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Wings' prospect, brother share spotlight

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – When they were growing up in suburban Toronto, the Smith brothers – Brendan, Reilly and Rory – played hockey in their parents’ basement. The games were so cut-throat that they scared away their friends.

“Normally we would have friends over,” Brendan Smith said, “but they would end up leaving, because we were too competitive. It would end up being my older brother (Rory) playing net, or one of us playing net, and it would be one-on-one.”

Noticing the confused looks of reporters gathered around his locker stale at Ford Field, the Wisconsin junior defenseman Wisconsin clarified.

“What I mean by competitive, we would be hitting maybe a little too much, or just being too thrilled to play,” he said. “And they couldn’t keep up with our pace or something, so they would end leaving and we would play just us three again.”

Whatever happened in those basement gauntlets has worked well for the Smith brothers. This weekend, two of the brothers are both hoping to capture a national championship with their respective universities. Reilly Smith is a freshman forward for Miami (Ohio).

While Rory Smith isn’t playing this weekend, he still is very competitive, playing pro lacrosse for the National Lacrosse League’s Orlando Titans.

Brendan Smith was the Red Wings’ first-round draft choice in 2007. He was also a Hobey Baker finalist, hockey’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. He leads all college defensemen with 15 goals and 47 points.

Reilly Smith, 20, has made quite an impact with the Redhawks, posting eight goals with 12 assists this season on a team that won the CCHA regular-season title. Last summer, the Dallas Stars made him a third-round draft pick.

Even with the impressive resumes of the two hockey siblings, the rarity of having both participate in the Frozen Four hasn’t escaped Brendan.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “How many people in history have had their little brother play in the Frozen Four with them?”

For Reilly, just making it to Detroit has been an awesome experience.

“Just being in the Frozen Four together is amazing,” Reilly said, “a dream come true ever since I wanted to play college hockey.”

Wisconsin will face-off against Rochester Institute of Technology in Thursday’s first semifinal at 5 p.m. EDT, followed by Miami against Boston College at 8:30 p.m.
In order for the brothers to play against one, it would mean that the Badgers and Redhawks would have to win Thursday.

“Hopefully, keep your fingers crossed that we get to play them,” Brendan said. “It can be in the works, but we have two great opponents, RIT on us, and BC, which is a great team, so hopefully it can happen, but I’m not ruling it out yet.”

The brothers briefly saw each other when the two teams arrived at Ford Field for the first time.

“I remember yesterday when I just showed up here and Wisconsin showed up at the same time,” Reilly said. “Just walking down the ramp and seeing the rink and seeing (Brendan) right there too – it was a great feeling.”

Reilly credited Brendan for his own hockey achievements. Despite the vicious battles in their basement, the two are more than brothers – they’re best friends.

“I’ve really looked up to him a lot,” Reilly Smith said. “He’s kind of created a guideline for me in hockey because he’s achieved a lot of things, and I’ve kind of followed in his footsteps all the way up. It’s been great having him because he’s really helped my growth and development.“

That hasn’t stopped the trash-talking though. The brothers started exchanging pleasantries early in the season.

“I guess we’ve been kind of trash-talking each other all year, because we knew it was a possibility in the back of our heads,” Reilly said. “But we never actually thought it was going to happen, or at least be this close to happening. I guess it’s kind of heated up a little bit, become a little more personal, but I don’t know, I guess we’ll see what happens.”

While Reilly said some of the words exchanged aren’t ‘family-friendly’, he wasn’t afraid to share some of his thoughts on his brother’s appearance.

“His hair is ridiculous right now,” Reilly said. “He should definitely cut it.”

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