By Mario Annicchiarico, December 6, 2011

Eric Comrie jokes about his introduction to playing goal.

“Mike and Paul needed someone to shoot on, so, me being the youngest, I was forced into it,” the backup Tri-City Americans netminder says with a laugh, referring to his half-brothers, who both played in the National Hockey League.

Well, no one is kidding now as 16-year-old Eric is making a name for himself, having chosen the Western Hockey League route instead of waiting out a college career, as Mike and Paul Comrie both chose.

“When we drafted him, we weren’t sure he would be coming because there were strong NCAA ties with his brothers,” says Americans’ general manager Bob Tory, who selected Eric 13th overall in the WHL bantam draft in 2010.

Having moved to Newport Beach, California, where his father Bill — one of the founders of The Brick furniture chain — resides with his second wife, Roxanne, and Eric’s younger brother Ty, it wasn’t certain whether Eric would move north to play major junior.

But Tory — the former GM of the Kootenay Ice — had ties to the family, having brought Mike to Cranbrook from Michigan University for his season as a 20-year-old. Tory, who then moved to the Americans, also had another advantage — his successful history with other 16-year-old netminders: Carey Price, Dan Blackburn and Chet Pickard.

“So not only could I talk about development for young goaltenders, but I could show I had done it before, which was important to both Eric and Bill — to see it wasn’t just a case of coming in and not playing,” says Tory, who is pleased with Eric’s start. “He has the potential of being a very, very good goaltender and he’s shown that this year.”

Eric Comrie is 9-3 this season with two 1-0 shutouts over Prince George. Having suited up as the backup Tuesday night against the Victoria Royals, Eric’s scheduled to start tonight in the second part of the American’s visit to the Island (7 p.m. start).

Tory is certain Eric will follow his older half-brothers to the NHL.

“No question, he’s headed that way,” he says of Eric, who is considered the best 16-year-old netminder from Canada and could be a first-round NHL draft choice. “He’s very focused, very mature and he realizes it’s not just ability that gets you there. It’s the work ethic and attention to detail and focus. Which is something he has at a very early age.”

And he has Paul and Mike as his backers.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” says Eric of carrying the Comrie name. “I just love playing hockey, it’s what I love to do and I’m just going to see where it goes. They’ve helped me so much along the way, with what to expect and how hard it is to make it.

“It’s the goal — the NHL. But it’s the toughest league in the world to make. Nothing is for granted and so few make it. The chances are so slim, but it is a goal of mine.”

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