Every team has its rivals. When you go up against certain opponents, you have that extra motivation to work hard and hope you end up on the winning side of the scoreboard.
But what if the forward or defenseman you are facing is your brother or sister?
“To me it was very weird to play against him,” said Michael Brodzinski, a sophomore defenseman at the University of Minnesota. His brother, Jonny, plays forward for St. Cloud University. “We were on the same team (growing up) and now we’re playing against each other. It’s just really weird.”
Jonny has had a standout two years with the Huskies. He has a run to the Frozen Four and a National Collegiate Hockey Conference trophy under his belt. Not to be outdone by big brother, Michael and the Gophers made their appearance in the NCAA championship game last season.
So with family holidays split between Minnesota and St. Cloud gear, how do you deal with sibling competition and rivalry? Jonny and Michael let us know why it’s the best of both worlds and how blood is thicker than any rivalry.
Built-In Teammate: Jonny and Michael grew up playing together in the Blaine Youth Hockey Association. They have two younger brothers, Easton, 18, and Bryce, 14, who are keeping the Brodzinski name on the ice in Blaine. Toss in their dad, Mike, a former Husky, and they can almost ice a starting lineup.
“We played mini-hockey 2-on-2 or 3-on-1,” said Jonny. “Sometimes we would just rollerblade around the block and pass to each other. We always had someone to play with.”
Michael and Jonny used their brotherly connection for two years at Blaine. The pair dazzled on the power play, always knowing right where the other was going thanks to years of play and practice at home.
Role Models: Michael admits that when he was young, he followed Jonny around everywhere.
“He was just a big role model for me and now we’re best friends,” Michael said. “I’ve really looked up to him and kind of want to be like him. I think that’s why I’m more of an offensive defenseman.”
Jonny remembers going with Michael to their younger brothers’ practices and games.
“It comes from my dad,” said Jonny. “He’s been such a huge factor in all of our lives and it just rubbed off on me to help my younger brothers. I just want to be a mentor toward them and hope to have some sort of impact.”
Push Each Other: Between the congratulations texts, there’s always the question of, “How’d you do?” with notes to compare. It speaks to the level of competition each one of them has. It also fuels one another to do better.
“I’m definitely the more competitive one,” joked Michael. “I like to remind him how we beat (the Huskies) twice last year. He gets a good laugh out of it but I think it also gets him going back to his team and working harder.”
Jonny admits his brother isn’t too far off on that assumption.
“All (four of us) are always trying to make each other the best that we can be,” said Jonny. “We want to help each other grow in the game and be the best player that we can.”
Support System: There will never be a bigger support system than your family. Even on opposing teams, you know there is someone rallying for you to do the best you can.
“Playing against him, there are so many mixed emotions,” said Michael, who helped the Gophers defeat St. Cloud in the NCAA tournament last year to end Jonny and the Huskies’ season. “I really want him to succeed but I have to push myself to do the same. At the end of the day I look out for my team and he looks out for his and it won’t change our relationship because of that.”
Jonny agrees and adds it’s bittersweet, especially when you aren’t on the winning side of things.
“It sucks, especially losing to rivals like the Gophers,” Jonny said of the NCAA tournament. “But for the game it was a special moment and one I’ll never forget. (After the game) I told him good luck and I know you’ll do great. I told him to win it now because you beat me. ‘Now you have to win.’”
Hockey Family: In the end, there’s no bad blood between the two, on or off the ice. It’s just what the Brodzinski brothers do.
“Hockey is just a family activity,” Michael said. “We go and have fun and play our best and hopefully we can take it somewhere some day.”
“I’m lucky,” said Jonny. “Growing up I had three automatic best friends that are all so into hockey like I am. They make it easy to continue to play the game and have fun with it.”
Look for more on the Brodzinski family in the December issue of Minnesota Hockey Journal.