Kevin Hatcher remembers sitting in the Washington Capitals' dressing room when Dino Ciccarelli walked in with a hot temper and swelling around his eye.
"He came in after the second period and his eye was slowly closing, so he couldn't play. So he said, 'Somebody better get that [guy],'" Hatcher said. "It was such an awkward position for me to have my teammate, who I actually roomed with for a while in Dino, and have him yelling across the room at my brother."
Hockey has a long-established tradition of protecting one's own, but once in a while a wrench gets thrown into the mix. As he sat by his locker that night, that wrench stared Hatcher in the face. Ciccarelli missed the rest of the game because of a collision with Kevin's brother Derian, leaving Kevin in the uncomfortable position of balancing his team against his family.
Such is the complex nature of that situation when brothers are pitted against one another in professional sports. For Kevin and Derian Hatcher those times were more often than not.
"I used to get that question all the time," Kevin said. "'Do you think you'll ever get an opportunity to play with your brother,' and my answer to that is, 'There's 30 teams in the NHL. I doubt the two of us will ever end up on the same team.'"
However, the opportunity did arise -- both in the NHL and on the national team level -- and on Thursday, Kevin and Derian Hatcher are together once again. The brothers are being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame during a ceremony at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
Also being inducted are 20-year NHL veteran Jeremy Roenick, former U.S. Olympic team physician Dr. V. George Nagobads and longtime USA Hockey executive Art Berglund.
"It's great to go in and everything, but I think what makes it better is going in with my brother," Derian said this week. "Growing up you never imagine going into the Hall of Fame. I remember being the kid playing for a gold medal, and you're playing for the Stanley Cup. You never think about going to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. I think going in with my brother just makes it that much more special."
The Hatchers, the first pair of brothers to be inducted since Mark and Scott Fusco in 2002, each played more than 1,000 games in the NHL and were defensive partners for a brief time during their two seasons together in Dallas from 1994-96. But the two achieved their greatest success on the ice together as teammates on the U.S. National team.
As members of the U.S. squad that defeated Canada in Montreal to win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, Kevin and Derian Hatcher played a role in what was a transformative moment for USA Hockey.
"My first Canada Cup was in 1987, and we really couldn't compete with the Canadians," Kevin said. "They had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of athletes to choose from, and we could choose from 30 or 40. So to see the progress that the United States made in that short period of time, in different generations, just new generations coming up like my brother, and Modano, and Weight, and Guerin, Amonte, Leclaire, Tkachuk -- it's just really nice to be a part of that.
"We beat Canada in their backyard."
As USA Hockey has developed from an also-ran in the late 1980s to a program that can boast a World Cup win and appearances in two of the last three gold-medal games at the Winter Olympics, the Hatchers have been involved each step of the way, from Kevin's appearance at the 1984 World Junior Championships in Sweden to Derian's participation in the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy.
Who owes whom for the contributions is anyone's guess, however. The past two decades have been a mutually beneficial relationship for the Hatchers and USA Hockey. Kevin and Derian helped to make U.S. hockey consistently relevant on the international stage, but both players are unlikely to have developed into NHL All-Stars without the training they received from the people in the U.S. national program.
A blueliner who liked to push the puck, Kevin tallied 677 points during 16 NHL seasons. While Derian was unable to match his brother's offense, his physical play made him a pillar of the Stars' defense throughout the late 1990s, culminating in his becoming the first U.S.-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 1999.
That title came one year after the brothers paired up for the final time for the U.S. at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. As Derian led the Stars to several deep postseason runs in the years that followed, Kevin bounced from Pittsburgh to New York and finally to Carolina before retiring in 2001.
"The one thing I don't want to forget is when we played together in Nagano," Derian said. "We didn't do that well, but just the experience of going to the Olympics was great. My mom and dad were there, my wife was there. It was just a great time all around."
Derian didn't hang up his skates until 2009, but given that the two haven't played together in a meaningful game since 1998, it's understandable as to why the younger Hatcher might find those Olympics to be so memorable.
Fortunately for Derian and Kevin, Thursday's ceremony will provide them one more chance to turn hockey into a family affair.
"My brother and I have been very fortunate throughout our careers," Kevin said. "But to go into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame with him … that is a real icing on the cake."
Reach David Kalan at email@example.com