Blood Brothers | This Means War

Paul and Tim Crowder wouldn’t know back in July that they would end up playing in the same league this season, although maybe – they would. Paul Crowder signed for Fife back in the off season from league and playoff champions the Cardiff Devils, but Tim came into the Coventry locker room a short while into the season from French side Chamonix. A late addition to the roster to help give the Blaze an edge. From speaking to these siblings, it’s obvious that they’re close. When I wrote the article title, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the siblings who grew up playing the greatest sport on Earth.

While with Coventry so far, Tim Crowder has been a sound pickup. In the nine games he’s played so far, he’s given the Midlands side five goals and six assists for a total of eleven points. “Tim adds more size and skill instantly to our line-up. He’s been a point producer his whole career.” Seems that coach Danny Stewart got it right when picking up the younger brother. “He will certainly give us more scoring depth and make our power play better.” Watching Tim on the ice, you can see how his skills help out whichever line he might be on to perform to their best.

In comparison, Paul has played nine game with Fife, scoring seven goals and getting fifteen assists for and overall twenty-two pointing. He has been named EIHL player of the week last week for a stellar effort in Fife’s games when they took on Elite League newcomers, Guildford Flames in a double header. In these games Crowder scored two goals a piece, for a total of four goals that week. One of which came on the power play. He also came away with Man of the Match two nights on the trot, no wonder he was given the player of the week award.

During a player feature earlier in the season Paul was asked about what he liked about playing in Fife. “It’s hard to pick just one. We have a great group of guys here, a great coaching staff and a really good organisation and I love the style of play that we have but I think the fans might be one of my favourite things, especially when it’s loud and rowdy in our arena.”

“We really liked the look of Fife and knew they were getting a lot of guys back on the team and I just thought it would be a good fit and so far it has been. We love it here.” How did it feel being part of one of the oldest hockey teams in the UK? “When I signed I didn’t even realise that.” Paul begins as he explains more about his season with Fife so far. “It’s actually quite cool.The fans actually have quite a bit of knowledge of the game, which is something you don’t see that much in the UK, it’s all rugby and football here, but they definitely know their hockey up in Fife and it’s been pretty cool to be a part of the 80th anniversary. We played in the anniversary game with jerseys and stuff and we beat that team up pretty good. It’s never fun to lose in those kinds of games.”

Tím Crowder on ice with the Coventry Blaze. Scott Wiggins Photography

At the time of his signing Tim Crowder spoke to the Coventry Blaze media. “After playing in France for so long, I feel that Coventry and the Elite League will be a new and positive experience for me. Based on my research, I think it will be a good fit for me and I hope to contribute the best I can. I am excited to get things going.”

Paul has even won the EIHL player of the week, having had a great week which culminated in two Man of the Match wins for him on the two consecutive nights. “That was pretty special for be given that kind of honour. It was a special week for me, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten any kind of honour like that in my professional career. I owe a lot to my teammates and everything just clicked that week.”

An interview from the 16th September had Tim explaining to the media that although he came late to the team he didn’t find it too hard to adjust to them, or them to him. At that point he explained he was a little out of shape still, but now over a month later Tim appears to have found his stride and heading into the bout with the Fife, he seems ready to get stuck in.

How is he finding it in Coventry now? “Everything has been good since I arrived, there’s a good group of guys here, I’m happy to be here and hopefully we continue to do well like we have so far.”

How does it compare to France? “I was in France for awhile, the style is pretty similar and as a league they’re pretty similar to each other. I’ve been in France for so long and here so little but here, it’s a good league, you see a lot of good players and it’s competitive, so yeah, it’s a good league.

The brothers, from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada have had hockey in their lives from a very early age. Born less than two years apart, the brother’s careers have been almost a mirror image. As of right now, there is only one inch in height and 4 kilograms between them in stature.

Early memories of hockey, at least from Paul’s point of view he didn’t have a lot of memories of pond hockey. Where they lived is much like the south of England he explained. It didn’t get that cold but it rained a lot so memories of the pond hockey we often hear about from Canadian players are few and far between. However, Paul does have memories of playing a kind of Shinny game they played with their parents every Sunday. “My mum was actually a really good goalie at the time.” He says fondly.

During their midget years of play, they played together every other year owing to the age difference, otherwise they were on different teams even then. Tim explained to me. “We played together in the East Coast Hockey League for a year and half and then we played together in France for around half a year too.”

