Joey and Mikey Anderson have played garage hockey hundreds of times since they were youngsters, dreaming of one day making the NHL.
So when the brothers recently recreated those battles at their family’s Roseville, Minnesota, home and put it on social media, it was a full-circle moment.
This time, when 21-year-old Joey and 20-year-old Mikey had their sticks, a mask and a baseball glove as they fired tennis balls at one another inside the garage, they did so as NHL players. Joey is a right wing in his second season with the New Jersey Devils, while Mikey is a defenseman who made his debut in late February with the Los Angeles Kings.
“That was just another day for us,” Joey said of the garage hockey game. Mikey won the best-of-seven battle and, maybe more importantly, the prestigious toilet paper trophy.
Even though it was an unscheduled trip home after the NHL season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic that brought life to a standstill around the world, it nonetheless allows more moments together for this tight-knit hockey family.
Following high school, the brothers played together in college at Minnesota-Duluth, where they helped the Bulldogs to three straight NCAA Frozen Four appearances, including combining for a national championship in 2018. Joey was on the 2017 runner-up team, while Mikey added a second national title in 2019.
The brothers, who talk via phone almost daily, have also been key members of the USA Hockey program. They captured a bronze medal together at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, New York, becoming the first set of brothers to play for the U.S. National Junior Team since twins Peter and Chris Ferraro in 1993. Joey also won gold at the 2017 championship, while Mikey earned silver at the 2019 event. They also made history as the first brothers to captain a U.S. Junior National Team, with Joey doing the honors in 2018 and Mikey in 2019.
Joey was selected by the Devils in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft and has eight goals and five assists in 52 career games, including four goals and two assists in 18 games this season. Mikey was drafted in the fourth round by the Kings in 2019 and has tallied one goal in six games.
But it was Mikey’s debut that was almost too good to be true.
In January, parents Gerry and Dana Anderson, along with daughter Sami, planned a trip from Minnesota to California so they could see both sons play, holding out hope that Mikey would get the call before the Devils played the Kings in L.A.
When the Andersons arrived in Southern California, Mikey was still with the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, about 40 miles east of L.A.
“It was funny,” Mikey said of the call that came Feb. 27. “I was taking a nap. They came over and we were just hanging out at my apartment and [I] ended up waking up to a phone call. I was informed that I was getting called up and was told everything going on with practice times and all that. Walked out and they were just hanging out in the living room. It was nice to be able to have that moment with them.”
The first call was to Joey, who was getting ready to play a game that night in San Jose. Two nights later, the Devils would be in L.A. to play the Kings. For Mikey’s debut, Joey would be on the ice with the opposing team.
“It was unbelievable. kind of the way how everything worked out,” Mikey said.
Two more cool moments were on tap for the brothers for the Feb. 29 game. NHL tradition dictates that a rookie gets a solo lap to start warmups when making their debut. The rest of the team sits back as the rookie hits the ice for the first time. When Mikey went out for his solo lap, there was one other player on the ice: Joey. The older brother was there with a puck and passed it to his younger brother, who skated toward the net and fired it in. The other moment was a surprise to both brothers. The Kings picked Mikey’s defensive pair to start the game, while the Devils sent out Joey’s line.
“The puck came around in the New Jersey zone and he ended up pinching down on me and we both kind of knocked each other over with a little bump, which is pretty fun,” Joey said of the first shift in the Kings’ 2-1 overtime win.
Joey and Mikey have leaned on each other for advice throughout their lives. Even with Joey being 11 months older, the exchange of ideas seems to go both ways.
“I learn things from him, too, with all the experiences he's going through,” Joey said. “But just to make sure he is having fun for starters, because you're going to play a lot better if you're enjoying what you do. But then just to lean on the older guys and have them help you and use the resources available and stay comfortable. Obviously, he knows what he's doing on the ice, so there's not a whole lot that I need to help them with there if anything.”
And what if someone offers bad advice?
“If it’s a bad idea or bad advice, we usually just start laughing before we can even let it develop into anything being productive,” Mikey said with a laugh.
Now, for the time being, the brothers are back to sharing a room in the basement, like they did a few years ago. To fill the competitive void, they play ping pong, video games, board games, cribbage and more. While dealing with the interruption in the season, the brothers are more than happy to be around family while waiting to see when or if the season will resume.
“As hockey players, we’re fortunate enough to be entertainers and be able to play the game we love,” Mikey said. “I got a taste of it and what the NHL life's like and how everything works with the Kings, so I'm very thankful for that. But at the same time, they’re trying to keep everyone safe.
“... Now it's trying to work out on your own at home, stay in shape in case we have to come back and we can play some more games. And everyone's hoping that we can get back out there and get the season going again, but you're trying to make decisions for the safety of everyone in the world right now.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.