RALEIGH, N.C. — Having a big brother has its advantages for a young hockey player.
Canadiens defenceman Cale Fleury grew up in Calgary trying to beat his older brother, Haydn, in everything they competed at.
“I don’t like to lose, so I never took it easy on him by any means,” Haydn, a defenceman with the Carolina Hurricanes, said after his team’s morning skate Thursday at the PNC Arena. “I didn’t like to lose, he didn’t like to lose, but he lost a lot more than I did.
“I think any time you have that little brother who’s trying to keep up, it really shows,” added the 23-year-old Haydn, who is three years older than Cale. “He’s a very competitive kid and doesn’t like to lose. Losing a lot as a little kid I think helped him.”
Cale made his NHL debut with the Canadiens Thursday night and as a special bonus got to compete against his big brother again. The brothers got together at Haydn’s home Wednesday night along with their parents, Cale’s girlfriend and a few other family members and friends who were also in attendance for Thursday night’s game.
“My aunt was crying at dinner last night,” Haydn said about the emotional family gathering. “It will be a very special night for my parents. They’ve worked really hard to get us where we are. It will be a very special night for my family.”
Said Cale after the Canadiens’ morning skate: “It was a really good night. It’s kind of cool to have everybody around before the first game. I don’t think they could ask for a better first game. Any time you get to play against your brother is something special, but especially in the NHL I think it’s really cool.”
Both Fleury boys give much of the credit for their success to their parents, John and Sandy.
“I think it was knowing when to push and knowing when to be supportive,” Haydn said when asked what made them good hockey parents. “My dad, especially. The amount of backyard rinks he built for me and Cale and all the stuff he did behind the scenes being our coach growing up and all that stuff. It helped a lot. They both put in a lot of work and it will be a very special night for them.”
“Just how much they sacrificed for us,” Cale said about his parents. “They always just put us first and our hockey first no matter what it took. There was a lot of kilometres on each vehicle we had, that’s for sure.”
The Hurricanes selected Haydn in the first round (seventh overall) at the 2014 NHL Draft and the Canadiens picked Cale in the third round (87th overall) in 2017. The last time the brothers played against each other was during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 WHL seasons when Haydn was with the Red Deer Rebels and Cale played for the Kootenay Ice.
Haydn admitted it was a bit of a surprise Cale made the Canadiens this season, but added: “When I started watching the (preseason) games he looked really good. He looked comfortable, he looked confident and he really earned the spot. I think he put a lot of work in this summer and he really prepared himself to push for a spot. I think that’s the biggest part. They didn’t make the playoffs last year in Laval and he went home and worked hard and worked on his game. He put the work in to build the confidence coming into camp and challenge for a spot.”
Asked if he had any advice for his little brother before Thursday night’s game, Haydn smiled and said: “No. Shea Weber can give him some advice … he’s played enough games. He doesn’t need my advice. I’ll just go out there and say good game to him no matter what happens afterwards.”
Was there a friendly bet on the game between the two brothers?
“No,” Haydn said. “We’ll save that for Game 2.”
The next game between the Canadiens and Hurricanes will on New Year’s Eve in Carolina.