There is a certain type of bonding that occurs when guys play sports together. There is the sweat, the injuries sustained and subsequently overcome and the camaraderie of the common goal and joint effort to go forth and kick some butt and take some names in the process of becoming victors.
It’s a brotherhood that in some respects only they can fully understand.
Such is the case with the Eagle River High School Wolves hockey team except this group adds a slightly more biological twist: a significant portion of the players are actual brothers.
Between the ERHS varsity and junior varsity teams, there are four sets of brothers wearing the navy and silver. To honor this, team officials decided to bring some of the JV players up to varsity for a one-time opportunity to play with their siblings on the varsity team on Jan. 21 in a non-conference game against Kenai.
“We felt it was a great opportunity to showcase the players from the junior varsity and to give those guys a chance to play with their brothers,” Robert Comer, ERHS coach, said.
It meant bringing Elias Christian, Austin Linn and Brayden Rachow – a junior, freshman and sophomore, respectively, up to the varsity level to play Saturday night’s game with their brothers, Brooks Christian, a freshman; Joshua Linn, a junior; and Logan Rachow, a senior; as well as joining with the McDonald brothers – Cam and Sutton, a sophomore and a junior who also are the grandsons of local legend Harry J. McDonald for whom the local ice is named.
The fact isn’t lost on the two McDonald boys who say they don’t feel pressure to perform simply because Harry was their grandfather but they do defend, skate and shoot they best they possibly can in an effort to honor him.
For their father, Reid McDonald, having his boys play on the same ice he did – ice that is here because of his father’s vision for a rink in Eagle River – is highly meaningful. Like his boys, Reid grew up at the rink named for his father.
Unfortunately, his sons never met their grandfather. Reid wishes they had, but knows that every time they are out on Harry’s ice, they are closer to him.
Reid revels in watching his sons play together. This high school hockey season has been the first time his two oldest sons were on the same team.
“Having both Sutton and Cam play on the same team is very special indeed. Both are offensive type players and to hear over the loudspeaker during the high school games ‘goal by Sutton
McDonald, assisted by Cam McDonald, that’s McDonald from McDonald’ is so cool,” Reid told the ECHO News.
Sutton and Cam both said playing together this year has strengthened their relationship as brothers but also their game as hockey players.
“It has been a fun year with him (Sutton),” Cam said. “First time actually playing with him, I am just getting to know him more and more on the ice. I am learning what is he all about on the ice and that is pretty special. We seem to know where each other is going to be at and we can get open for each and he is usually in the spot where I think he is going to be.”
Other sets of the ERHS Wolves brothers express similar thoughts regarding their hockey relationships.
“Playing with my brother for the first time on the same team is very special. Knowing that one time in my career that I played with my brother will always be a very special memory,” Joshua Linn, a junior, said. “He’s worked hard for his year to be able to play with me and seeing his hard work paying off is great.”
Those are complimentary words coming from the older of the Linn boys to his younger brother Austin who as a freshman defenseman has racked up three goals and four assists. Joshua currently has 17 goals, 26 assists for 43 points – which makes him the Wolves’ leading scorer this season.
Joshua is glad he and his younger brother can share the “second family” that hockey is to its players.
Austin said that second family means always having someone to hang out with, to talk to and it means having “lots of brothers” past those that are biological.
It also means coming up with some pretty zany nicknames for each other:
Of course, Sutton McDonald easily becomes “Sutty.”
Brooks Christian is “Brooksie.”
The Rachow brothers – Logan and Brayden – are “Big Rock” and “Little Rock.”
Each of these young men dream of hockey glory past high school. They talk of the junior leagues, of college ice and perhaps the National Hockey League. They each have their favorite professional players; their favorite pro teams. The young man’s talk adds to the brotherhood; it bonds them more deeply to play their best now to facilitate hopes of tomorrow’s play.
In the end at Saturday evening’s game, the score showed another victory for the Wolves’ in a defeat of the Kenai Central Kards by 7-0.