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Athlete trades in stick for guitar pick

Country singer Chad Brownlee was an NHL draft pick.
Chad Brownlee performs at Nanoose Bay’s Arbutus Meadows on April 4 as part of the When The Lights Go Down tour.

From all outward appearances Chad Brownlee was living a dream that so many young Canadians can only dream of.

The Kelowna native was a Vancouver Canucks draft pick, graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato and found himself as a member of the Idaho Steelheads in a semi-pro league known as the ECHL.

Yet, Brownlee was far from happy.

“I wasn’t enjoying the game anymore,” he said. “I forgot why I played it and I lost the love for it.

“I wasn’t happy going to the rink and sitting on the bench,” he said. “All I wanted to do was hit the showers and go home.”

So in 2008, Brownlee quit hockey and turned to country music and by 2009 he had released his first single, The Best That I Can (Superhero).

“It wasn’t like I just hung up my skates, picked up the guitar and decided to do music,” he said. “I’ve been playing it my whole life ... and I picked up the guitar when I was 17, playing junior hockey.”

Since 2009, Brownlee has put out three records, with his latest album The Fighters released last June.

On April 4, Brownlee, will be performing at the Arbutus Meadows Equestrian and Events Centre at Nanoose Bay with Jess Moskaluke and Bobby Wills as part of the When The Lights Go Down tour.

“It’s my first headlining tour,” he said.

Brownlee said it was tough to go from a hockey player to musician.

“The transition was pretty quick, but that year after hockey felt like eternity because it was such a change in lifestyle and identity,” he said. “You know you’re a hockey player your whole life and then you give it up for something else. It is a tough transition.”

However, it was a decision that has played out well for Brownlee, who picked up a Canadian Country Music Conference Best New Artist Showcase Award in 2010 and had his second record, Love Me or Leave Me nominated for a Juno Award in 2013.

“Being nominated for a Juno was definitely something special that I didn’t expect at the time,” he said.

Brownlee said he has no regrets about walking away from hockey to be a country music singer.

“I don’t regret it at all,” he said. “I call it the easiest hardest decision I ever made.”

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