When Life Throws You A Curve, Family is Everything
Jordie and Jamie Benn. James and Trevor Van Riemsdyk. Malcolm and P.K. Subban. Dalton and Josh Thrower. Ok, maybe you don’t know the last set of brothers as well, but unlike the other professional hockey player duos mentioned, the Thrower brothers have the unique privilege of playing together on the same team.
The Squamish, British Columbia natives are in their second season playing together for the Allen Americans under coach Steve Martinson. Dalton, the older of the two by just over two years, is in his fifth professional season, spending three seasons with the Brampton Beast before signing in Allen. Josh is in his second professional season, and both realize the rarity of being able to play together professionally.
“For our family to be able to watch us play together, it’s been pretty special for them,” Dalton reflected. “They get to make their trips down, so it’s been a great two years playing together and hopefully we can keep that going.”
The brothers’ respect for each other, and for their parents, Melanie and Murray, is impressed upon anyone who has a conversation with them. While you’d expect some casual jeering between most siblings, especially those who spend practically 24 hours a day together, the Thrower men are light of the jokes and instead, are quick to lift each other up.
“Especially with hockey, I’ve always idolized Dalton,” Josh shared of his older brother. “He went through a lot, I mean the (NHL) Draft and everything, before I did, so being able to watch him get drafted and make jumps into professional hockey…was a pretty cool experience. I always wanted to be like him so it’s pretty cool playing with him.”
And while there’d be no surprise if Dalton playfully picked on his younger brother, he was equally as eager to bestow his praises. “He created his own path. He was a very good player growing up, so he did exactly what he wanted through his career. He’s had a good career so far starting off in Allen, signing a contract with Iowa (Wild of the American Hockey League), so he’s on the right track.”
The brothers are roommates in Allen, and spend the off-season together as well, so they credit each other for helping to stay motivated and to push one another in the gym. But in speaking with them further, it’s clear their motivation draws from the two individuals who instilled the value of family within them to start – their Mom and Dad.
Melanie Thrower, the boys’ mother, battled breast cancer when the boys were pre-teen and teen – Josh about 11 and Dalton about 14.
“We had great family support, great friends, they took care of us while our dad was working a lot,” Dalton recalled. “She had to go through the stages of chemotherapy. It was pretty aggressive, and it was hard to see her losing all her hair and going through being that sick. Like I said, we had great family support and friend support.”
While the family celebrated when Melanie went into remission, their worlds were rocked when more health problems affected their family quickly after, this time to Murray, the boys’ father.
“He had a tumor in his stomach, it was pretty urgent when they found out what it was. He was having medical issues happen along the way for a few years. Once they found out what it was, they had to take it out,” Dalton detailed.
The boys, both young adults at this point, Josh about 15 and Dalton 18, were able to grasp their father’s illness more than they had their mothers.
“It was scary. We were younger when Mom went through it, it was different to grasp. But then when you see it going on again a second time, it’s just back to back a couple years apart. Mom gets cleared and then a year or two later Dad gets it. It was definitely tough on our family, but it brought us really close and we’ve got great family support. We’ll always be thankful for everything they’ve done for us.” Dalton recalled about the experience.
While the men were older and able to grasp the situation better than when their mother became ill, it was harder on them as neither was living at home at the time, as both pursued their dream of playing professional hockey.
“That was tough, we were both living away from home. Going through that, just trying to get a hold of the family as much as you can, you don’t really have anybody when you’re living on the road. You know you pray every day that things are going to be OK with them, and it ended up being OK,” Dalton said.
For the Thrower brothers, it’s clear that the challenging times they faced in their younger years due to their parents’ health problems helped instill the lasting importance of family to them. Having the chance to live out their dreams playing professional hockey, and doing so together, has been a welcome opportunity for their parents, as well as for them.
“It’s a dream come true for them obviously. It’s something they’ve wanted for a long time. For Josh’s first year pro, he ends up playing with me…it’s a great experience. They got to come down for Christmas last year. They’re just trying to enjoy it as well, because we don’t know how long things like this can last in this League. We’re having fun with it and have to keep taking it day by day, that’s all.” Dalton said.
Given what they’ve gone through with their parents, nights like the Americans’ Hockey Fights Cancer game take on added significance. When the team hosted its Hockey Fights Cancer Weekend in March 2018, Melanie and Murray's names were listed among other cancer survivors on the specialty jerseys the players wore. The brothers continue to realize how lucky they are to be able to play with each other, and continue to draw motivation daily from their parents.
As Dalton put it, “Our parents are fighters, they’ve both been through a lot but they’ve done it with a smile on their face. They’re our motivation, we’ve just got to do this for them, so that’s always been our goal.”