July 23, 2011

Brad Tapper

Brad Tapper may have only played in 71 NHL games, but he probably appreciated each and every one more than the average player.

That's because of his childhood. His mother and father helped to raise 110 foster children, many of them kids from abusive parents, drug addicts and prostitutes.

Brad, the youngest of four biological brothers, grew up in a middle class home in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. At any given time the family had as many as five foster children while they waited for permanent homes.

The Tapper children did not go without, growing up with the great game of hockey. Brad followed his older brother Bryan to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he recorded 116 points in 106 games over three seasons.

Despite his strong career at RPI, no NHL team drafted the 6'0" 175lb swift skating forward. Upon graduation he had interest from both the Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers. He opted to sign with the Thrashers, believing it was his best chance to play in the NHL.

Tapper was assigned to the minor leagues, and immediately became close friends with Dan Snyder. The two won an IHL championship with the Orlando Solar Bears in 2001 and roomed together when the Chicago Wolves won an AHL title in 2002.

Of course the following year Snyder was killed in a car crash.

"It was very difficult to get through," said Tapper, who remains close to Snyder's family. "Not one day goes by that I don't think about that. I miss Dan every day."

Tapper did play parts of three seasons with the Thrashers, but Tapper jumped at an opportunity to play in Europe in 2004. The NHL was facing a long lockout and Tapper was plagued by concussion problems. He would go on to star in Germany until his retirement in 2008.

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