Behind the Crest: Matt and Alex Carle & James and Brendan van Riemsdyk

Young hockey players learn and are guided by a number of different people throughout the course of their careers. They are aided by coaches, teammates, and fellow players as they develop and pursue their dream of making it to the NHL. For a majority of players, though, the help and the coaching starts at home, long before they join so much as even a peewee league.

For some, they’re learning from someone who truly does know best — either a current player or a veteran of the sport.

From left to right: Alex, Matt, and David Carle (and Gus!)

This is the case for Alex Carle and Brendan van Riemsdyk, brothers of Matt (Philadelphia Flyers) and James (Toronto Maple Leafs), respectively. Both Alex and Brendan play hockey for their high schools — Alex at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, and Brendan at the Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey.

The hockey programs at Kimball Union and the Christian Brothers Academy have not only helped the young players develop their game on the ice, but have also taught them how to conduct themselves off the ice.

“The most important thing I’ve learned here is to just be yourself, whether it’s on or off the ice,” Carle said of the program at Kimball Union. “Hockey-wise, just to keep my composure and not do something stupid that might mess up my chances of playing in college.”

Van Riemsdyk has been taught that you always have to be passionate about the game and that you always have to work hard and strive to perform better on the ice. “But none of that matters if you’re not having fun,” he added.

The Carle and the van Riemsdyk families have produced not two, but three hockey-playing sons a piece. David Carle was a highly-touted defensive prospect and had plans to attend the University of Denver like his brother, Matt, but a serious health condition kept him from doing so. He is currently an assistant coach for the USHL Junior-A Green Bay Gamblers. Trevor van Riemsdyk is a defenseman for the UNH (where James played before him).

Growing up in so-called “hockey households,” Carle and van Riemsdyk learned from both their parents and their older brothers.

“We were just constantly playing, whether it was in the driveway or in the basement,” van Riemsdyk recalled. “We were always competing, so I definitely learned to be competitive at an early age.”

The two were also taught early on about how to carry themselves off the ice.

“Our parents definitely raised us right and taught us well; to be respectful to anyone and everyone,” Carle recollected. “Most importantly, to always strive to your main goal in life.”

Getting to watch their older brothers play in the NHL has been incredibly exciting for both Carle and van Riemsdyk. It’s not only their performance on the ice that motivates and inspires the younger siblings, but how both NHL stars carry themselves in their everyday lives, and how they haven’t let the fame change who they are.

“James is still the same person he was before, and he hasn’t forgotten about his friends or family. I think he has handled the fame very well,” van Riemsdyk says of his brother.

Carle echoed van Riemsdyk’s sentiment, and said that the most exciting part of watching his brother play is being able to feed off of what he does on and off the ice.

“He’s a true role model for me, and I look up to him every day.”

Author’s note: These interviews were conducted in May, prior to the trade of James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Toronto Maple Leafs.