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Bridging The Gap

by Arash Memarzadeh @ArashMemarzadeh / The Botchford Project

On June 20th, 1994, Sports Illustrated released a cover featuring New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter stopping phenom Vancouver Canucks winger Pavel Bure on a penalty shot with the headline reading: "Why the NHL's Hot and the NBA's not."

After the article, the NBA turned the spotlight onto the talented players that filled its league, starting with the eternal Michael Jordan leading the Chicago Bulls to three straight championship wins. Jordan's rivalries with fellow stars Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Isiah Thomas became must watch television. The era lives on in the 2020 mini-series "The Last Dance", which over five weeks amassed 5.6 million viewers, the most-watched ESPN documentary of all time. 
 
In the following year, the NHL had a Fall lockout, wiping out the first half of the 94-95 season. Then? It decided to invest in glowing pucks for Fox broadcasts so newer fans were able to track the play more easily. Politely speaking, the lead was short-lived.
 
Now, twenty-seven years later, the two leagues may have a chance to join forces in the name of brotherhood, through two maternal half-brothers from Texas of all places: University of Houston Cougars shooting guard Quentin Grimes and Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers. Grimes and Myers are on the verge of becoming the first sibling duo to play in the NHL and NBA. Grimes has declared for the 2021 NBA draft scheduled for July 29th. He is currently expected to be drafted in the 2nd round, but even if he isn't drafted, he may still sign with a team afterwards as an unrestricted free agent, not an uncommon situation in the NBA.   

This story isn't special just because of a sibling-related historical milestone. The two leagues throughout their shared history have not had many, if any positive reasons to be connected with each other. Hockey has always been on the outside looking in anywhere but Canada as its three major counterparts dominated the rest of North America's sports landscape.

To be clear: millions of kids won't now suddenly be playing basketball in the summer and hockey in the winter. But with the recent television rights deal involving Turner Sports to broadcast NHL games, the door is opening even wider. Can you imagine Shaquille O'Neal on the TNT panel talking about how Grimes' half-brother is a 6'8 hockey defenceman?

It's why this family's journey to continue binding together the two sports is so important.
 
Grimes began his collegiate career with a commitment to the Kansas Jayhawks in 2017 before transferring to the University of Houston after his freshman season. Showing a slow but steady improvement through his sophomore year, his breakout finally happened in 2020-2021, where he averaged 17.8 points per game along with career highs in steals, rebounds and 3-point field-goal percentage. 

Myers, 10 years Grimes' senior, just finished his 13th season in the NHL. Having played more than 800 games in that span including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he also collected the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2010 as the NHL's rookie of the year.
 
As noted before, the Canucks defenceman towers at a massive 6'8 stature (which mixed with his strong skating ability makes him a unique option for any general manager in the NHL), you'd have to wonder in the most ridiculously absurd fantasy based only in the mind of this writer, could Myers follow the path of other multi-sport athletes such as Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders to join his sibling in the NBA to create one of the most shocking duos in sports history?
 
Not so fast.
 
"I don't know what kind of super team we can create," said Myers with a smirk on his face. "But I'm certainly very excited for him. I don't know if we would be the first set of brothers in the NHL and the NBA but what would be pretty cool. I'm definitely keeping an eye out for him in the next year."
 
Myers was drafted 12th overall in the 2008 NHL draft while playing for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Quentin won't have to look far to reach out to someone for advice. 

"It's an exciting time for sure for Q [Quentin]," Myers said. "You know I remember going through my draft year, it was a very exciting time for an 18-year old kid. Q's a little bit older now going through it but you know, it should be very exciting for him and I hope he enjoys it."
 
Myers went on to have a fantastic debut season. In 2009-2010, he led all Sabres defensemen in scoring with 48 points, still a career high. After six seasons in Buffalo, he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets. After five seasons, he returned to British Columbia, signing with the Canucks as a free agent in 2019 to a five-year, 30 million dollar contract.
 
The true unsung heroine of this story is Tonja Stelly, the mother of Grimes and Myers. Stelly herself played two seasons of basketball at Fort Hays State in Kansas, until eventually transferring to Kansas State. It seems obvious the boys can thank their mother for their shared athletic prowess. Stelly spoke in a segment during Hockey Night in Canada, "I teased their fathers, since they have different dads, I'm like, you know, there's only one common denominator."

Myers moved from Texas to Calgary in order to pursue hockey when Grimes was only 3 months old, so the regular dynamic of a sibling relationship wasn't possible at that time. "It's hard, I mean they're only children, if you will, because they haven't ever lived in the same household together. We didn't get those opportunities that I wish they would've been able to share." said Stelly. Living in a family dedicated to sports fosters an understanding that there are no guaranteed opportunities to advance your career, so when one comes along, it should be embraced. In a few months, Grimes hopes to achieve his dream, becoming part of sports history the moment he steps onto an NBA court. 
 
"I think that would be very exciting for the whole family if that were to happen. Definitely rooting Q on to take the next step here out of college. Pretty exciting to see. It's too bad our schedules are the same, it's gonna be hard for me to get down to watch him play." said Myers.
 
If the stars align, the history books will have Myers, Grimes, Stelly and the family's very grateful dads etched into its pages by the end of July. "It would be a huge success story, I mean, just as far as every parent wants to see their children live out their dreams and be happy." said Stelly, holding back tears.
 
27 years ago, the NHL and NBA were neck in neck in a ratings battle that got the world asking which was the dominant sport heading into the future. 
 
After 74 years of shared existence between the two leagues, the real winner seems to be a family from Texas.
 

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