Freddie and Dougie Hamilton are teammates on the Canadian junior men's hockey team and on the Ontario Hockey League's Niagara IceDogs. They've been inseparable since they were infants.
In the Hamilton photo album, there's a picture of Freddie's pre-school class that shows Dougie standing right beside Freddie, even though Dougie is younger and wasn't even in Freddie's class.
The story of how Dougie got in that picture has different versions. One is Freddie refused to be in the picture unless Dougie was in it.
The other is Dougie saw how miserable Freddie was and jostled his way into the group just before the picture was taken.
"Usually I helped him a long, but I was a little shy when I was a little guy and didn't really like my first school picture and Dougie was there watching the school photo and he had to come in beside me," Freddie explained.
"He just ran in there smiling away and I was pouting so it's a pretty funny picture right now."
It's also early photographic evidence of just how close the brothers would be.
Dougie's first OHL fight didn't happen without his older brother's involvement. In the IceDogs' opening game of the 2010-11 season, Dougie was checked hard by Sudbury's Mike Lomas.
Before Dougie could extract retribution, Freddie had taken Lomas on and Dougie ended up fighting another player simultaneously.
"That was pretty funny because we were both fighting at the same time," Dougie said. "It's pretty special for me to tell that as my first fight too."
Freddie, 15 months older, has been the protector/mentor of Dougie to the point where parents Lynn and Doug would remind their oldest son there were parents to look after that sort of thing.
"Jumping head first into a snow bank would be something Dougie would do way back when, but not any more because he's heard it from Freddie," Lynn said.
"We have had to remind Freddie that there's already a father and a mother and we don't need another one."
When invitations were issued to the Canadian junior hockey team's selection camp in Calgary, there was some concern in the Hamilton household in St. Catharines, Ont.
Dougie is a first-round draft pick, 10th overall, of the Boston Bruins this year. With no returning defencemen to the Canadian team this year, Dougie was considered to have a better chance at making the Canadian team than his older brother.
Freddie, a fifth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks last year, faced more competition at forward with more returning players and higher draft picks among those invited.
Lynn and Doug came to Calgary for selection camp in the event they would have to console their sons, as both would have been devastated if one did not make the team.
"It would almost been better if both made it or neither," Lynn said. "Especially if Dougie, the younger one who has always looked up to Freddie and has done things after Freddie, now to have to switch roles and send Freddie home would have been hard to deal with."
No consolation required as Freddie Hamilton, 19, and Dougie Hamilton, 18, will be first and only other siblings to play for Canada's junior team since Mike and Randy Moller did so 30 years ago. Mike was a 19-year-old forward and Randy an 18-year-old defenceman on the Canadian team that won gold in 1982.
Canada opens the 2012 world junior championship Sunday in Edmonton versus Finland.
"Just to make the team as an individual is very exciting," said Freddie. "To be able to make it with Dougie, that's even better. It's the best moment of my hockey career so far."
Added Dougie: "To be able to do it with my brother and have that "F" and 'D" Hamilton on the jersey is pretty special. He's my best friend."
Dougie, six foot four and 192 pounds, is a mobile skater, a smart passer and has a big shot from the point.
Freddie is eligible for the junior team by just one day as he was born Jan. 1, 1992. The six-foot 190-pound centre was chosen to the team because he's a multi-purpose forward who excels in different roles and can be moved onto different lines.
They're two of the four Niagara IceDogs on the Canadian team along with centre Ryan Strome and goaltender Mark Visentin.
When Dougie and Freddie left the IceDogs to join the Canadian team they were one-two in team scoring — Dougie with 12 goals and 33 assists followed by Freddie with 15 goals and 28 assists.
The brothers take school seriously. Freddie carried a 99 per cent average during the 2008-09 season to win the Ontario Hockey League's high school academic award that season.
Dougie won that award the following season in his rookie year with a 97 per cent average. Dougie was named the Canadian Hockey League's top scholastic player last season with an average of 94 per cent in school.
It's not surprising they're strong student-athletes given how successful their parents were at it. Doug, who has a law degree from Queen's, rowed in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, winning bronze in 1984.
Lynn went to both Bishop's and Concordia universities. As Lynn Polson she played eight years on the Canadian women's basketball team and finished fourth at the 1984 Games.
"The Canada flag has been pretty big in our house,'' Dougie said.
While Freddie and Dougie needed no encouragement in sports, Lynn would excuse them from household chores only if they did their homework.
Freddie and Dougie were exposed to sports, much of it high-performance, from the moment they were born.
When Freddie was an infant, Lynn rocked him in her arms on the sidelines while she coached basketball. Freddie and Dougie served as team waterboys when they were old enough.
Their father Doug was high performance director of Rowing Canada when the boys were young so they rubbed shoulders with Olympic rowers at fundraising events.
Doug and Lynn took their sons to Winnipeg in 1999 when they were seven and six years old to watch the Pan American Games.
While the boys did play some basketball growing up, by the time they'd reached the age where they would have tried rowing, the Hamiltons were too entrenched in hockey.
"It seemed to be where their passion was," their mother said. "It's a sport that has so many great skills that you can work on.
"For perfectionist-type boys, it's a great sport because you're constantly working on something whether it's skating, shooting or defensive skills. It was something that kept them intrigued and passionate."
Competitive friction between siblings so close in age is expected, but there's been little of that with the Hamilton brothers.
"I had such a hate for referees in my day that I didn't want to be one," Lynn said. "I really put my foot down early and they knew they were in trouble if there was any commotion that way."
It's rare for a pair of hockey-playing brothers to close enough in age, and both talented enough, to play on the same national junior team.
Marc and Jordan Staal could have done it in 2007, but when Marc played defence for Canada at 19, Jordan was already playing for the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins at 18.
For a parent to see their child play for Canada in the world junior championship is thrilling. Two is almost overwhelming for Lynn Hamilton.
"There might be tears in my eyes," she said. "I'm not sure how much of this I'm going to be able to handle."Suggest a correction