While Kevin and Jimmy Hayes’ three-year age gap prevented them from playing on the same youth hockey teams, the brothers finally got a chance to skate together for one season in 2010-11 when their Boston College hockey careers briefly overlapped.
Now the duo from Dorchester, Mass. are once again teammates, this time on the U.S. Men’s National Team that is playing in the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship in Minsk, Belarus.
“[Playing with my brother] was one of the big factors,” Jimmy Hayes said of accepting an invitation to play for Team USA just weeks after completing his National Hockey League rookie season with the Florida Panthers. “It’s always nice to represent USA Hockey but even better to do it with my brother.
While Jimmy, 24, scored a pair of goals at the 2009 World Junior Championship and helped Team USA to a silver medal at the 2008 Under-18 World Championship with a goal and two assists, this is Kevin’s first time donning the Team USA sweater for a major tournament.
“I’m super excited for it,” said Kevin Hayes, 21, who just finished his senior season at BC. “I really don’t know what to expect coming from college. My brother is telling me what to expect it to be like, so I’m excited about it.”
USA Hockey is also in their bloodline.
U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and former NHLer Tom Fitzgerald are cousins on their mother’s side. While Fitzgerald is the assistant general manager for the Pittsburgh Penguins and played in two World Championships and World Junior Championship, Tkachuk led the NHL in goals (52) during the 1996-97 season and won a gold at the World Cup of Hockey with Team USA that same season. He took home a silver medal at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games as well.
Kevin not only benefits from that lineage but also from having his brother on the team, said Jim Johannson, the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey.
“I think it’s a great challenge for him and it’s also exciting,” he said. “Historically when we do push these [younger] guys into these settings, they raise their game with their teammates’ level of play in tournaments. Honestly, it’s the next challenge he needs as a player. The curve for how the success goes is really tough to gauge. The World Championships is just one part of it.
“To me, being around both of those guys, they push each other, and that’s probably why they excel as players.”
Through three games in Belarus, the brothers share a nearly identical stat line with one assist each, a plus-one rating and four shots on goal.
Even though the Hayes brothers are both forwards, the two are very different players. For one thing, Jimmy shoots right while Kevin is a lefty. But they are both big at 6-foot-6, 221-pounds (Jimmy) and 6-foot-4, 216 pounds (Kevin), respectively.
“They are different players, but they are both big guys that compete hard, and I think it will be exciting for both of them,” Johannson said.
Jimmy scored 81 points during three seasons at BC and won a national championship the season before Kevin arrived. Kevin, who was a top-ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award this past season, won a ring the year after Kevin left BC. Their one season together, 2011, resulted in a first-round exit from the NCAA tournament.
“It would have been really cool to get one together,” Jimmy said. “We had an awesome team that year; it was just a tough way to go out.”
Kevin said his older brother was helpful throughout that year and never got down on him too much.
“We’re not like that at all, we have a very close relationship,” Kevin said. “He helped me so much along the way. … We definitely love to play with each other. Not a lot of people get to experience that.
“It’s a dream come true to play with him at such a high level.”
Watching Jimmy play his first full NHL season this past year was also helpful for Kevin, especially when the Panthers played in Boston. Jimmy finished his first season with the Panthers with 18 points in 55 games, including 11 goals.
Jimmy said he advised his brother to play his own game with Team USA because that is what got him invited to the team in the first place.
Kevin finished this past season as college hockey's second-best scorer behind his Boston College teammate and Hobey Baker winner, Johnny Gaudreau, who is also representing Team USA in Belarus. Gaudreau had a goal and two assists in a tournament-opening victory against Belarus. Both Hayes brothers collected assists in the 6-1 win.
Gaudreau went on a 31-game point streak this past season while Kevin had 27 goals and 38 assists for 65 points in 40 games. Their play helped propel the Eagles to the Frozen Four.
After playing with his brother again in Belarus, Jimmy is excited about the possibility of lining up against or with his younger brother in the NHL one day. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted Kevin in the first round in 2010.
“It would be really cool to play with or against my brother,” Jimmy said. “We both had a dream of playing in the NHL. … It would be pretty cool to come home in the summer and have a brother playing in the NHL as well.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.