Originally posted on: Peninsula Panthers Website
North Saanich, B.C.
His motto is if you find out in life you don’t do something well, don’t do that thing. His legend precedes him in the way lightning precedes thunder. He lives vicariously through himself. As a young boy, he gave his dad a dog for his birthday. He is known for the statement, ‘I don’t always play hockey but when I do, I play for the Peninsula Panthers.’ Payton Braun is the World’s Most Interesting Man.
Braun has seemingly come out of thin air to be what most believe is the most impactful rookie in the VIJHL. He currently sits in 2nd place and trails only his brother Riley in League-scoring and on a line with his brother and Logan Speirs, the trio is quite arguably the top combination in the League. Pundits around Junior Hockey have been wondering out loud where Braun came from, having seemingly arrived out of thin air.
Born on the Peninsula in 2002, forward Payton Braun first laced up the skates at age 5. While he played many other sports in his childhood, including soccer, lacrosse, and baseball, the game of hockey was always his favourite.
Braun spent his entire minor hockey career playing for the Peninsula Minor Hockey Association. He grew up watching Panthers games every Friday night, aspiring to one day be a part of the team. He played competitive hockey as a defenceman for 6 years, alongside his brother Riley, until the age of 13. Going into his first year of bantam, he decided to continue playing hockey casually as a forward in the house league, allowing him more time for his other interests and hobbies, including photography and mountain biking. Braun’s father, Loren Braun, coached his house team for five years, until he aged out of minor hockey. Just before his final year of minor hockey, Braun signed up for the Panthers spring camp, wanting the chance to play with his brother once again. Panthers’ owner Pete Zubersky saw potential in his game, and offered him an affiliate position with the team for the season. Braun then played his final year of house hockey, while practicing with the Panthers three times a week. He was also given the opportunity to experience Junior hockey, playing for the Panthers in seven games over the course of the season. Last season, Braun once again practiced with the Panthers, and was offered a spot on the team midway through the season. The 19-year-old is a playmaker who reads the ice very well, and is not afraid to lay hits and battle for the puck in the corners. His natural position is the left wing, but he is able to play on the right side when needed.
“I’m very excited about how the season is developing,” said Braun. “I think that we have all the pieces of a championship team, and now we just have to put them together. We have a good mix of young and old players, and everyone is on the same page with all eyes on the championship title.”
Braun is currently in his third year of a BSc in psychology at the University of Victoria. After earning his degree, he hopes to go to dental school in Vancouver, following in the footsteps of his parents, who are both dentists on the Peninsula. During the summer, Payton wrote the Dental Aptitude Test, which is a requirement when applying to dental school. The test involved questions on chemistry and biology, as well as perceptual ability, mentally manipulating 3D objects. He ranked in the 93rd percentile in the science portion of the test, and ranked seventh in Canada in perceptual ability, against 880 other students.
“Payton has a mind of his own and goes to the beat of his own drum,” quipped Panthers Owner Pete Zubersky. “He was out with us last year and I started to see him get in better shape. He just seemed to get better and better but he never wanted to fully commit to playing on the Panthers, he just had too many interests. Coreen and I were over visiting his Grandparents Con and Judy a number of months ago and they talked a lot about Riley and Payton. Con had just been out golfing with Payton and both of them said that he just has an interest in so many activities that he did not want to make the commitment that Junior Hockey required. In late March, I went down to the bench, there were only seven guys on the ice practicing and one of them was Payton. I spoke to each of them for a minute or two including a really good chat with him. And I told him that I wanted him to really think about playing this coming season, that it was his last chance to play with his brother and when the two had sons of their own and when the families were sitting under the Christmas Tree together, he will look back and see just how important playing together was. Payton either called or texted me a couple of weeks later and said that he had decided to play. I saw Judy at the rink a few months later and she called him ‘The reluctant Panther’ and I told her that was the perfect description.”
Braun is obviously having a lot of fun on a team in which he is a huge part of the puzzle. He is quietly becoming a bit more animated and is clearly one of the Leaders on the squad.
“I thought he would be a decent 3rd liner,” explained Zubersky. “I really wanted him to play for his family and for himself but was not trying to convince him because I thought he would be near the top of the League in scoring. He is probably my biggest surprise in the past 20 years of Junior Hockey. He is such an awesome kid and a person I just love to be around. I want this year to play out and I want the two boys to enjoy every single minute together and I think they are doing just that. But now I want more of Payton next year and I will talk to him about that when the final buzzer sounds in our final game.”
Braun and his mates hit the ice this Friday in the friendly confines of the Panorama Recreation Centre when they play host to the Port Alberni Bombers for a 7:30 pm start. And Payton Braun will waltz out on the ice with mystery surrounding his every stride. If opportunity knocks and he is not home, opportunity waits. He is the World’s most interesting man!