As a young child and growing up, Paul’s favourite player was Paval Bure, a native of Russia, nicknamed ‘The Russian Rocket’ and growing up in Vancouver he got to see him play with the Canucks a lot. “From being so close to Vancouver, a lot of people on the island we grew up on supported the Canucks, Paul and I were no different. I know Paul said his favourite player was Pavel Bure, mine was probably Alexander Mogilny.” Tim said when I asked about his own favourite players growing up. Mogilny is another Russian born player, a member of the coveted Triple Gold Club and is currently president of Amur Khabarovsk in the Kontinental Hockey League.

They began playing midget in the same year 2000-2001 with the same team, that being the Victoria Racquet Club Bantam AAA before both moving on to the Powell River Kings of the BCHL. It was only when they reached college age that the brothers went their separate ways completely. With Paul going to the University of Alaska and Tim going to Michigan State University.

At the University of Alaska, Paul began to study Engineering. “Then I changed it to Business Management. No idea why, looking back I probably should have stuck with the engineering but I had no idea what I wanted to do at that time and all my teammates seemed to be in business so it seemed like an easy choice.”

Paul Crowder with the Fife Flyers. Photo: Steve Gunn/ShotbyaGunn

At Michigan State, Tim studied business, something I’ve found to be quite common among hockey players, usually because it gives them something solid to work with once their on ice hockey careers are done. From research I have conducted in the past most hockey players pursue the business side of hockey, be it coaching or in the front office as a way to stay connected to the sport they love.

Tim explains about his feelings of playing at different universities. “We played a lot against each other in juniors so we were in different cities then, I think I left college a year before him so we were parted a little bit before then. It’s not a big deal really, he’s got his family now.”

It wouldn’t be until the 2010-2011 season that the brothers would once again be reunited. Both joining the Utah Grizzlies of the East Coast Hockey League, with Paul taking the A. With that, they moved on to the Wheeling Nailers, where Paul would then be given the ‘C’. Each time the older brother would take the letter, while the younger would be there alongside him. Was there ever any competition between the brothers for the top spot?

“When we play with each other I don’t think we’re competitive.” Tim explains. “I think it’s more when we are against each other. When we play Fife next weekend I think there will be a few laughs on the ice and we’ll definitely be battling for who can get more goals and assists.”

When it came to the National Hockey League however, it would be the younger brother, Tim, who would come out on top. Being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fifth round of the 2005 Entry Draft.

“It was good but I wasn’t there or anything, I was just sat at home when I got the call from Pittsburgh and obviously it was a dream come true at the time.” He begins. His own story mirroring that of recent draft pick Liam Kirk of the Sheffield Steelers. “I was super excited to be a part of the organisation and on top of that to be the same draft year as Sidney Crosby and the same team. It was really exciting at the time. It’s just too bad that it didn’t really work out but I’m happy where I am.”

Tim would however, never make it to the NHL, or indeed the AHL, unlike his brother Paul who played two years in the AHL for the Hartford Wolf Pack before the pair were reunited again while playing for the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League. The Nailers are an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, which makes sense in terms of Tim’s drafting by the Penguins.

Right out of his third year at college Paul signed a contract with the New York Rangers and played with their farm team, for a year and a bit. “I then bounced around a few AHL teams. Got to play with some cool guys who are now playing in the NHL and around the place, which was a great experience. From playing hockey I have learned not to get too high or too low. When you’re on a streak you can get really high and when you hit a slump it can be a really low. So over the years I’ve tried to learn to keep my head pretty level throughout. To try and think positive when I’m in a slump and to keep calmer through spots where things are going really good. You don’t want to get too high or too low, you can end up making so many mistakes just because of emotions. That’s definitely something that has come with years of experience.”

So are the brothers competitive? If you talk to Paul, the answer is yes. “It’s always been competitive between the two of us, even off the ice.” He says with a laugh. “I remember we used to get competitive over who could eat the fastest, things like that. There were always a few things we competed over but because we always played together growing up hockey was it wasn’t as competitive as some siblings can get. It was always points and things like that, but it was definitely more at home. Like sports at home, if we played basketball or football at home, one on one, one of us would not be happy by the end of it.”

With Fife fighting for the top spot in the Elite League already I asked Paul how it was to be up there so early on in the season. “It’s always nice to be a part of the winning team, it’s never nice to be one of the bottom feeders and to be up here this early on is a pretty nice experience. Games are a lot more on the line because if you’re in first place, every other team wants to knock you off the top spot so that makes every game important. Sure, it puts more pressure on us as a team, but if you want to be in first place that’s what you’ve got to do right? Every night’s going to be a tough night but if you’re a first place team you thrive on that.”

Special thanks to the Fife Flyers and Chris Taylor for allowing me to write for their match night program and for allowing me to publish this interview on Chasing The Puck now their magazine is out of print.

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