More on the line for van Riemsdyks

Trevor van Riemsdyk and James van Riemsdyk have played against each other -- with mini sticks. Getty Images

TORONTO -- It'll be JVR versus TVR at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Oh, and BVR watching in the stands with Mom and Dad. Does it get any better than this?

"A first-time experience for sure, even in youth hockey they never played against each other because of the age difference," Frans van Riemsdyk, the patriarch of hockey-playing boys, told ESPN.com this week. "We'll probably go through a whole host of emotions. One is excitement for sure. But I'm sure there will also be some nervous energy in there; some of the normal reactions of wanting them both to play well and play the game the right way. I'm sure I'll have some anxious moments, I know my wife will have anxious moments, so we'll manage our way through together."

It might be the first-ever, official, on-ice hockey game against each other, but for Trevor van Riemsdyk, 23, of the Chicago Blackhawks; James van Riemsdyk, 25, of the Toronto Maple Leafs; and the youngest of the clan, rising hockey player Brendan van Riemsdyk, 18, there were plenty of hockey games of another sort back home growing up in Middletown, New Jersey.

"It should be fun Saturday," James van Riemsdyk said earlier this week. "I know, growing up, we used to always have quite a few battles, some stitches, some blood spilled and some tears shed. This will obviously be on a different stage."

In fact, it sounds like Saturday night will be a safer stage, judging from the childhood battle stories.

"Oh, definitely, definitely will be," chuckled Trevor van Riemsdyk on Friday. "We had some battles in our basement with our mini hockey sticks. It was pretty intense, I'll say."

Never mind that, said Brendan, try being the youngest of the lot in those basement battles.

"They'd love to stir the pot with me especially, they knew they could get me going when I was younger," Brendan said, laughing, in a phone call with ESPN.com this week. "They would take full advantage of that."

That basement in the Middletown home where Frans and Allison still live, well, it deserves a lot of love. It produced these three hockey players, after all.

"When we first moved in our current house, it didn't have a finished basement," explained Frans, who has Dutch roots. "So we decided we needed to convert it into a nice playroom for the kids. We had a contractor come in and put up some paneling and stuff, and a tight-woven rug so at least balls could roll down there. It all looked pretty good when the contractor got done, but seven or eight years later, after I can't even count how many games the boys had down there, the paneling was all banged up, there were holes in the wall, countless disagreements that had to be refereed. It's pretty funny to see how it goes from those early, simple times, to now."

Frans said about a dozen or so family and friends will be on hand Saturday night at Air Canada Centre while countless others back in Middletown have planned get-togethers to watch the game on TV.

"It'll be a special moment for sure, Mom and Dad will have a pretty big smile on their face," said Trevor.

"It's going to be surreal," said James. "I'd be interested if they had the [isolation] cam on them to see what their emotions are when the game starts."

And what about the two players on the ice?

"I don't know how many times I'll be out there against him, but I'm sure it'll happen once or twice," Trevor said. "I just got to be ready, hopefully won't let him buzz around me with his speed. I just want to play well. It'll be a special moment to start but once the game gets going, I'll be focused on that and not thinking too much about being out there against him."

Ten months ago, about the last place on earth Trevor thought he'd be in early November was playing an NHL game against his older brother. That's because he was lying on a trainers table with a broken ankle suffered at the University of New Hampshire, his season over.

"It's been a fun trip since January with all the rehab and this summer working out with James," said Trevor. "It's been a long journey but a lot of fun along the way."

The defenseman was signed by the Blackhawks as a college free agent in March and, facing long odds, made one of the NHL's top clubs out of camp this season. Amazing, really.

"Trevor exceeded everyone's expectations, but it's good to see what hard work and perseverance will do for you," said Frans.

In all honesty, deep down, most everyone figured Trevor would have to spend some time in the AHL before realizing his NHL dream.

"That's just been his M.O. throughout his whole career is proving doubters wrong," said little brother Brendan. "Even though I was telling people who would ask me that he would probably start out in [AHL] Rockford, I held out hope that he would make the team. When I found out he did, I was surprised but not as much as most people. I have always had faith in his game and work ethic."

Still, given the ankle injury in January, who knew it would come this quickly?

"It's pretty crazy to think about how the year has gone," said Trevor.

