Broth­ers bat­tle on and off the ice

Winnipeg Free Press - - SPORTS - JA­SON BELL ja­son.bell@freep­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @WFPJa­sonBell

ANCOUVER — The pre-game war of words between the Tanevs was edgier than the on-ice bat­tle last De­cem­ber when they faced each other for the first time in the NHL.

Trash talk, that’s what broth­ers do, although soft-spo­ken sib­lings Chris and Bran­don Tanev re­mem­ber en­gag­ing in some play­ful ban­ter rather than trad­ing ac­tual smack.

“We got into it a bit, like just about any other day between broth­ers,” says Chris, 27, a skilled, de­fen­sively re­li­able blue-liner with the Van­cou­ver Canucks. “Whether you’re on the street play­ing hockey or in your base­ment, you want to beat your brother. It doesn’t mat­ter what you’re do­ing.

“That was the first time (go­ing head to head) and it was pretty spe­cial. You re­mem­ber that one for the rest of your life.”

Bran­don, 25, a fast, plucky bot­tom­six for­ward for the Win­nipeg Jets, clearly re­calls the night he fi­nally crossed paths with big brother.

“A cou­ple of hits here, bumps there, but noth­ing crazy,” he says. “We had much worse when we were younger and just hors­ing around.

“It was ex­cit­ing to play against your brother at the high­est level of hockey. You grow up play­ing in the back­yard and in the base­ment to­gether. So, get­ting to go on the ice and play against him in the NHL is a great mo­ment for the whole fam­ily.”

The Tanevs’ in­au­gu­ral NHL on-ice en­counter hap­pened Dec. 20, 2016, a con­test won 4-1 by the Canucks.

A rematch set for two nights later in Van­cou­ver didn’t ma­te­ri­al­ize be­cause Win­nipeg sent Bran­don down to its

VAHL af­fil­i­ate, the Man­i­toba Moose. But late in the sea­son in Win­nipeg, they were on op­po­site sides again, and Bran­don evened the life­time se­ries at a game apiece (Win­nipeg won 2-1 on March 26).

Chris and Bran­don met for din­ner Wed­nes­day night and, 24 hours later, re­con­nected at Rogers Arena as the Western Con­fer­ence squads faced off in their first of three meet­ings this NHL sea­son.

The great hope for the clan — dad Mike Tanev, mom Sofie Mered­ith and younger brother, Kyle, 23 — is that there are years of show­downs still to come between the el­dest and mid­dle child.

Born and raised in the East

York neigh­bour­hood of Toronto, the Tanev kids ate, slept and breathed hockey. The boys were a lit­tle more than two years apart in age, mean­ing they shared hours to­gether play­ing spir­ited base­ment mini-stick games, but they com­peted on dif­fer­ent hockey squads grow­ing up.

Their par­ents should have ap­plied for chauf­feur li­cences.

“It was chaos grow­ing up,” Chris says. “Equip­ment ev­ery­where, dif­fer­ent sched­ules... truck­ing us around to games and prac­tices, the usual Cana­dian house­hold.”

Adds Bran­don: “It was con­stant run­ning around to rinks. We can’t thank our par­ents enough for all they did. Three boys play­ing hockey all over the place, and play­ing dif­fer­ent sports, too, there was a lot on their plate.”

Chris, then just 21, burst onto the scene with Van­cou­ver dur­ing the 201011 sea­son, and seven years later he’s one of the pil­lars of a Canucks team in re­build­ing mode.

An un­drafted rookie, he played the 2009-10 sea­son at Rochester In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in New York and reached the NCAA Frozen Four, be­fore sign­ing with the Canucks that spring.

He be­gan the 2010-11 sea­son in Win­nipeg with the Moose, Van­cou­ver’s then-AHL af­fil­i­ate, and wasn’t con­sid­ered a likely can­di­date to don Canucks colours.

But he was called up to Van­cou­ver in Jan­uary when the blue-line corps ran into in­jury trou­bles, and de­buted in Den­ver with friends and fam­ily, in­clud­ing Bran­don, cheer­ing from the stands. He stayed with the Canucks for most of the sec­ond half of the sea­son, reg­is­ter­ing just one as­sist with lim­ited play­ing time.

The fol­low­ing two sea­sons, he split time between Van­cou­ver and its new farm squad, the Chicago Wolves, be­fore land­ing a per­ma­nent gig with the big club in 2013-14.

