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Bitten brothers fulfill one dream whereas chasing one other | TheAHL.com

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by Jacob Born | AHL On The BeatEvery hockey crew is a household.For greater than half of a calendar yr, a hockey crew spends practically on daily basis collectively. From exercises to video games to journey, teammates see extra of one another than they do their very own households.When a participant makes it to juniors, school, and even the professional ranks, the alternatives to see household turn out to be much more sparse.That’s why when household and teammate can turn out to be the identical, it’s important to make it occur.For Iowa Wild ahead Will Bitten and his brother Sam, that chance got here on the 2019 NHL Prospect Match in Traverse Metropolis, Mich., final month.Will is in his second season with the Minnesota Wild group and was one of many “veterans” of the crew. Sam nonetheless performs junior hockey within the Ontario Hockey League. However for the 2 of them, the four-game match represented the primary time the 2 may skate with the identical jersey on.The Bittens grew up taking part in hockey at a really younger age in Ottawa, Ont. Their mother and father, Mike and Doris, met whereas each had been with competing for Staff Canada in badminton within the Summer season Olympics: they performed collectively on the 1992 video games in Barcelona after which Mike coached Doris on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.When Will was born, sports activities had been a lifestyle, and it continued for Sam when he arrived lower than two years later. The 2 grew up taking part in each sport they may, from baseball to soccer to hockey and sure, even badminton.“I didn’t play hockey rising up,” Mike mentioned. “Proper on the age of 4 or 5, my spouse obtained them into skating classes as a result of that’s what you do again residence.”Across the age of 12, Will needed to determine what sport he wished to give attention to. He selected hockey and Sam adopted swimsuit.“It was truly actually laborious to decide on,” Will mentioned. “It was simply one thing I actually liked doing and I used to be fairly good at it too. I’d say it’s labored out fairly properly up to now.”Being lower than two years aside, the 2 routinely performed in opposition to one another, and that continued when each had been chosen within the OHL Precedence Draft: Will was chosen seventh general by the Plymouth Whalers in 2014, and Sam was drafted within the fifth spherical (92nd general) by the Ottawa 67’s in 2016.“Taking part in in opposition to him, it’s simply not the identical as taking part in with him,” Will mentioned. “When he obtained drafted by Ottawa I used to be like, ‘Wow, he will get to play at residence. That’s fairly cool.’ So then I wished to go to my hometown crew too. Issues didn’t work out however that’s all proper. I obtained to win a championship with Hamilton.”Following his OHL profession, Will went to growth camp and coaching camp with the Montreal Canadiens, who chosen him within the third spherical (70th general) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.The Bitten brothers confronted off many occasions throughout their junior careers within the Ontario Hockey League. (Photograph: Hamilton Bulldogs)In the meantime, Sam, undrafted, accepted an invite to attend growth camp and the 2018 prospects match with the Minnesota Wild group.Then, on the cusp of the 2018-19 season, Montreal traded Will. His new crew? Minnesota.When Sam heard the place Will was headed, he hopped on the cellphone to offer his older brother a scouting report on his new group.“I put two and two collectively after the commerce,” Will mentioned. “He truly referred to as me and was like, ‘I do know all the fellows there as a result of I had already been at camp.’ In order that was fairly humorous that he had already been right here and knew the fellows earlier than me. It helped me really feel snug right here.”Will had a profitable rookie season with Iowa, ending the season with 29 factors (13 targets, 16 assists). His 29 factors ranked third on the crew amongst rookies and his 13 targets and 16 assists had been second. His first objective got here when his mother and father had been in Des Moines and after scoring, he pointed to them within the crowd.“That’s one among my favourite moments in each their hockey careers,” Mike mentioned. “It was loopy. I didn’t even know Will knew the place we had been sitting. That was one of many largest highlights, if not the largest spotlight. We noticed Will’s first OHL objective and Sam’s first OHL objective, so we’ve seen the large ones. We’re very fortunate.”Following his rookie marketing campaign, Will returned to Ottawa. With him within the Minnesota group, perhaps now there was a chance for he and Sam to play collectively, this time with an NHL franchise.The 2 obtained their want on the 2019 NHL Prospects Match when Minnesota normal supervisor Invoice Guerin invited Sam to the match.“Not many individuals know he and I are actually shut,” Will mentioned. “Being so shut in age, all of his buddies are my buddies. We’re all in the identical group so we’re at all times collectively. Getting that probability to go to camp, an NHL camp with the Wild, was one thing actually particular and one thing we at all times dreamed of.”Sam and Will shared the ice for 2 video games of the match, even being paired collectively on the penalty kill. Mike drove 12 hours from Ottawa to Michigan to look at his boys play collectively.“It was superior,” Will mentioned. “Simply going up there I didn’t know what to anticipate. Coach put Sam and me collectively and that was very nice of him. Simply taking part in with him was unbelievable. And to have my dad there, it was superior. I do know him, he wouldn’t miss it for something, seeing his two boys taking part in collectively.”“It was actually thrilling,” Mike added. “They’ve been making an attempt for the previous few years to play collectively. Got here shut just a few occasions but it surely simply didn’t occur. So this was actually the primary time in an organized sport they’ve performed collectively and for it to come back in an NHL Prospects Match is unbelievable. I want my spouse may have been there.”Will is now in his second season with the Iowa Wild and is off to a superb begin with three factors (2g, 1a) in six video games whereas taking part in on the Wild’s prime line. In the meantime, Sam was traded within the offseason from Ottawa to the Sarnia Sting, the place he has 9 factors (4g, 5a) in 11 video games.When Sam’s time within the OHL is up, Will hopes the 2 can play once more collectively, this time within the NHL.“Hopefully he finally ends up right here with me at some point after which we play collectively within the NHL,” Will mentioned. “It’s one thing we’ve at all times dreamed of.”

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