Jason Robertson’s telephone was “blowing up.”
The Dallas Stars winger was at a crew dinner when he acquired phrase his brother, Nick, had “tucked” for his first profession NHL aim in Recreation 3 of final 12 months’s qualifying-round sequence between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I am like, ‘Oh my God,’ I gotta have a look at it,” Jason, 21, remembers in a joint interview with Nick.
“And I see that it is a floater by means of the goalie’s chest that goes in,” smiles Jason.
“I aimed for that,” Nick, 19, pipes up.
“Yeah, OK, he aimed for his chest, squeaked in,” says Jason.
“I simply needed a fast shot,” says Nick.
“It was fairly particular,” Jason relents.
“On the time, you could possibly have stated that I used to be just a little jealous, he performed a recreation and I used to be watching, however I used to be blissful for him.”
The back-and-forth doesn’t finish with Jason’s admission. Extra chirps are dished out in an trade that lasts fewer than two minutes, however is indicative of the aggressive, but co-operative bond between the brothers from a tight-knit household, and the professional hockey journey they’ve launched into collectively.
Nick and Jason Robertson face one another within the OHL. (Mercedes Robertson)
Jason — Dallas’ second-round decide within the 2017 NHL Draft — could have watched from the Stars’ taxi squad as his brother discovered early success within the bubble, however the tables have turned this season.
Nick, a second-rounder in 2019, has struggled to search out his footing within the NHL after getting derailed by accidents and is again within the AHL with the Marlies. In the meantime, his older brother overcame a stretch of scratches at the beginning the season to blow up on to the scene in Dallas, making his case for the NHL’s Calder Trophy with 42 factors 47 video games to nip on the heels of the early favorite, Kirill Kaprizov, within the rookie scoring race.
However Jason isn’t excited about particular person accolades, his sights are set on two targets: getting the Stars again to the post-season, and, equally necessary, placing his little brother — who’s six inches and practically 50 kilos smaller (5-9, 164 to 6-3, 210) — in his place.
“Proper now, you discuss to Jason and he is like ‘We acquired one factor in thoughts and that’s: make the playoffs,’ After which how he’ll beat his brother within the summertime with floorball,” his father, Hugh, stated with amusing.
“I imply, let’s get actual. There’s priorities,” joked his mom, Mercedes.
The Robertsons say there’s no rivalry on the ice (so long as they each do nicely), however in every little thing else — foosball, ping-pong, NHL, FIFA or floorball, particularly — issues can get heated.
“It might be like 9 o’clock, everybody’s going to mattress, and my brother and I used to say, ‘Let’s do a fast one,’ and I would get the entire gear on and I would be goalie, we would do shootouts. I would be screaming, my dad could be yelling, ‘What is going on on? What are you guys doing?’ He got here down, he was mad. He took my FIFA disk, he tore it aside,” mirrored Nick on his childhood battles with Jason.
“It was a blast.”
Nick and Jason Robertson play floorball in the course of the preliminary COVID-19 lockdown. (Mercedes Robertson)
Actually. Whereas the Crosbys famously had their dinged-up dryer that fell sufferer to Sidney’s hockey desires, nicely, the Robertsons had a number of casualties: the basement and storage on the household’s residence in Northville, Mich.
“In case you have a look at the wall, they’ve shot by means of the wall, OK, to the purpose the place you possibly can see the studs, you possibly can see the skin brick from inside in our storage, all through our basement,” stated Hugh.
“They’re simply very aggressive. Very aggressive.”
The hockey room within the basement of the Robertson residence in Michigan. (Mercedes Robertson)
Whereas Jason and Nick could have had their squabbles rising up, household at all times got here first.
“My mother and father stated, ‘We’re all a crew,’ us siblings, so if I do one thing mistaken, or I screw up, we’re all getting punished. It is not simply me. It is everybody else,” stated Nick, 19, the youngest of Mercedes and Hugh’s 4 children (three boys, two women).
It was one for all, and all for one. Working example: the household’s choice to uproot from Los Angeles to Michigan.
It was truly Michael, 22, the eldest son, who acquired the Robertsons hooked on hockey. When he was a toddler, the household attended a junior recreation in Colorado, and Michael was mesmerized, “monitoring” the motion continuous.
Hugh and Mercedes proceeded to enroll Michael, and every youngster thereafter, in skating classes, with their ardour for the game taking one other leap when the Robertsons grew to become season-ticket holders for the Los Angeles Kings within the early aughts.
