By Lindsay Kramer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Syracuse Crunch forward Kevin Harvey skated with and against a lot of players who delighted in reminding him of the obvious.
“When I was younger, I always heard it from everyone else,” Harvey said. “You are never going to be like your brother.”
The detractors were right. Harvey would never match the feats of older brother Todd, at least in a hockey sense. Todd was a highly skilled player, one taken by the Dallas Stars No. 9 overall in the 1993 draft and went on to play in 671 NHL games.
But in a way, the unfair comparisons to Todd, 33, helped mold Kevin, 24, into the only type of player he could be.
Luckily for him, it was the type who grew to 6-foot-2, a height three inches taller and a lot meatier than his brother. That made it easier to answer words with fists on the ice.
“He’s had that chip on his shoulder. I don’t blame him,” said Todd, who is now retired. “I imagine it was hard for him when he was younger, going through the ranks. Any younger sibling that follows his brother’s footsteps, it has to be tough. He’s probably snapped a few times. That’s probably why he’s so tough.”
And why he’s usually pretty popular with the hometown fans.
Harvey, a recent callup from Reading of the ECHL, represents one of the few bursts of energy on the slumping Crunch. In five games as a fill-in he has two goals, four fights and 34 PIM.
“I can score goals,” Kevin said. “I’m just at the point of my career where this (scrapping) is what I have to do to stay in pro hockey. My brother was successful. If I work hard, I’m going to be successful, too. I’m my own person.”
Success is measured in vastly different ways by the Harveys. Todd produced 223 points in his NHL career, playing for Dallas, the Rangers, San Jose and Edmonton.
Kevin was taken in the ninth and final round by Calgary in the 2003 draft, No. 270 overall. Before this season he had never even reached the ECHL level. The past two seasons he played for the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League, a destination far removed from his brother’s travel itinerary.
“The travel was horrendous. We had long bus trips, 16 hours,” Kevin said. “They loved their fights down south. I was more or less a fan favorite when I was there. Some people didn’t know much about the game. I’d go out in town in New Mexico, sometimes people didn’t even know we had a hockey team.”
Kevin jumped up to Reading this season, where he produced three goals, seven assists and 122 PIM in 23 games. His assistant coach there is former Syracuse Crunch agitator Larry Courville, who has a fine appreciation for the way Harvey approaches the game. Courville has worked with Harvey on making sure his aggressiveness doesn’t cost his team.
“Kevin is the type of player who played the type of role I did. I think at times he got distracted, and wasn’t able to take someone off the ice with him (drawing a opponent’s penalty),” Courville said. “Any time there’s an altercation, he’s the first guy to step in there. He’d get a roughing penalty. (It’s) just making smarter decisions, thinking before he reacts.”
Todd said that his younger brother actually skates better than he did. In their frequent chats, Todd stresses the importance of Kevin rounding out his game.
“He tells me to keep my chin down, use my head, not go out of my way to be an idiot,” Kevin said.
“He’s found his way. He’s maybe gone a different path,” Todd said. “He’s taken the long way around, but he’s working hard at it. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing, he’s got the skating ability and the skill to play in the National Hockey League. Now’s the time to concentrate on hockey.”
Kevin listens, nods his head in appreciation and then sometimes fires back in typical younger brother fashion.
“We go back and forth at each other,” Kevin said. “How he’s fat now, and lazy. I just bug him.”
That’s all in good fun. When Kevin runs into the pals who chirped that he’d never measure up to his brother, he likes to make a more serious point.
“A lot of those guys who gave it to me aren’t playing anymore,” he said. “I’m playing hockey for a living at a high level.”