Cam Newson is one of the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s top defencemen, despite being among the junior ‘B’ circuit’s youngest players at just 16 years old.
In fact, he’s only a handful of years removed from neighbourhood street hockey games out in front of his family’s South Surrey home – games that made one thing abundantly clear from an early age: He was never going to be a goalie.
His brother Calder – who is three years older – made sure of that, sticking Cam between the pipes and firing shot after shot at his beleaguered younger sibling.
“It happened all the time,” Cam laughed. “And he’d score on me every time because I had no idea how to play goalie.”
Calder, meanwhile, relished the opportunity to work on his game – even with a terrified young netminder at close range.
“Playing all that road hockey, and (mini-stick) hockey in the house growing up together, it really helped me work on my celebration skills, because I was always beating him.”
When the two siblings – the only two children of Dave and Wendy – eventually graduated from neighbourhood games to organized ice hockey, the opportunity to play with or against each other vanished, considering the three-year age gap between them.
Until this season, that is, when the two joined together to suit up for the White Rock Whalers, the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s newest team that is currently in its inaugural season, playing out of Centennial Arena.
Cam was the first to join the expansion junior squad, signing with his hometown team in the summer after playing last season with Semiahmoo Minor Hockey’s midget A1 team. Calder, a forward, joined a short time later, after a trade could be worked out between the Whalers and Calder’s former team, the Richmond Sockeyes, who were coming off a PJHL title and Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship.
And though he was happy with his time in Richmond, Calder – who began last season playing junior ‘A’ in Saskatchewan before joining the Sockeyes – said the opportunity to play just a few blocks from his house, and on the same team as his brother, was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“As soon as I heard there was a chance that Cam could play in this league, and then heard White Rock was getting a team, it was an instant thing for me,” Calder said.
“Playing in my hometown, with my brother – that’s something you can’t say no to, so it was a really easy decision. I had a great time (in Richmond), but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
“It was pretty cool when it became official.”
The Newson pairing has so far worked out well for the Whalers through the first half of the season. Not including last weekend’s action (White Rock’s two most recent games were played after Peace Arch News’ holiday press deadlines), Calder is tied with Matt Rogers for the team in scoring with seven goals and 23 points in 26 games, while Cam is third, with six goals and 14 assists.
Calder and Cam aren’t the only brothers on the Whalers, either. Matt and Tyler Rogers, both Delta natives, have been on the roster since Day 1, too.
And though they play different positions, the Newsons have often found themselves on the ice together, especially on the power-play, where they’ve combined on more than a few goals this season.
“It’s been pretty fun. We’re having a good time out there and made some nice plays,” Cam said.
They’ve even re-kindled a little bit of that street-hockey chemistry, they admit.
“There’s been a few times where I know how he likes to step into a one-timer, so I’ll pass it to him in a certain spot,” Calder said. “We’ve had a couple goal-and-assist combos. I think we’ve been in the penalty box at the same time once or twice, too, but we try to limit those ones.”
Having both boys on the same team for the first time has been great for their parents – and extended family – too. The pair had quite a large cheering section for the team’s first-ever game at Centennial Arena, and have routinely had friends and family come out to games.
“The convenience factor is definitely appreciated,” joked Dave, a Semiahmoo Minor Hockey executive and former head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds’ women’s hockey team.
“Calder can drive them both and we don’t have to be there an hour or two before a game now. And we can watch them both now in one fell swoop, so that part has been awesome. But more importantly for us – and we didn’t know how this was going to go – is seeing the interaction between the two of them. It’s been really awesome.”
While originally wary of having Cam play at the junior ‘B’ level – these days, most 16-year-olds with his skills choose to play in the BC Major Midget League, rather than against older competition – Dave now sees how great an opportunity it’s been for his younger son.
“We’ve been very pleasantly surprised – his development has been off the charts, and the coaches deserve a lot of credit for that,” Dave said. “And maybe having his big brother there helps, too… maybe there’s a comfort level there, being with (Calder). It’s been phenomenal for him.”
Though both Calder and Cam admit to being fairly close growing up, their dad thinks that playing alongside one another has only strengthened their bond further.
“We see a little more of that, the respect they have for each other. You can see that Cam has a lot of respect for his brother, being the older, wiser one that has some junior-hockey experience under his belt,” Dave said. “And I think Calder has a level of respect for Cam, like, ‘Holy crap, my brother is only 16 and he’s doing as well as he is.’ As parents, that’s cool to see.”
And while both admit to learning from each other, they’re also quick to point out that they’re still as competitive with each other as ever, perhaps even more than they were growing up.
“I think we’re more competitive as teammates. We just try to make sure we’re both going our hardest,” Cam said. “(Calder) has really helped teach me how to be a junior player and compete in this league. He makes sure I’m working as hard as I should be.”
That competitiveness has spilled over to many Whalers practices, too – at which point Calder noticed his little brother wasn’t the same small, terrified street-hockey goalie anymore.
“We’ll be doing battle drills in practice and all of a sudden I’m having to work way harder than I had to before,” he said. “I’m kind of getting worried that he’s catching up to me.”
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