THUNDERBIRDS

Rivalry with Spokane more than just about the standings for T-Birds Hamaliuk

Feb 14, 2018, 9:57 PM | Updated: Feb 15, 2018, 1:39 am
Seattle's Dillon Hamaliuk will get a chance to beat his older brother this Sunday (Brian Liesse/T-B...
Seattle's Dillon Hamaliuk will get a chance to beat his older brother this Sunday (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)
(Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

Time was running out in a game that was long decided at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena this past December. Seattle Thunderbirds forward Dillon Hamaliuk chased a loose puck into the corner and engaged in an intense and physical battle with a Spokane Chiefs’ defender. The two pushed and shoved in a tussle that neither player was willing to concede to the other.

Hamaliuk wanted the puck, not because it was going to change the outcome of the game, it wasn’t, but because the Chiefs defenseman he was battling was his older brother Dalton. The Hamaliuk brothers both remember that encounter well.

“I knew that was him and there was no chance he was getting out of that corner with the puck,” 19-year-old Dalton said. “I think I threw him down twice. We had a good laugh about that after the game. I knew it was him right from the beginning.”

The 17-year-old Dillon remembers the play the same way.

“He told me in the corner ‘you’re not winning this one’,” he says. “I just kind of chuckled a bit and kept on going. I thought I was going to win it but he knocked me down. It was pretty funny.”

The Hamaliuks hail from just outside Edmonton, in Leduc, Alberta. They both honed their hockey skills playing for the Leduc Oil Kings program but with a two-year age difference, they were always a level apart.

Dalton was selected in the second round of the 2013 Bantam Draft by Spokane and is in his third full season with the Chiefs. Dillon was a sixth-round Bantam selection by Seattle in the 2015 draft and has turned in a strong rookie season with the Thunderbirds.

“I never had a chance to play with him or against him,” Dalton said. “Last year was the first time so it was pretty sweet and special. It’s kind of weird, looking across and seeing your brother on the other bench. It always brings out the best in each of us.”

Dillon played in 17 regular season games with Seattle last year, including one with Spokane. This season the two have faced each other five times with the next chapter in the sibling rivalry coming up this Sunday when the Thunderbirds host Spokane in a big U.S. Division match up.

Being the younger of the two, Dillon says he learned a lot from Dalton about how the WHL works and what to expect when he got to the Thunderbirds.

“He just told me exactly what to do and how things worked,” Dillon says. “I thought that helped me a lot, it gave me a lot of confidence going in. As soon as I saw I (was drafted) to Seattle I was pretty pumped, knowing that he was in Spokane. I thought it was closer but it’s still a ways away. But being division rivals is special, since I get to see him a lot and playing against him is pretty cool.”

The battle in the corner this past December showed how competitive the two are.

Growing up, that competitive spirit led to some heated moments in the Hamaliuk household.

“There was a lot fighting,” Dillon says with a chuckle. “We played a lot of basketball, but mainly hockey. Always in the backyard with our sticks, playing with a tennis ball or something, and mini sticks when we were younger. I almost lost an eye.”

Dalton tells a similar story but says that while they’re still competitive, their relationship has grown.

“We talk every day,” he says of this younger brother. “It’s usually over Facetime but we are like best friends. Ever since I moved away we grew to be best friends and keeping in contact. Always seeing how each other are doing and stuff. Making sure that if one of has a problem the other one tries to help out. He’s just someone I can talk to about everything I have.”

The two work out together in the offseason and with one a defenseman and the other a forward, they help each other understand how the other sees the game. They’ve also come to appreciate the other’s game.

“If I have a question about what a forward is doing I can get into a forward’s mind pretty easy by just asking him,” Dalton says. “He’s a pretty fast guy and he likes to play the body. That’s something I do too and I think he’s just quick. He works hard, that’s the one thing that he does maybe more effectively than other forwards. His speed, determination and work ethic make him hard to play against.”

Conversely, Dillon says the off season work outs have helped him deal with defenseman around the league.

“He can tell me what D-men think and what moves to try, how to escape in the corners,” he says. “What works and what doesn’t, I’d say that helps me a lot. He knows every trick in my bag but I know every single one he has as well.”

So which of the two is the better hockey player?

“Definitely me, for sure,” Dillon says.

And Dalton?

“I’d say I’m better,” the older Hamaliuk says with confidence. “I’ve got a couple years on him.”

Watching your kids compete in sports is exciting for every parent. For Dalton and Dillon, their parents get to watch both their sons play hockey at a high level. For an added pleasure, or stress, they get to watch them compete against each other.

How does Mom handle games like the one coming this Sunday?

“I think she’s gets excited,” Dalton says. “I know she worries a lot about how we’re doing. I think I have her vote. If she wants someone to win, I’m pretty sure it would be me since I’m older. Being the oldest sibling, the first child, I’ll always have that special connection with her.”

Unsurprisingly, Dillon has a different opinion.

“She knows Seattle is going to win every game so the whole family usually cheers for me since I’m the younger one,” he says about how Mom, Dad and their younger sister sees things.

Both brothers are excited when there is a Seattle-Spokane match up on the calendar. However, both are quick to point out that while its fun playing against each other, they can’t let that distract from the two points up for grabs.

Sunday’s game is vital as the two teams are only separated by three points in the standings. Playoff seeding is at stake but so are bragging rights at home.

“I know he’s got his name on the trophy and he’s got a ring,” Dalton says. “I just need to get one of those now because I can’t live my whole life hearing about how he got a championship ring and his name on the trophy. I have to try to catch up with him now.”

Dillon admits that there may have been some talk about the Thunderbirds championship run last year and how he has the ring on his finger. He’s also looking forward to another chance to beat his brother.

“It’s still fun to play against my brother but you can’t get away from the game plan,” he says. “But when we’re out there together we try to have a little bit of fun.”

There’s a good chance that there may just be another loose puck in the corner to fight over Sunday evening.

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Rivalry with Spokane more than just about the standings for T-Birds Hamaliuk