A big guy who skates very well, who has the scoring touch, and who plays physically. There are not a lot of those in the Oberliga. So, when Tilburg Trappers saw that one might be available this off-season, they didn’t hesitate and signed last year’s Oberliga Nord player of the year Brett Bulmer.
The passion for hockey started on a tennis court right beside the Bulmer’s house in Prince George (British Columbia). That big, flat, open field was perfect for a homemade rink. The rink was built annually by Brett’s father, Lance, and one of their neighbors who labored through sleepless night so Brett and his two brothers (Kyle (32) and Derek (26)) would have their own home rink.
How was it growing up in beautiful British Columbia?
‘Living there with my family’s great. Prince George is quite north up in the province so there were a lot of cold winters. For me there was nothing better to do, no better way to spend my time than outside on that rink. I could spend hours out there playing around. It definitely brings back a lot of great memories.’
After two years with the Cariboo Cougars and one season with the WHL Kelowna Rockets, Bulmer got drafted in 2010 (39th overall) by the Minnesota Wild. He made his National Hockey League debut on October 8, 2011 at home against Columbus Blue Jackets (4-2 win). For four seasons he bounced between the ‘North Star State’ and their American Hockey League (AHL) farm teams in Houston and Iowa. Brett had offers to go back to the AHL in 2016 but decided to go to Finland (Ilves Tampere).
Why this move?
‘It’s just the way things played out in North-America. A lot of guys probably gone the way I have. The contracts didn’t work out in the American League so then I looked to Europe. I was a little curious about how hockey was over here and wanted to see how I could do.’
After Finland there were stops in Ingolstadt (DEL), Florida (ECHL), Fife and Nottingham (both EIHL), Freiburg (DEL2) and Hannover Indians (Oberliga) for the right winger. Now he’s with the Trappers.
You got married this summer to Erika. What’s it like to live without her in Tilburg?
‘So far really good. All the guys on the team are great. They make me feel really comfortable. I’m feeling one of them to be honest. The only thing is the language barrier. Obviously when they’re talking Dutch, I can’t understand what they’re saying but they’re pretty good telling me what’s going on. When I’m not at the rink I usually try to go for dinner with the boys. Other than that, it’s playing the PlayStation, watching a lot of shows on tv and getting your rest in for practices and games.
But of course I’m looking forward to November 6 when my wife and our dog (Scout) come to Tilburg. When I was in Germany and the UK, she visited me for weeks at a time. We couldn’t do it longer because she had a job back home. But this year we decided she has to be here and bring the family together. It’s obviously special to share this experience with your wife.’
At age 29 the 6-4, 212 lbs. power forward is still passionate and takes his job seriously. He showed that on Sunday against his former team, Hannover Indians. Bulmer’s presence was felt all over the ice as he played for 24:04 during 26 shifts and scored 3 points (2 goals and one assist).
How special was this game for you?
‘Anytime you leave a team it’s mixed emotions of course. You have buddies over there. They want to beat me and I want to beat them. Off the ice we’re all friends, on the ice we have respect for one and other. I think everyone is aware of that. The guys on my team played really hard for me. They knew it would mean a lot for me if we won this game. It was special in that way.’
With a record of 4-2-1 Trappers is now 4th in the Oberliga Nord. You haven’t played Hannover Scorpions, Black Dragons Erfurt and Polar Bears Hamm. How strong is Tilburg?
‘It’s pretty early in the season. There’re a ton of games left. But teams that are in the top are there for a reason. I’m confident in this team. That’s why I’m here. Every single player in our locker room can play. They’ve a winning mindset around the team. We want to be the number one team in the regular season and have success in playoffs. But if you want to be the best team in the league you have to show that every night.’
Trappers vs Indians was also special for one of Brett’s best friends, Parker Bowles. The 26-year-old left winger circled this game the moment the schedule was made official. During the 2016-2017 campaign Bowles carved himself into a fan-favorite amongst the Trappers’ faithful with his creativity, great set of hands and speed.
How did you and Parker become so close?
‘We’re both living in Kelowna. In the summer we were in the same workout group and in the same ice group. You could say we’re spending every morning together. In the weekends we often went downtown to have dinner. That’s how we became really close.’
When you help a team win the Oberliga championship, you’re going to get a lot of love from the fans when you return to the city. That’s why the Trappers’ fans gave their former number 70 a heart-warming hockey homecoming Sunday afternoon.
Will you get the same reception on December 12 when Tilburg will be in Hannover?
‘It was really nice what the fans did for Parker. It would be nice if the Indians fans missed me. But if they give me some boos, I can accept that too. Either way is good for me. It will be a fun game when we play there.’