Adds James: "I always knew he would fare well, just knowing how smart he is, but to have this kind of success this early as far as making that team, I don't think many people gave him that chance. Especially since he got hurt last year."

Those summer workouts with James definitely paid off. Big brother's influence has been important.

"Yeah, he's been a great role model," TVR said of JVR. "He's done a lot of hard work. He's shown me in the summers the type of dedication it takes to play at this level; focusing on your diet and workouts, it's a 24-hour thing. He's definitely been a good mentor."

James has kept tabs on Trevor via text message since his middle brother's NHL life began earlier this month.

"Yeah, I try to keep in touch every couple of days or so, just to see how he's doing, how it's going, and if he needs anything," said James. "I know he's got a great group of guys there, I know some guys on that team and they've been great with him and helped him feel comfortable, so that's good."

Big brother James is the one who first made the handy acronym moniker "JVR" work, which now, it appears, is being handed down to both younger brothers in their own form.

"Some people call me [TVR], I don't know if it's completely stuck yet," said Trevor, who added a few Blackhawks teammates have called him that already this season. "It's pretty funny, James made the nickname popular with 'JVR' and it's just kind of following through now."

There are mentions of a "BVR" in some of the blogs covering the Islanders junior hockey club of the USPHL. That's where Brendan already has potted 16 goals in 15 games this season.

"He's definitely coming into his own," TVR said of BVR. "He's always had a lot of skill. As a taller guy, sometimes it takes a little bit longer to grow into your body. But I think he's going to be a very good player in his own right. He's committed to UNH, too, to finish off the three brothers there. I think he's got a really bright future."

Indeed, just like James and Trevor, Brendan plans to play his college hockey at the University of New Hampshire. In the meantime, the tallest of the three brothers at 6-foot-5, Brendan hopes to fill out.

"I'm the biggest height-wise in the family, but I've got a lot to go width-wise though," said Brendan, who, like James, is a winger.

It just so happens that Brendan's team doesn't play this weekend, affording him the chance to take in his brothers' NHL game. The question is, what team will he cheer for?

"Oh, that's tough, I'm going to cheer for a 1-0 game with James scoring the only goal, so it's low-scoring, and hopefully Trevor isn't on the ice for it," said Brendan.

Told of that comment, Trevor wasn't supportive of that predicted result.

"I don't know about that, maybe something a little different," he said of a desired result. "I think my parents will be cheering for an overtime or shootout game, a nice close one I'm sure is what they're hoping for," added Trevor.

But what will Mom and Dad wear to the game?

"We're still deliberating on that," Frans said Wednesday. "Allison has got some ideas about different color combinations. I'm not so savvy on the fashion front. I'll maybe wear a Blackhawks hat and a Maple Leafs jackets or something."

James van Riemsdyk

James van Riemsdyk

#21 LW
Toronto Maple Leafs

2014-15 STATS

  • GM9
  • G4

  • A2

  • PTS6

  • +/-1

  • PIM11

Trevor van Riemsdyk

Trevor van Riemsdyk

#57 D
Chicago Blackhawks

2014-15 STATS

  • GM10
  • G0

  • A0

  • PTS0

  • +/-0

  • PIM2

Fact is, none of those details will really matter, not the score, not the team colors they'll wear. What will matter is a memory of a lifetime, the culmination of the sacrifices from hardworking parents who raised their kids right.

Ask any member of the Toronto media who has covered James, and they will describe a polite and well-spoken young man. You get the same sense talking to Trevor and Brendan, and it's not surprising after hearing from their father. This is a humble family with its priorities in order.

All of which makes Saturday night a blessing, not the culmination of some long-ago designed strategy.

"I don't think this was their master plan when we were growing up, to have us be in a situation like this," said James. "But obviously it's worked out."

The voice at the other end of the phone sounded reflective. Frans van Riemsdyk couldn't believe how lucky his family was to have a moment like Saturday night.

"It's just been a great ride from those early beginnings of brothers beating each other up in the driveway, to getting to this point," said Frans.

"There was definitely not any sort of a master plan," he added. "My wife and I were just thrilled that they were taking to hockey as kids and enjoying it. It's something that they enjoyed watching on TV, watching on video, just having fun with it. You just never dream that it could come to this point. We feel very blessed and honored that we've got two sons playing for Original Six teams. It doesn't get any better than that."

Well, not until the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens or Detroit Red Wings get Brendan, that is.