It wasn’t lengthy earlier than all three Robertson sons had been deeply concerned in aggressive hockey, with the hours within the household RV or on flights, to distant cities like Chicago and Winnipeg, turning into overwhelming.
“I would … meet (Mercedes) on the airport, we alter children. I take the one she simply introduced again residence and provides her one other one,” recalled Hugh, who stayed in L.A. to work at his regulation agency.
So in 2010, the household packed up and moved to Michigan. With Mercedes going to settle in with the youngsters first and turning into a full-time hockey mother, and Hugh initially commuting in on weekends.
“This expertise, this journey … it would not have occurred if not for the tight-knit household that we have now and all of the sacrifices that everybody has made,” stated Jason.
The emphasis on family-first could be attributed, largely, to Mercedes. The youngest of six siblings, Mercedes moved to L.A. from Manila on the age of three as her mother and father fled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and got here to the U.S. looking for larger alternatives.
The Robertson household is seen on the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver. (Mercedes Robertson)
The transfer got here at the price of her father’s profession as a lawyer, who couldn’t follow within the U.S. with out returning to high school, forcing him to tackle work as a taxi driver and a title insurance coverage officer — at all times working at the least two jobs, generally three on weekends — to offer for his children.
“It is not all about what you are doing, it is what the household is doing collectively. As a result of that is what makes us stronger: how we’re all doing collectively and the way we’re all sort of making an attempt to raise one another,” stated Mercedes.
That lesson’s been notably necessary amid the COVID-19 pandemic with the household scattered throughout North America.
“I actually tried to instill with them all through that they must hold the road of communication open, as a result of should you do not set up that younger in life, when they’re going to be too busy as adults that would simply get away from them,” stated Mercedes.
“And I simply love that after I inform them, ‘Hey, we attempt to hold them up to date on all people’s lives, whether or not they ask or they do not, it does not matter — they should know.’”
Whereas he FaceTimes his mother “two occasions a day,” — usually simply to catch a glimpse of the household’s black lab, Cass — it’s been practically a 12 months since Nick noticed his household as he chases his NHL desires with the Maple Leafs in Canada.
The prolonged separation was no extra poignant than final fall when Nick missed U.S. Thanksgiving at residence, an occasion that’s change into the household’s “most necessary day of the 12 months.” It was on that day in 2001 that Nick — born three months untimely on September 11, weighing simply three kilos and two ounces and needing life-saving steroid photographs to open up his lungs — lastly got here residence from the hospital.
“That was clearly fairly robust. My brother was there too, my household, my sister and everybody came to visit — girlfriends and every little thing — and I believe I used to be simply sort of jealous. I needed to be there so unhealthy for that,” stated Nick.
Nick Robertson in his first few days after his beginning. (Mercedes Robertson)
Nick and Jason have tried to assist one another as they’ve each gone by means of their ups and downs over the course of the previous 12 months.
Jason made his NHL debut in 2020 for Dallas, however solely suited up for 3 video games earlier than languishing within the bubble after which shuttling forwards and backwards between the taxi squad this season till he made the large membership for good on Feb. 4.
“I wasn’t actually involved,” stated Nick, evaluating his brother’s struggles to get within the Stars’ lineup to the same stint on the sidelines with the Kingston Frontenacs.
“I knew he was simply ready for his time and, clearly, the remaining is historical past.”
Nick, then again, cracked the Leafs’ lineup for 4 video games within the bubble and scored his aforementioned “floater,” however suffered a knee damage only a few shifts into his 2020-21 regular-season debut and later re-aggravated an adductor challenge that he’d been coping with since coaching camp. He stated it’s been arduous to construct momentum and felt like he’s had “three season openers,” one with the Leafs and two with the Marlies. He has a single help in restricted minutes throughout six NHL video games, and 12 factors in 16 AHL video games.
“I do know he did his finest to maintain upbeat and be able to go,” stated Jason, who spent 60 video games within the AHL final season, placing up 25 targets and 22 assists.
And whereas Jason could also be a step forward in his NHL profession proper now, and Nick is blissful to see him “tearing it up,” if he has it his method, he’ll be closing that hole quickly sufficient.
“I imply, it is sort of like, ‘Oh, I must catch up.’ I will finally get there, nevertheless it’s good,” Nick admitted with amusing.
With information from Sportsnet’s Joe Pacampara and David Amber