By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
The Stockton Thunder forwards, who played together for the Wheeling (Pa.) Nailers last season, come from hockey families. Hodge is the son of Boston Bruins great Ken Hodge Sr. and brother of former NHL player Ken Hodge Jr., and Verbeek’s brother, Pat Verbeek, spent 20 years in the NHL as a fiery forward.
Being related to former star players sometimes means dealing with other people’s expectations. But there were plenty of fringe benefits, such as when Brendon’s father became the coolest coach a youth team could have, or when Tim brought his brother to speak to his fourth grade class.
“There might be some expectations because of my last name, but I don’t mind,” said Tim Verbeek, a native of Sarnia, Ontario. “It’s wonderful to have people in your family who have made a mark in the sport.”
The Thunder spent Thanksgiving on the ice, beating Idaho 6-5 as Verbeek had two assists and Hodge had one assist.
Brendon Hodge said it would be nice to see his family, but they will be listening. Ken Hodge Sr. said although the game didn’t start until 10 p.m. at their home in Lynnfield, Mass., the family planned to the listen to the game via the internet.
“We’ll stay up and listen to Brendon’s game, and I expect we’ll get a call after it’s over,” Ken Hodge said. “We’re very proud of him and always listen when we can, and I know what it’s like to be away from the family on the holidays.”
Brendon Hodge, 28, and Tim Verbeek, 27, became friends while playing for Wheeling. After Hodge signed with the Thunder, Verbeek called to discuss the move and then decided to join him in Stockton where they are assistant captains.
“I like players who come from a hockey background because they tend to be easy to coach and really respect the game,” Thunder coach Chris Cichocki said. “They are both leaders and have learned how to play the game the right way.”
Tim Verbeek said at first he wasn’t aware that they both had family ties to the sport.”I knew who Ken Hodge was, of course, but when we first met I didn’t know Brendon was his son,” Verbeek said. “When he told me, I was like, ‘Wow.’ “
Ken Hodge played 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. His oldest son, Ken Jr., played 11 years in the NHL, and his other son, Dan, played in the minor leagues for 10 seasons and currently is an assistant coach for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League.
Pat Verbeek, an intense 5-foot-9 competitor nicknamed “Little Ball of Hate,” played with Dallas, Detroit, New Jersey and Hartford before retiring in 2002. He is a scout for the Red Wings.Brendon and Tim grew up around the sport, but they say they weren’t pushed into it.
“I wanted my sons to make their own choices, and I told them that they might get some extra attention because they had a familiar last name in the game,” Ken Hodge said. “I just wanted them to know that there wasn’t any pressure from me.”
But Brendon said he thinks he would have played hockey no matter what his father or brothers did for a living.
And if he was going to play, at least he had a retired NHL player as a coach when he was a youngster.
“I know Dad enjoyed coaching us, and the cool thing about it is that it helped me out, and it helped the other kids out,” Brendon Hodge said.
Ken Hodge said he offers encouragement to his son these days, not advice. Tim Verbeek said Pat does help him with his game, and in the offseason the brothers and Pat’s 18-year-old son, Kyle, work out together at Pat’s home in Michigan.
“We talk about hockey all the time,” Tim Verbeek said. “He knows a lot about the game. It’s just a part of who we are.”
Pat Verbeek, 42, said he has given his younger brother advice when it comes to dealing with a famous surname.
“I know there are some expectations and people will try to loop you into what they want you to be, but you have to find your own identity,” Pat Verbeek said. “You have to be your own person, and Tim has always done that.”
Brendon Hodge has heard similar words from his father, and both of the Thunder players say they have listened. They are proud of the accomplishments of their relatives.
“I am honored when people recognize my father or my brother and ask about them,” Brendon Hodge said. “Hockey is a huge part of our family.”