MONTREAL - From mini-sticks to street hockey, video games to board games, brothers Charlie, Andrew and Ryan Lindgren certainly didn't take it easy on each other growing up.
That isn't atypical behavior for siblings, of course, especially as kids.
"It was pretty crazy. All three of us are just so, so competitive. If one of us lost at anything, I remember not talking for a few hours. That's just the way it was. We all expected to win at whatever we were doing. There were countless controller throws and quitting mid-game, whether it was NHL or Madden. Honestly, I think NHL was the main culprit," recalled 23-year-old Charlie with a laugh. "That was one of those games where things would get out of hand every time. You almost got mad at the game when you were losing."
On the ice, though, the Lindgren boys channelled that competitive spirit into besting their opponents, and that ultimately helped to pave the way for all three of them to move their respective hockey careers forward, with Charlie leading the charge.
A standout between the pipes at St. Cloud State University, the eldest of the Lindgren clan signed a free-agent contract with the Canadiens following his Junior campaign and excelled in his first full year in the pros this past season, posting a 24-18-6 record with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps. He also won both of his starts during a late-season call-up to the big club, topping both the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings in early April.
Like Charlie, 20-year-old Andrew is a goaltender, too. After a two-year stint in the North American Hockey League, he elected to ply his trade for Saint John's University in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference where he completed his freshman season in 2016-17.
For his part, 19-year-old Ryan, a defenseman, is set to become the first sophomore alternate captain at the University of Minnesota in eight years next season. He was selected 49th overall by the Boston Bruins at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, and helped Team USA claim a gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Montreal.
These days, sibling rivalry has given way to heartfelt mutual support.
"We've got a text messaging group, a Snapchat group and we also use the Houseparty app. We've got a couple of groups going at the same time. With technology nowadays, it's just so easy to stay in touch and connect no matter where we are. Hockey's always a topic of conversation, but we also talk about what's going on at school and how they're progressing," said Charlie, who can easily relate to his brothers' collegiate experience, having gone through it himself. "We'll try to cover a little bit of everything when we talk, and that's the best part about it."
"Still, there are times when you definitely like to give each other a hard time. It's pretty much half-and-half. That's just being brothers and having fun," added Charlie. "Other times, you need to be supportive and help out. Life's not always perfect, so we'll do a bit of both. But, we do talk on a daily basis and we're extremely close."
One of the more memorable hockey moments the brothers shared in recent years came last June when Ryan's name was called by the Bruins' brass at the KeyBank Center.
"I was very proud of him. That was the first reaction. The draft was actually really stressful to watch. When he was picked, the whole family was super excited. Then, pretty early on, we're like - 'The Canadiens-Bruins rivalry is one of the biggest in hockey.' Hopefully, down the road we'll get to witness that matchup with us first-hand," said Charlie, on the prospect of facing off against his youngest brother in the NHL ranks at some point in the future. "It was absolutely amazing seeing him achieve his goal, just knowing the hard work he put in. It was very well-deserved. I think he has a very bright career ahead of him."
Two-and-a-half months earlier, Ryan couldn't make it to North Carolina to see Charlie's NHL debut - a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. At the time, the future second-round pick was sporting his country's colors while competing at the 2016 IIHF Under-18 World Championship in North Dakota. Charlie knew he was there in spirit, though, cheering him on along with Andrew and his parents, Bob and Jennifer, all of whom caught a last-minute flight out of Minneapolis to be there.
"Having Andrew there was special. Some of the texts I received after the game, Ryan couldn't believe it. He just gets so emotional seeing me out there. I think it's a dream that all three of us shared growing up and reaching that level is awesome. It's everything you dream about," said Charlie, who made 26 saves in a duel against one of his childhood idols, Cam Ward. "That was a night I'll never forget. It means everything to have their support."
Their bond, however, extends far beyond the rink. When Charlie heads back home in the offseason, spending quality time together has always been a top priority.
"Whenever we're together, it's always a heck of a time, no matter what we're doing. I think it's super important to make that time. Those two are my best friends and we'll stay that way for the rest of our lives," said Charlie, who spends his summers in the North Star State. "We like fishing together. We do that a lot. We play a lot of tennis now, too. Just those activities where we can get out and still be a little bit competitive, but have a great time doing it."
Does one of those activities over the next few months include hitting the ice with Ryan for a shooting session with him in goal? Possibly, but only time will tell.
"I think this summer I might let him start taking shots on me. I'm still not used to it. Just the fact that it's kind of a lose-lose situation for me," cracked Charlie. "He expects me to stop him, but if he scores, I know I won't hear the end of it. We'll see. It could be a long summer if that's the case."