Hockey is a funny game. Players can end up in cities they never imagined and become friends with people they never thought of.
And sometimes, even early in their careers, brothers can end up playing in the same interchangeable communities at the same time.
That’s been the case this season for Tyler and Andrew Cristall.
“It’s awesome,” said Tyler, “every time we have an off day and (he) has a game, I get to go watch and he does the same. It’s good support for each other.”
“It’s awesome that we’re both so close to each other,” said Andrew. “It’s nice to have my brother here and we’re both playing pretty well so it’s going really good so far.”
The brothers from Vancouver both ended up in Kelowna just by chance. Tyler was acquired by the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors in late 2019 from the Chilliwack Chiefs, while Andrew was drafted eighth overall in the first round of the 2020 WHL draft by the Kelowna Rockets.
For the brothers, they never imagined having the opportunity to play for teams in such close proximity to one another.
“It’s pretty cool obviously,” said Tyler. “(I)hadn’t really thought about it until it happened when he got drafted to Kelowna but it’s a blessing in disguise.”
“He used to be in Chilliwack and got traded out to West Kelowna and at the draft, I got picked by Kelowna so I guess it’s a little bit of a coincidence but I’m glad it worked out that way,” added Andrew.
“As brothers, you dream of playing together I guess and it’s pretty cool that we’re so close, I go to his games all the time, he comes to mine so it’s been really good that way.”
On top of their busy hockey schedules and schoolwork, both brothers make time to get together for lunch or dinner a couple of times a month. And being from Vancouver, just a four-to-five hour drive away, their parents come up to the Okanagan at least once a month to watch their boys play.
Both have had great success this season on the ice and they know that good things come to those who work hard.
“I think I’ve been playing the right way, playing good defensively, especially in the playoffs,” said Tyler. “When you play the right way, you get goals and you get rewarded so I just think if you don’t focus about points and just focus on playing the right way you’ll get rewarded.”
“I think I’ve been put in a really good opportunity,” said Andrew. “I think I’ve been playing with a lot of confidence so I think that’s helped me throughout the year. (I’ve been) staying high through the ups and downs and playing my game.”
In 49 regular season games, Tyler led the Warriors with 30 goals this season and added 27 assists. And the scoring touch hasn’t stopped in the playoffs as he’s tied for the team-lead with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 10 games.
Andrew scored 28 goals for the Rockets this season, breaking the team record for most goals by a 16-year-old. He also tied the team’s regular-season record for points by a 16-year-old with 69 points in 61 games.
Both brothers each finished their regular seasons with five game-winning goals.
After spending the last nine months in Kelowna, the seasons are coming down to the wire for both the brothers as they battle in the playoffs for their respective teams.
Tyler and the Warriors are preparing to face the Penticton Vees in the BCHL Interior Conference finals while Andrew and the Rockets are down in their WHL first-round series against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Tyler has committed to play NCAA division one hockey at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, in the fall. Barring any changes, Andrew will return to the Rockets in the fall and is NHL draft-eligible in 2023.