It’s said playing on a junior A team like the Yarmouth Mariners is a brotherhood, and this is especially true for the players who wear #17 and #19 on this year’s roster.
Brady and Brett Crossley are not just teammates, they are brothers.
For the Crossley boys, it’s the first time they’ve ever played together on the same team.
Given their age difference, it’ll also be their last time playing junior together. Brady, 18, is a rookie on the team. Brett, 21, is a veteran and playing his final year.
For the two brothers from Cole Harbour, whose paths never crossed on the ice throughout their years of minor or major hockey, it’s been a unique experience lacing up for the same team. Coming to a new community last August, living with a new family, and going through a new hockey experience has given them the opportunity to lean on one another in a way different from what they were used to growing up together.
“At home we have siblings and parents and different friend groups. Here we share one friend group,” Brett says. “But at the end of the day we have the same goals.”
These goals have been not only to help their team win games throughout the regular season. Now that they’re in the playoffs, it’s also about helping the club win a championship. The Mariners are heading into the Eastlink South Division Final series after sweeping their semifinal series over the Truro Bearcats. The Mariners will either play the Amherst Ramblers or the South Shore Lumberjacks. That semifinal division series is going to a Game 7 on March 27.
It was just a couple of months before last summer’s training camp that the brothers learned they’d be coming to Yarmouth. Brady, a defenceman, came here after playing major midget in Dartmouth the previous three years. Brett, a forward, came to Yarmouth after four years of major junior with the Halifax Mooseheads.
Brady had been to previous Mariners training camps, and had watched games during the playoffs last year, so he had gotten a bit of a feel for the team. Brett chatted with a friend – former Mariners player Ryan Daley – for an idea of what to expect.
“Being here, it exceeded all expectations for sure, especially coming from a big market in major junior in Halifax to a smaller community,” Brett says. “Everyone embraces you and welcomes you and they know that you’re away from home and it always seems like they’re doing what they can to make your time here more enjoyable and more easy going.”
During the regular season Brett notched 24 goals and 38 assists, while on the blue line Brady had four goals and 11 assists. In the first round of playoffs Brett added another two goals and three assists.
Asked how each brother best contributes to the team, Brett says about Brady: “He’s at his best when he’s physical, he’s getting involved, he moves his feet and steps in to make a check but at the same time keeps it simple. Don’t step out of position, just wait for him to come to you. Finish the hit, grab the puck, make the simple outlet pass and good to go.”
Says Brady about Brett: “He’s a defensive forward but he can also produce points. Faceoffs are a key thing. If we need a faceoff win, we put him out, especially in the D zone. Plus he’s a shot blocker.”
Still, any siblings have their moments. Asked if there is any pet peeve they have about one another off the ice, Brett says, “I’m very, very clean. He’s very, very messy. I’m probably overly neat or picky about where my belongings are and how they’re taken care of. That’s probably my downfall.”
“And I’m just the complete opposite,” Brady adds with a laugh.
Their father, Brad Crossley, says the family has been very happy to have the boys playing together. He says the reputation of the Yarmouth Mariners and the community of Yarmouth in caring for and supporting the players and the team is second to none in the MHL. And then added to this is the resumé of head coach Laurie Barron and the team’s ability to attract good players, he says.
“It is hard to put into words how nice it is to have our boys play together for the first time, experience the grind and travel of junior hockey and live together with a great billet family and other teammates, especially in Brett's final year and Brady's first of junior hockey,” the father says. He says it’s been great to see his sons entrenched in the community from day one of their arrival. He points to the team helping out with local events, supporting charities, taking part in the Icy Knights program and mentoring minor hockey players as examples of community involvement.
“These are experiences even more valuable than the great ones they get on the ice and as part of a team. The boys take great pride in being responsible and making a difference on and off the ice and I am very proud of them and the wonderful young men they are becoming,” the dad says. “The team and community of Yarmouth have been a huge part of that this season and we are thankful to have them welcomed and supported in the town.”
The Icy Knights program – in which the Mariners players team up weekly with youth and young adults who experience physical or mental challenges or have other special needs – has been one of the off-ice highlights for the brothers.
“It helps put into perspective the fact that you’re not just here to play hockey,” Brett says. “There’s people whose lives you can influence just by doing something small. It’s nice to know a small amount of your time is doing something so supportive.”
Meanwhile, back on the ice, asked if there was a do-over they wish they had from this season, Brady says, “For me the do-over would be right after Christmas break, those three overtime losses in a row, you always wish you had those back.”
Asked about their most memorable moments, Brett, the older of the two brothers, says, “I’d say the memorable moment for me was the first time that I assisted on one of Brady’s goals. It was weird, but it was also cool.”