Returning defenceman Mitch Andres of Minnesota brought some family with him to the Vernon Vipers training camp.
Their names are Wyatt, Gavin and Riley, 17-year-old triplets, and 16-year-old Westin. Meet the five Andres brothers, the largest group of brothers to ever attend a B.C. Hockey League camp in Vernon.
“It’s great,” said Viper head coach/GM Mark Ferner, of the brother act. “Obviously, we have different age groups with them. A couple of them came to spring camp and did quite well and the other brothers came out. We might have a line out there somewhere.”
With three of the brothers’ defencemen, it’s tough for a coach to ice all five brothers at once but Brainerd Warriors head coach Dave Aus pulled it off at least once as the Warriors captured their high school conference title in the 2016-17 season.
“When I coached in (Western Hockey League) Kamloops, Spokane had four or five (Lynch) brothers,” added Ferner. “There was a cool picture in the paper.”
The four Lynch brothers, Doug, Scott, Jeff and Jason were from Coquitlam and played together in January 2003 when the Chiefs battled the visiting Blazers. They earned the moniker The Lynch Mob.
According to the American Hockey League website, the Chiefs sat in their locker room at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and listened as head coach Al Conroy read the starting lineup. “Tim Krymusa on left wing, Barry Brust in goal, and four Lynches,” he said, sparking a roar from the team.
Mitch Andres, who turns 20 in a week, was named Most Improved Player last year with the Vipers, racking up 11 points and blocking a zillion shots and making wise transition passes. He’s having a blast with his siblings in town.
“My brothers watched a lot of games online last year so it’s pretty cool they’re here with me,” said Mitch, who was a senior captain with Brainerd. “We all get along. We didn’t fight growing up but there was lots of chirping back and forth. The triplets have always played on the same team and in my senior year, Westin moved up as a 15-year-old (freshman) so we were all together.”
Their parents, Lee and Michelle Andres, not only needed a pie chart to organize meals and rides but had to budget big time for sticks. They did manage one family trip to Disneyland, where it was easy to keep track since all five rode the same rides at the same time.
“I think I broke 15 to 20 my senior year,” said Mitch, who suffered a nasty eye injury on Day 1 of camp Monday and has been watching his brothers ever since. “It was pretty tough for our parents because we went through a lot. We all chipped in and found a way to help out, working when we could and buying sticks off the team.”
Mitch was seven or eight when he began getting in extra skating time at home.
“My parents built us a rink. They put cement in it so we played roller hockey in the summer and my dad would get out the garden hose and flood it in the winter. It was about half the size and width of a normal rink.”
The brothers also excelled at baseball and football but never all competed on the same team in Brainerd, a city of 14,000 in Central Minnesota.
Gavin was the first triplet born on Sept. 19, 2000, followed by Riley and then Wyatt. They are all about 5-foot-10, 180 pounds these days.
“We all have completely different personalities,” said Riley, as he sat beside Gavin in the stands watching a Team Red practice at Kal Tire Place. “I’m scrappy. I like the corners. We had one good practice here and it was a good pace. I could keep up.”
Gavin, a self-described stay-at-home d-man, marvelled at the beauty of the North Okanagan despite the smoky skies.
“Vernon is a really nice place and this is a nice rink and Mitchell loves it,” said Gavin. “The coaches are all really nice and super friendly and the guys are great teammates.”
Aus, who has been coaching high school hockey for nearly 20 years, told CBS Minnesota he had never heard of five brothers on the same team before, much less coached them. The most he could recall was three at a time. “I usually go, ‘Hey, Andres, get out there,’” he said. “And a lot of times five heads will turn.”
The Sutter brothers were six strong with the youngest Brent, Rich and Ron playing together with the WHL Lethbridge Broncos in 1980-82, and they shared that sibling record with Quesnel products Bob, Brad and Ken Gassoff, who played for Medicine Hat Tigers back in 1972-73. Bob and Ken were part of the B.C. Junior Hockey League Vernon Essos in 1970-71.
SNAKE BITES: Mitch Andres will not play as the Vipers take on the Merritt Centennials in exhibition tilts tonight in the Nicola Valley and Saturday night in Vernon. “I took a stick and cut it (eye) by my nose on the second or third shift on the first day. My eye is pretty bloodshot. I’m icing it and resting it as much as I can.”…Viper assistant coach and former captain Kevin Kraus is getting married next week… Viper grad Kellen Jones, who along with twin, Connor, boosted Vernon to two Royal Bank Cup titles in 2009 and 2010, has signed a pro contract in Sweden. Kellen, an Edmonton Oiler draft, said his wedding vows two weeks ago. Connor will play a third straight year with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He got in four games with the New York Islanders two seasons ago….Ferner will trim his roster following Saturday’s game. “The real proof will be in the scrimmages and the exhibition games,” said Ferner…Ty Robinson, 20, of Kamloops, is the Vipers new trainer. His father, Colin (Toledo) Robinson, has surpassed 1,500 games as a trainer in the WHL. Colin has been with the Blazers since 2005.