Saturday, February 29th was a big day for the Anderson household. Gerry and Dana's youngest child, Mikey, made his NHL debut with the LA Kings. If that isn't momentous enough, in a stroke of fate, it was a game against the New Jersey Devils for whom Mikey's older brother, Joey, was in the lineup.
"It was super special. We were fortunate enough to have our family here for it as well. They've done a lot for me and him since we've been babies. You dream about it and just being able to play an NHL game and then see him on the other side, it's pretty unbelievable," recalled the 20-year-old Mikey, younger than Joey by one year.
It's quite normal for families to make a trip to watch their kid's NHL debut, but the stars were lined up for this one months in advance. The Andersons, based in Minnesota, had decided before Christmas that they were going to make a 10-day trip to the West Coast that coincided with the Devils' west coast swing.
Their plan was to watch Mikey play for the Ontario Reign, and their hope was that Joey, who has split parts of the last two seasons between the Devils and their AHL affiliate, would be with the big club.
A couple days before the game, Mikey found out he would be in the lineup against the Devils and immediately called Joey to let him know. They both decided that their childhood best friend, David, should also be in attendance alongside Mom, Dad, older sister Sami, and Joey's girlfriend, also named Sami.
"He's sitting there just studying for school doing whatever, next thing he knows he's on a plane coming to LA for 24 hours, so it was pretty fun," Mikey says.
The Kings topped the Devils by the score of 2-1, thanks to an overtime goal by Adrian Kempe, but that hardly mattered to the Andersons, who couldn't have envisioned this day any more perfectly since those days out on the backyard rink when their kids were just starting out.
In the backyard of their Roseville, Minnesota home, there was a 10-foot patio that Gerry used to flood in the winter for Sami, to skate on. As her younger brothers began to skate, the rink increased in size, and eventually stretched out into the middle of the yard. As the kids got older and bigger, so did the rink, and soon it became the entire yard where the kids would spend hours having a blast.
"Every winter our whole backyard was basically just a rink with real boards. I don't even know where we found [the boards], some bar had like, an outdoor rink in the winters and they were getting rid of all their boards, so my dad bought them for really cheap."
Hockey was always the first love. Mikey remembers cheering for the Minnesota Wild and playing mini sticks in the house with Joey in their Marian Gaborik jerseys that Dana still has saved. However, during the summers, Gerry and Dana would take their kids' skates away so they would participate in other sports and not get burned out with hockey.
Instead they played baseball, golf, tennis, and racquetball. Dana was a professional racquetball player, so often they'd accompany her to the court and hit the ball around.
"We always came back to hockey once it got cold out," states Mikey, matter-of-factly. "I think when you're little you could kind of get mad at them because that's all you want to do, but when you look back now, with especially how long these seasons can be, you kind of have to thank them for giving you a break and especially at a young age you learn a lot of other skills from different sports whether it's hand-eye coordination, and being around different sports kind of brings in everything and it'll translate to hockey eventually."
When the Anderson boys were old enough to play organized hockey in the summer, Gerry made them choose a sport because one meant missing out on another.
"We didn't want to miss hockey so we stopped playing baseball, but it was our decision at that point where we knew whatever we wanted to do we could do," says the defenseman.
It was a decision that resulted in Mikey being drafted by the Kings in the fourth round, 103rd overall, in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, then going on to win back-to-back NCAA Division I Championships in 2018 and 2019 with the University of Minnesota - Duluth, the first of which he won with Joey.
"Whenever I talk about it it's always funny because when you're in Minnesota, you grow up wanting to play high school hockey, then you want to play college hockey, then being able to play for Duluth, an in-state school, then dreaming about winning a Frozen Four, then you have it happen once and it's pretty crazy, then it happens again and you can't really put into words what just went on because it's so hard to repeat," explains Mikey. "You have to get a little lucky and you have to be fortunate and we're very happy and blessed that we were able to do it."
Championships aside, Anderson thoroughly enjoyed his time at Duluth. His freshman year he was able to live and play with Joey, who stayed in on-campus housing an extra year to be able to do so. Sister Sami was also in Duluth at a neighboring college, and Duluth happens to be where Gerry grew up, and hence there were a lot of family members and friends close by for support.
Initially, he was studying pre-business, but at one point switched to psychology, and he is still taking courses online in order to work towards his degree. While the courses keep him busy and give him something to do away from the rink, he isn't sure if 'Doctor Mikey Anderson' is a title he'll have when his playing days are over.
"I don't know if I'll go that far, but we'll see what happens as time goes on and I'll figure out what I want to do. I think it would be fun to be able to work with athletes in some way," Mikey admits.
When he's not on the ice or working on coursework, Anderson enjoys watching "Game of Thrones," which he binged last year, "The Office," his favorite background go-to, and "Trailer Park Boys," always good for a laugh. He loves action movies - "The Dark Knight" and the "Batman Begins" series are some of his favorites - but is also a fan of romantic comedies, "Endless Love" being the flick that hooked him on that genre.
"It builds something up, something happens and you see if they can figure it out or not, it's fun," says Anderson about romantic comedies, an interest Joey also shares.
In terms of music, he listens to everything and isn't picky, but does admit he likes Country while outside in the sun, and his favorite artists are Khalid and Marshmello. Anderson can also be found on his Xbox, either playing NHL or Fortnite with Joey.
While playing NHL, they draft their own team and play together, a tradition that has continued since high school when the two would fight and break controllers when playing against one another. Mom's anger prompted this solution that has been upheld for more than five years. Anderson is looking forward to seeing himself in the game one day.
During the season Anderson was living in Manhattan Beach with teammate and fellow first-year Blake Lizotte, as the two go back to their college hockey days playing against each other, Anderson with Minnesota - Duluth and Lizotte with St. Cloud State.
The roommates cook often, something Anderson did a lot of even in college, after learning from his mom. His best dish is a pesto salmon with sweet potato and some sort of vegetable, which he normally cooks on a day before a game.
Although the season is paused at the moment, after working for this his whole life, Anderson will be ready for whatever comes next.
"You dream about [playing in the NHL] your whole life. You grow up watching some of these guys and you dream about being in their shoes one day," says Anderson, who would answer the annual grade school yearbook question 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' with "NHL hockey player" every year.
"You have the people who kind of laugh at you, but you're an 8-year-old kid, you're not going to tell an 8-year-old kid not to dream about it," laughs Anderson. "The fact that it actually happens it's pretty crazy, there are so many great hockey players out there that don't ever get a chance, so just being able to get a chance is pretty awesome."
It's a good thing he didn't include in his answer that he also wanted to make his NHL debut against his big brother in the city where his family would be vacationing.
Because that's just crazy.