Vandermeers the Hansons of the ECHL

Saturday, March 06, 2004
By Len Bardsley
The Trenton Times

Pete Vandermeer probably would admit at least for one season he and his brothers, Joe and Dan were compared to the Hanson brothers, who still enjoy a cult status in minor league rinks across North America after the movie Slap Shot.

The Vandermeer trio became legendary during the 1999-00 season, the one they played with the Richmond Renegades of the ECHL. The brothers from Caroline, Alberta, recorded a total of 41 goals, 73 assists and 744 penalty minutes.

Pete, Dan and Joe, who make up half of the hockey-playing Vandermeer brothers, have split up since their memorable season in Richmond, but separately continue to make a big impact on minor league hockey.

Peter, Joe and Dan have amassed a total of 418 points and 2,106 penalty minutes so far in their ECHL careers, which is believed to be the most in league history by any brother combination.

Since leaving the ECHL, Pete has built the reputation as one of the toughest forwards in the American Hockey League, as he fast approaches 1,000 career penalty minutes in three seasons with the Phantoms.

The Vandermeer clan is not necessarily following the story line of the Hanson brothers, however, developing a much more successful and home-grown brother blue print.

The Vandermeers would like to follow in the footsteps of another family from Alberta, the Sutter brothers, Brent, Brian, Duane, Darryl, Rich and Ron, all of whom played in the NHL and put together an amazing total of nearly 5,000 NHL games, almost 4,000 points and more than 7,000 penalty minutes.

So far Jim is the only Vandermeer brother to make it to the NHL and is playing for Brian Sutter who coaches the Blackhawks.

Joe and Dan are in the ECHL with the Peoria Rivermen and Long Beach Ice Dogs, respectively, while Bill and Ted Vandermeer are aspiring Junior players.

It is not surprising the path of the Vandermeers has merged with the Sutters.

Not only does Brian coach Jim in Chicago, but Brent coaches the youngest Vandermeer, 17-year-old Ted, who plays for the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League.

Brent also coached Jim, while he was a junior with Red Deer and has grown to know the Vandermeer family and is a customer at Bob Vandermeer’s lumberyard in Caroline.

Brent sees a lot of his brothers in the Vandermeers.

“They are very competitive kids,” said Sutter. “They play for keeps. They play to win and they are great team guys. They will do whatever it takes. They are no different than we were. None of us were the most skilled players, but you get the most out of yourself and what you had. They are very similar in that.”

Pete feels it is the ultimate compliment to be compared to the Sutter brothers.

“We have known the Sutters for years,” said Pete. “Brent and Brian married girls from Silver Lake, which is where we play hockey and they developed a relationship with our family growing up. They also bought lumber from my dad. It is a real honor (to be mentioned with them). They are good, hard working honest folks, if we can be compared to them, that is good for us.”

The older Vandermeer brothers and Brent Sutter agree that the two youngest brothers – Bill and Ted – are the most talented of all the Vandermeer brothers, but they see different reasons.

“They picked up on all our little tricks,” said Pete. “They have the opportunity of seeing us go through all the trials and tribulations and figuring out how to get the job done.”

Brent thinks Ted has benefited from the trials and tribulations his brothers put him through.

“I am sure he took his share of lickings when he was younger,” said Sutter of Ted. “I know he comes by his toughness honestly. The most important thing with all of them is they are great, great kids.”

You don’t have to look far to find where the toughness came from, just go back to the Vandermeer home.

“We had a backyard rink and a big room upstairs we played in,” said Peter, who is the oldest Vandermeer at 28. “We always went to bed with somebody bleeding or crying. Someone would get beat up and we would get shooed to bed. Then we would sneak back out and try a couple moves.”

Growing up in the Vandermeer house became survival of the fittest and sports was a must because anyone not playing a sport would work in their father’s lumberyard.

“We were born with it,” said Joe of their competitive nature. “We put skates on when we were two or three years old and there was always somebody to battle with. The competitiveness was always there is everybody pushing each other.”

The brothers had a pretty simple philosophy when it came to settling disagreements.

“If there was a scrap and you broke your brothers nose, then it was all sorted out,” said Peter Vandermeer. “You would never hold grudges. We would all beat the (stuffing) out of each other at home, but it was us against the world when we stepped off our property. We all have become pretty good friends.”

Pete, Joe and Dan played together for one memorable season with the Renegades.

Joe, the youngest of the three was the “mildest” a defenseman who had 122 penalty minutes, Dan, another defenseman picked up 165, while Pete, a forward put together an epic season, 31 goals, 25 assists and 457 penalty minutes in 58 games.

“That was awesome,’ said Pete of playing with his two brothers in Richmond. “You are pretty lucky to play with one brother, let alone two. The community and the team embraced it and we had a ball. Everyone knew you mess with one brother, you mess with the rest of us.”

Just like the Sutters, or maybe the Hansons.

Copyright 2004 The Times. Used with permission.