When Tyler Plante’s professional hockey team in Norway was in the market for a stopper on defence, the former Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender had just the candidate in mind.
When Plante returns to Lørenskog IK next season, he’ll have his younger brother Alex in tow as both Brandonites have signed with the team in Norway’s top division.
The Plantes haven’t played together since they were kids, and Tyler is thrilled to have his 6-foot-4, 230-pound brother taking care of business in front of him.
"Because we were two years apart (in age) we never lined up to be able to play on the same team," said Tyler, 27, who went 12-5-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage last season but was sidelined by a knee injury before Lørenskog was ousted in the first round of the playoffs. "The only time we ever did is when he played up in summer hockey and joined our team sometimes, but that was pretty rare.
"Usually you say goodbye to your brother in the fall and you don’t see him again until the next summer. That’s what would be happening too if we weren’t playing together, so on a personal level it’s great and also on a professional level I’m excited to play with him. He’s obviously a good defenceman. It’s going to be nice to have a nice, steady defensive defenceman playing in front of me clearing out the front of the net, so it’s plus, plus for me."
Despite both playing in the American Hockey League at the same time for parts of three seasons — Tyler in the Florida Panthers’ system and Alex with the Edmonton Oilers’ farm clubs — the pair haven’t crossed paths since their Western Hockey League days when Tyler was a Wheat King and Alex patrolled the blue-line for the Calgary Hitmen.
The situation is ideal for Alex, who is coming off his first season in Europe, having picked up three goals, 11 assists and 92 penalty minutes in 60 games with Dornbirn of Austria’s top league. Not only does he get to play with his brother but Lørenskog, just east of the Norwegian capital of Oslo, is a short trip from his wife Fanny’s hometown in Sweden where the couple is waiting for the birth of their first child any day now.
"Everything just made so much sense," Alex said. "… We’re only going to be four hours away from my wife’s hometown so it’s great for her and her family that are able to come visit. To play with Tyler on the same team, it’s an unbelievable opportunity. I’m curious to see how many times we fight with each other, but we’re hoping we’re both grown up enough to do this now, but I guess only time will tell."
Alex doesn’t expect playing together will be a problem for the brothers. He admits they had the tendency to butt heads as youngsters, but said they grew much closer as they got older.
The idea of bringing Alex to Lørenskog actually began around the time of this season’s transfer deadline, but the 6-foot-4, 230-pound former first-round NHL draft pick was firmly under contract in Dornbirn. Tyler continued to discuss the possibility with the team and once the season was over, he was able to work out a contract that everyone was happy with.
"Ty is pretty much Jerry Maguire now. I’m his only client and I asked him to show me the money," laughed Alex, who is planning to come back to Brandon this summer once his family is ready to make the trip. "No … he has a very good relationship with his general manager and everything there. It was very easy. I was very happy with the agreement that we got done and everything just kind of fell into place."
One of the major selling points was Tyler’s enthusiastic recommendation of the organization, with Alex pointing out that this will be the first time his brother has spent two seasons in one place since he first headed overseas in 2011.
"I really enjoyed it," said Tyler, a former second-round pick of the Panthers who won the Italian league title in Asiago in 2013 before jumping to Norway. "It’s a good organization. They treated me very well and they really want to win, which is really important when you’re over there."