DETROIT - When Brendan and Reilly Smith used to face off in a seven-game series in their childhood basement, the only thing that was ever really at stake was their pride.
“Pride – I mean more than anything, I couldn’t let him beat me as my little brother and if he beat me it was quite a joy so I mean that’s just how we are, brothers,” Brendan said. “We would play a seven-game series but never got to seven games because there would be fighting or somebody got hurt and parents would have to call it quits.”
When the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins meet Friday in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, much more than pride will be on the line between Brendan, a Wings defenseman, and Reilly, a forward for the Bruins.
The game will mark the seventh time the brothers have played against each other in the NHL, with Brendan holding a 4-2 advantage over Reilly. But those regular season games pale in comparison to the importance of the upcoming playoff series.
“Just the regular season games would have been the biggest thing I’ve ever played against him so obviously this amps it up even more,” Brendan said. “It’s definitely a whole different bird with this kind of series.”
And one he has been looking forward to since the Eastern Conference pairing was determined. When Brendan takes the ice opposite Reilly Friday, the defenseman will become the first Wings player to ever play against his brother in a Stanley Cup playoff game.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Brendan said. “I guess it would be his first playoff game and I heard that he’s pretty jacked up, he’s told me a few times and just to play a playoff series in general is exciting and it’s really exciting that I’m going to be playing against my little brother.”
It’s no surprise that Brendan knows exactly how excited his younger brother is, as the two talk on the phone every day. The hockey brothers watch as many of each other’s highlights and games as possible, often asking questions, offering advice and bouncing around ideas, even as the playoff heat increases.
“We’ll go over things what we thought that we could do better with or even give compliments to each other and boost each other up so that’s something that’s been really good for us and that’s something that we’ll continue to do but like I said it will probably be a little less talk now as it is now playoff series but, not in the sense that, we’ll talk in the same amount but probably less about hockey and stuff like that.”
But Reilly will also try to get a little inside information out of his older brother.
“He’s always asking, ‘Will Zetterberg be back?’ and stuff like that but yeah we talk a little bit and it’s pretty cool to have this happen in my life and my family’s life,” Smith said.
Deidre and Lester Smith will travel to Boston and Detroit for the first four games of the series, and Brendan hopes to see his older brother Rory in the crowd as well. The family will also get together for dinner throughout the series, where the two brothers may discover exactly what their parents plan on wearing to support both of their sons.
“Maybe B’s in Boston and reds here, I’m not sure how they’re going to do it,” Brendan said. “I really don’t know, I’m not going to ask her or speculate on anything. I don’t know, it’ll be interesting, I’m actually just as interested as you guys are.”
Although Brendan and Reilly will naturally exchange some words about the series, and place a friendly wager over dinner Thursday night, most of their conversations over the next few weeks will avoid the subject of hockey.
“We’ll trash talk a little bit, obviously, we’re brothers,” Brendan said. “So that’s going to happen but a lot of times we try to just be ourselves, be brothers and just hang out and talk about everything else – about how the weather is awful here and whatever, stuff like that. Obviously we talk about hockey but we try to get away from that as much as possible.”
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