors with Hawkesbury and Topeka before starring at Minnesota State from 2015-18.
"It’s not easy. It’s really tough to get here," Brickley said of the NHL. "Once you’re here, it’s tough to stay. I have a lot of respect for those guys who’ve played 10-plus years in the league. It’s a grind to get here."
Brickley signed a two-year contract with the Kings on March 30, which happens to be his birthday and the day L.A. and Vivint Arena reached a three-year deal to host preseason games in a fun coincidence.
“It’s good to be home,” Brickley said. “To be back and play in front of my family and friends, it’s … something special.”
Brickley, whose uncle Andy Brickley played for the Grizzlies from 1995-97, also cut his hockey teeth on the Cottonwood Heights rink. His dad, Matt, and Lewis’ father, Randy, have been friends for 30-odd years, so the sons have known each other for decades, too.
Lewis said he saw his dad hanging out in the arena during the skateout session and laughed that he must've taken the day off work. Usually, the elder Lewis has to take vacation and travel to see his son play, so he was soaking up this opportunity, no doubt.
The longtime hockey-playing friends are, too.
“Knowing him and having known me my entire life, it’s pretty wild to think that we’re both on the same NHL team, both from Utah. It’s crazy,” Brickley said of Lewis, who’s eight years older and has helped “a lot” in his development. “He’s a real character guy, hardworking and someone to look up to.”2 comments on this story
Lewis said he started skating when he was 2 years old. His dad took him to the rec center across the street, and he quickly became a Cottonwood Heights regular. He’s noticed a lot more Utah kids, like Brickley, are playing than when he was a youngster in these parts. He credits the Olympics.
Lewis told the Los Angeles Times that he sees Brickley as a “poster boy for Utah hockey.” The paper reported that hockey participation in the Beehive State has increased 85 percent — up to 4,445 players — since 1998-99.
“It’s cool to see how many more kids are playing nowadays, seeing guys like Daniel come out too,” Lewis said. “Guys are getting college scholarships. It’s really grown a lot, and hopefully this game helps it grow more.”