Bran­don, mean­while, played four years at Prov­i­dence Col­lege in Rhode Is­land, scor­ing the game-win­ning goal in the 2015 na­tional fi­nal to lift the Fri­ars to their first-ever NCAA ti­tle. Wooed by sev­eral squads, he had heard good things about the Jets or­ga­ni­za­tion from Chris, who came to know and trust peo­ple such as then-Moose gen­eral man­ager Craig Heisinger and owner Mark Chip­man.

“He def­i­nitely had ques­tions for me about Man­i­toba,” Chris says.

“I knew Zinger from there, knew he was a very good man and it was a qual­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion. But (Bran­don) made his own de­ci­sion from there.”

Bran­don signed with the Jets in March 2016 and played the last three games of the sea­son with Win­nipeg. Last sea­son, he suited up for 51 con­tests with the NHL club, reg­is­ter­ing his only two tal­lies in the same game against the host Detroit Red Wings. This fall, he’s al­ready half­way to that to­tal af­ter cash­ing in on a short­handed break­away ear­lier this week in Cal­gary.

He’s held in high re­gard by Win­nipeg’s coaches, who have in­creased the tena­cious left-winger’s re­spon­si­bil­ity load lately, el­e­vat­ing him to the third line and reg­u­larly call­ing on him to kill penal­ties.

“He can skate. He’s def­i­nitely one of the fastest guys when­ever he’s on the ice,” Chris said.

“When he’s us­ing his speed ef­fec­tively, he’s a very good player for them. That was a great goal he got in Cal­gary.

“I haven’t had much of a chance to watch full games, but I’ll see bits and pieces. (Kyle) usu­ally keeps track and I’ll get a text from him say­ing, ‘Bran­don’s do­ing good or Bran­don’s do­ing bad,’ or what­ever. He’s keeps track of both of us.”

Bran­don is equally com­pli­men­tary to­ward a guy he con­sid­ers a role model.

“I al­ways wanted to play in the NHL. That was the dream, just like ev­ery other kid play­ing hockey in Canada,” he says. “Once you get the op­por­tu­nity, the work isn’t fin­ished. I think Chris helped me un­der­stand that. You have to con­tinue to bet­ter your­self on and off the ice.

“He’s so smart, an un­be­liev­able puck­mov­ing de­fence­man. I feel like he has that abil­ity to make peo­ple around him bet­ter and that’s a ter­rific char­ac­ter­is­tic to have as a hockey player.

Game notes

VAN­COU­VER — In­jured Jets de­fence­man Dustin Byfuglien (lower body) took the morn­ing skate Thurs­day, the first time he’s been on the ice since a 6-3 loss to the host Cal­gary Flames four days be­fore.

Jets coach Paul Mau­rice, who chat­ted a few times with the im­pos­ing vet­eran dur­ing the short ses­sion, said Byfuglien’s re­turn to the lineup — pos­si­bly as early as Satur­day at home against the Carolina Hur­ri­canes — is con­tin­gent on how he feels af­ter prac­tice to­day.

“He pushed (Thurs­day) and I think if he can get back on the ice and feel strong (to­day) then he’ll pos­si­bly be an op­tion for us against Carolina,” Mau­rice said.

Byfuglien is still listed as day-to-day. As a long­time NHL head coach, Mau­rice has had an op­ti­mum view of the Sedin twins, Daniel and Hen­rik, since their ar­rival from Swe­den at the start of the mil­len­nium.

He still mar­vels at the Canucks’ sen­sa­tion­ally gifted set of 37-year-old sib­lings and the dou­ble trou­ble they cause their NHL op­po­nents.

“So, one’s mov­ing with the puck but the other is work­ing, too. They are truly a pair out there and they use the back of the net and they play off each other so well,” Mau­rice said.

“That’s the chal­lenge, be­cause you’re not just defending the one, you’re defending the two. They’re both do­ing some­thing at the same time that opens the ice up for each other.”

Hen­rik, a cen­tre and the Canucks cap­tain, played the 1,251st game of his ca­reer Thurs­day. He en­tered the game against the Jets with 237 goals and 1,023 points. Daniel, a left-winger, had played 1,227th NHL games head­ing into the matchup, fir­ing 370 goals and 987 points along the way.

MARK J. TER­RILL / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

TREVOR HA­GAN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

The Tanev broth­ers, Jets for­ward Bran­don (left) and Van­cou­ver Canucks de­fence­man Chris (above), faced each other in an NHL game for the third time Thurs­day night.

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