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Brad Tapper: A Story You Need to Know

September 21, 2006, 8:31 AM ET [ Comments]

I know the Hockeybuzz community is littered with people in the know, but I'm not sure how many of you know Brad Tapper's life story.

Believe me, it's one of those that should be featured on ESPN or TSN as a story of survival.

Not that it started out bad - Tapper grew up in a loving home with two caring parents and three brothers, but that's where normalcy ended.

You see, Tapper's folks used their house as a Foster Home, oftentimes taking in kids from the streets.

In the span of 30 years, the Tappers have had more than 300 Foster children, and it was just as much a part of the lives of their four sons as it was anyone of the children who came to them through the Foster Care program.

Brad said his house had five foster kids at any one time. Including his brothers and parents, that made 11.

He shared bedrooms with children with broken limbs, babies with cocaine addictions, and he was used to hearing babies cry every hour on the hour.

He learned to change a diaper when he was seven years old.

And, while the town he lived in - the Toronto suburb of Scarborough - was not the greatest neighborhood in the world, Tapper was able to avoid many of the temptations of the street - which sucked in many of his friends - because he turned to the sport of hockey.

Hockey, was his salvation. It landed him at RPI. It got him to sign a free agent contract with the Atlanta Thrashers. It allowed him to meet his best friend:

Daniel Snyder.

The duo were inseperable. The won a Turner Cup title in the IHL with the Orlando Solar Bears in 2001. They were then sent to the Thrashers' AHL affiliate the next season - the Chicago Wolves.

They got an apartment together near Wrigley Field, and forged a bond that would never be broken, even in a time of tragedy.

The duo won their second straight championship together, this time the Calder Cup with the Wolves.

in the 2002-2003 season, both Tapper and Snyder found themselves playing thirty-some games for the Thrashers and scoring 10 goals a piece in the process.

It was evident that both had NHL futures.

During training camp in 2003, Tapper was sent back to Chicago for the start of the season while Snyder stuck in Atlanta, trying to land the final roster spot on the Thrashers.

Then it happened. Snyder was riding in the passenger seat of Dany Heatley's Ferrari. Heatley drove at a reckless speed. He crashed the car. Snyder was ejected. He died from his injuries six days later.

That same day Snyder died, Bill Cahill, an assistant coach and mentor for Tapper at RPI suffered a massive heart attack and died as well.

In an exclusive interview with Scott Lauber in the Press and Sun Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. - a town Tapper arrived in three months after Snyder's death via a trade, Tapper admitted to not being able to deal with the emotions.

He was lost on the ice during games, oftentimes crying during the game. He contemplated retirement. He cried in bed, at the McDonald's He and Snyder used to frequent around the corner from their apartment.

So, the Thrashers uncerimoniously dumped him, trading him to Ottawa for Daniel Corso in January, 2004.

The Sens sent him to Binghamton, where he thrived on a line with Brooks Laich and Alexandre Giroux and put up good numbers - 21 points in 29 games at Bingo.

Then, the Sens traded Laich and Giroux in an effort to make a run for the Cup. (Laich went to Washington as part of a deal for Peter Bondra and Giroux went to the Rangers as part of the Greg deVries deal).

Then Tapper suffered two concussions, the more major one when he took a cheapshot elbow to the jaw by Shane Willis.

His season was over. His recovery from tragedy was over. And, after not signing with another NHL team the next summer, it looked like his NHL career too was over.

Tapper went to play in Germany during the lockout and last season, clearing his mind, looking to start his hockey life over completely.

All the while though, he kept in very close contact with the Snyder family. He offered them unconditional love and support, and got the same in return.

Then, this past summer, he wanted to give te NHL one last shot at age 28. So he looked around for an opportunity - the Flyers were the only one out there.

It's not a great situation. Tapper is behind a bevy of forwards on one-way contracts, and he only signed with the organization for one year.

Most likely his time will be spent exclusively with the Phantoms of the AHL, but that's o.k. for Tapper, because it's one injury away from ending a three-year roller coaster ride away from the NHL.

The curious part of the whole story is this, Tapper never told anyone about his home life with the foster care. Other than Lauber (who has now gone to the darkside and is covering the Philadelphia Phillies for the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal), he never told anyone about the emotional problems he suffered through after Snyder's death.

Someone needs to know his story. Someone needs to listen. Tapper speaks eloquently and with such raw emotion about it, that you can't help but find yourself fascinated by his tale.

He says he has always wanted to put his mom on Oprah. And while Donna Tapper is a selfless angel in many ways to needy children, Brad is the real story. He should be the one sitting across from Oprah.

Or at the very least, being recognized by the hockey community for his perserverence.

For more on this story, here is the link to my article about Tapper in today's (Sept. 21) edition of the Delaware County Daily Times:

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