October 21, 2010
by Michael Zuidema - The Grand Rapids Press
Good luck getting Brian or Matt Lashoff to spill dirt on each other.
Outside of a few tussles they had as kids -- including one that required Brian to get stitches on his forehead -- the brothers swear nothing too salacious occurred while growing up in the Lashoff household.
"Nothing that's fit for print, that's for sure," said Brian, a 20-year-old defenseman for the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Brian will face Matt, a 24-year-old defenseman for the Toronto Marlies, when their teams play Sunday at Ricoh Coliseum.
It will mark the first time they have played against each other competitively -- unless you count the rink their father made in the backyard of their Albany, N.Y., home. Their four-year age gap prevented them from squaring off in high school, junior hockey or the minor leagues.
The pair were set to meet in a preseason game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in early October, but Matt sat out with an injury.
"After that game, (Maple Leafs coach) Ron Wilson came up to me and said, 'That had to be your brother,' " Matt said during a phone interview from Toronto. "We'd never been able to be in the same league. It seemed like we'd miss it by a year every time. This will be cool for me."
Matt was drafted 22nd overall by the Boston Bruins in 2005. He turned pro in 2006, which was Brian's first season of major junior hockey. Matt has appeared in 63 career NHL games with Boston and Tampa Bay, which traded him to Toronto this past offseason.
So far, Brian's career has taken a different path. He went undrafted but impressed the Red Wings in training camp in 2008 to earn a contract.
After a pair of six-game appearances with the Griffins at the end of the past two seasons, Brian is in his rookie year. He is scoreless in three games, but Matt sees a bright future for his little brother.
"No question in my mind, the kid has the mindset to play in the NHL," Matt said. "He doesn't let negative things bother him. He just perseveres through them."
Griffins coach Curt Fraser said Brian is ahead of the curve and continues to improve on a weekly basis.
"Lash is going to be a very, very good defenseman," Fraser said. "I believe he will play at the next level, it's just a matter of time. He's just got to get a little bit stronger, increase his pace a little."
Not surprisingly, Brian said he always has looked up to Matt. The pair remains close and consider each other best friends.
"He's been a really big role model for me. He's been someone I can look up to since he started playing hockey," Brian said. "I've always kept track of what he's done in his career. He's been a good teacher to me as well. I've seen what he's gone through to become the player he is today."
Matt said he looks up to his Brian, too, especially for how hard he has worked to become an NHL prospect. No matter what happens in their careers, though, Matt said he will have his younger brother's back.
"I have to look out for him, he's my brother," Matt said. "We never had a relationship where we were always fighting, we're buddies. We're there to support each other, lean on each other."
As much as they are looking forward to this weekend's long-awaited matchup, the Lashoffs hope they can face off again on a bigger stage -- like the NHL.
"That would be the ultimate goal," Brian said.