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The Brodzinski family: A life filled with hockey

 

By Alyssa Hollenback

Living in Minnesota means that you are obligated (even if in the tiniest bit) to follow hockey, play hockey or “talk hockey.” The Brodzinski family of Blaine live hockey.

With four boys in hockey, Mike and Kathy Brodzinski stay busy. Add in owning Hockey Central, a hockey shop in Blaine, and things get even busier. Their days are filled with running the store, and their nights and weekends consist of bringing their boys to practices, participating in adult leagues and even driving back and forth between games.

Youngest son, Bryce, is in seventh grade and plays for the Bantam A team for the Blaine Youth Hockey Association. Easton is in 11th grade and making waves for Blaine High School. Michael is a freshman playing Division I hockey at the University of Minnesota and property of the San Jose Sharks. Jonny is a sophomore at St. Cloud State University, playing Division I and drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. With a lineup like this, it is an understatement to say the Brodzinski family revolves around hockey.

So how do they do it all?

“Quite a bit goes into it,” Mike says. “Especially with Jonny and Michael who require reserving seats for games in advance and often involve a lot of driving.”

Kathy and Mike work hard to divide things up the best they can. With four boys in hockey, that can often mean four games in one day.

In 2006, Mike recalls visiting Hockey Zone in St. Cloud while at a hockey reunion and he says, “It was a dream come true.” When the Schwan Super Rink expanded that same year, Mike proposed creating a similar store in Blaine to serve as a local distributor. After three years of partnering with the Super Rink, Hockey Central created the Schwan pro shop. This undertaking was something new to the family and it has been a whirlwind since.

A hockey fanatic all his life, Mike began playing at the University of Minnesota but transferred to St. Cloud after two years.

“There were rumors of Herb coming to St. Cloud and I couldn’t believe it when I showed up one day and there he was,” Mike says.

Mike describes the season playing with Herb as the “year that went by in a few weeks.” Being a captain allowed Mike the opportunity to interact more closely with Brooks, an experience that Mike still remembers today. A true diehard, Mike has remained involved in the game by coaching the boys all the way up and even playing in three leagues in his “free time.”

Although there was some encouragement on the part of Kathy and Mike to get their boys involved in hockey early on, the young players really took to it quickly on their own. Jonny was four years old when they got him started and he seemed to enjoy it right away. At only 23 months younger, Michael joined his older brother on the ice in no time. Blaine’s move-up policy has allowed all four boys to advance through the organization very quickly, allowing for speedy development.

In a family with two sons playing Division I hockey, one would guess there would be competition and jealousy, but Mike assures this is not the case with his boys.

“Jonny and Michael are still best friends,” he says.

Jonny and Michael, who are so close in age, played together all the way up and still remain close while playing for rival teams.

Unlike most parents who claim they knew their children are destined for hockey greatness, Mike admits that he was not always sure where the boys would end up.

“Growing up, Jonny always had a reputation for his ‘bad skating’ but being on the same line as Nick Bjugstad gave him the opportunity to get noticed.”

Scouts who had originally showed up to watch Bjugstad quickly realized that Jonny could hold his own. Graduating at just 17-years-old allowed Jonny to join the USHL and have an extra year to develop and grow.

“He grew and inch and a half that year and I think that’s when he really stood out,” Mike says.

Being parents of four can lead to difficulties for any family, but with two boys playing Division I and two boys playing locally, scheduling becomes even more crucial. The University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State University will face each other for the first time this Friday at the North Star College Cup. The friendly banter between Jonny and Michael has been building as the rivalry heats up.

Who will Kathy and Mike be rooting for? “Both, of course!”

Jonny and Michael are unique in that they are the first set of brothers that are not twins that were chosen in the same draft. On top of that, they are the first set of brothers ever to be chosen in the same round. Dad Mike adds, “They almost went to the same team!”

The pressure to keep track of everything is something all parents face. Mike admits that it is difficult at times,

“The worst part is just knowing that you can’t be two, or three, or four places at once.”

Scheduling conflicts often involve driving in between periods to catch the end of another game or even being glued to a smartphone to stay updated on the scores of the others.
With two brothers playing Division I, one would think that the pressure to follow in their footsteps must be pretty substantial, but Mike assures that this is not the case.

“Bryce and Easton are doing well and seem to remain focused on what they have on their own plates.”

With both boys advancing through the youth program quickly, it seems that they have a lot in common with their older brothers. Mike is already receiving recruiting calls for Easton, a strong indicator of future success for the young athlete.

What can’t the Brodzinski family do?

Mike insists, “Keeping everything in line requires a lot of help. We couldn’t do this without the other hockey families who are willing to pitch in rides here and there. Those rides really start to add up and we couldn’t do it without all of the support.”

As big of a game as hockey is here in Minnesota, the hockey community remains small. What the Brodzinski family has achieved, both on and off the rink is exactly what the State of Hockey is all about.