BRANDON —Surrounded by reporters and cameras in the Lightning's new locker room Thursday, Taylor Raddysh talked about his hockey journey and the brother who made it with him.
The brother he inline skated with, wearing down the finish on their basement floor in the Toronto suburb of Caledon. The one he spent countless hours and miles with, traveling to play lacrosse and hockey.
The brother he ended up playing junior hockey with in Erie, Pa., before splitting toward different futures.
The Lightning drafted Taylor Raddysh, a physical, 6-foot-2 right wing, with the 58th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Showing up in big games, Raddysh had 10 points in 12 playoff games for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.
Last May, when Taylor signed the three-year, entry-level contract with Tampa, his older brother Darren had no offers.
"It's kind of tough when he had such a good couple years (in Erie) and he never got a shot at getting drafted," said Taylor Raddysh, 20. "I felt like it made him stronger overall and going into his overage season, he won OHL defenseman of the year and overage of the year, so I guess that drove him to work harder on and off the ice."
Darren went on to set career-highs in goals (16) and assists (65) in 66 games in his overage season. A one-year AHL contract with Rockford IceHogs followed.
In May, Darren Raddysh, 22, signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Blackhawks. No one was more excited than his younger brother.
"He was ecstatic and said, 'This is exactly what you worked for, and I never doubted anything that you have done,' " Darren Raddysh said. "Just to see all the hard work I put in the last couple years and see it pay off, he wished he could of been there with me."
Dwayne and Gwen Raddysh's sons started skating together when they were five and three years old before their love for hockey took off. When it did, they could be found sitting in front of the television on Saturdays, watching Hockey Night in Canada. They started off playing with mini sticks that eventually developed into bigger sticks and tennis balls that turned into hockey pucks.
"Before you know it there were hockey games on the driveway all the time, denting the garage doors," Dwayne said. "In our house we still have puck marks around the house that I am still finding."
The Raddysh brothers played lacrosse in the summer during hockey's downtime, but there were weekends when both sports had tournaments and their parents put in mileage driving them back and forth. Eventually lacrosse interfered with hockey as they approached their high school years.
"Lacrosse sticks are still hanging up in garage," Dwayne said. "Every once in a while, they take them down and throw a ball around on the street, but that's about it."
In high school the brothers wanted to go through the Toronto Marlboros system, one of the dominant teams in junior hockey. But in 2012, Erie drafted Darren and Taylor joined him two years later.
"That was pretty special, going to the [Ontario Hockey League] and being able to be there and be comfortable with someone right away," Taylor said. "Not always easy when you leave your family at such a young age, but for me to have him there made me that much more comfortable at 16. Feel like that really helped my development."
At the time Taylor found out he would play on the ice with his brother for three years, Darren was coming back home from the playoffs with Sault Ste. Marie. Receiving the call that his brother would play with him ranks among Darren's fondest memories — right behind winning the OHL Championship together and playing in the Memorial Cup 2017 finals, together again.
"I didn't sleep at all on the bus, I got home at eight in morning and the draft started at eight, so I face-timed my parents and we were kind of all together," Darren said. "They were in their living room at home and I was in my living room in Eerie."
There were talks of Taylor going higher as the 19th pick in the OHL draft, but him and his wife were ecstatic when they heard the news.
"They didn't have to compete against each other," Dwayne said. "They were one team and at had each other's back all the time."
After playing together for three years for the Otters, the brothers faced different futures after the Memorial Cup in 2017, the junior ice hockey club championship awarded within the Canadian Hockey League. Both brothers were selected for the Memorial Cup's all-star team after Darren was named the top defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League, but Taylor was the only one moving on and heading to the Lightning training camp.
"It was heartbreaking to not see them play together again, but who knows one day they can, you never know," Dwayne said. "It was the most enjoyable three years my wife and I watched them play on same team."
Said Darren Raddysh: "The Memorial Cup final was pretty great though. We did lose, but it was one of best games the team played and it was the last one with my brother that made it even more special."
Taylor had 24 goals and 49 assists in 67 games, and he was selected by the Lightning in the 2016 draft. Although Taylor was two years younger and signed an NHL contract a year ahead of his brother, Darren showed nothing but support.
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"He was really excited and has always been my number one supporter," Taylor said. "He was in Buffalo with me when I got picked, and he was probably the most proud of me out of the family cause we played together for so long and we've been really close."
Now having their two sons on NHL contracts, Dwayne said he loves the possibility they can play against each — in the AHL Calder Cup Finals, Chicago or Tampa Bay.
"Doesn't matter who is on other side of ice, brother, cousin, best friend," Dwayne said. "Taylor would look across the ice, see his brother and know that it's his best friend. Taylor sees that now, we would probably hear a lot of chirps between each other. But at the end of day they'd be the first ones to run down the ice and give each other hugs whether before or after the game."
Contact Meagan Bens at [email protected] Follow @meaganbensnd.