The Fitzgerald triplets came to the Nanaimo Clippers as a package deal, but each one will determine his own hockey future from here on.
Myles, Leo and Gerry Fitzgerald, 17-year-olds from Port Alberni, are all trying to crack the Clippers’ opening night lineup Sept. 10.
Fans already know two of the brothers – Myles played nine games in orange and black last year as an affiliate player, scoring two goals, and Leo suited up for six games.
All three are forwards, all three are listed at 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, and all three play a similar brand of hockey.
“You don’t like to talk about them as a package…” said Bill Bestwick, Clippers coach. “If one of them’s in the doghouse, that doesn’t mean the other two are, and if one of them has a great day it doesn’t mean that the other two did, too. We’ll try to treat them as individually as we possibly can.”
So far, Bestwick said he’s been impressed by all three brothers.
“What those three kids bring to the new era of the game is such an intelligence with and without the puck,” he said. “Their speed and comprehension of the game is probably beyond their years.”
That’s why the Clippers were willing to commit to all three of them, taking into account their youth and stature.
This season is a reunion for the Fitzgeralds. Last year Gerry played for the Peninsula Panthers and his brothers played for the Oceanside Generals as junior B rules only allow two 16-year-olds per team.
This year, not only could they all be in orange and black, but Bestwick said there might be situations when they all hop over the boards at the same time.
“We’re not going to put them together just because they’re brothers,” said the coach. “But we might not hesitate for a second to put them all out on the ice together in a 5-on-3 situation, given their skill and their ability to move the puck and create a scoring chance.”
There will be a few ways to tell the triplets apart, aside from their jersey numbers. Myles and Gerry are both right-handed shots; Leo shoots left.
“Myles likes to carry the puck, Gerry likes to make moves, I like to play a lot simpler,” said Leo.
Gerry said both his brothers play a grittier style. He and Myles skate faster, he said, but Leo’s got a harder shot.
All three possess the escapability necessary for players of their size.
“Sometimes since we’re smaller [opponents] try and hit us but usually they’ll take a penalty,” Gerry said. “[You have] to be smart down low, head on a swivel, watch where everyone is on the ice.”
Their roles will emerge in time, but for now, the triplets have an idea of how they’d like the season to go. Gerry said his role is to be a skilled player and score goals; Myles wants to work hard, improve and make things happen on the ice and Leo wants to gain confidence and help the team however he can.
“I’m sure once the competition gets a little bit more heated we’ll really see their skill sets and their abilities,” Bestwick said. “It’ll be fun to watch them.”