For the fifth straight season a pair of Aboriginal brothers finds themselves playing for the same professional hockey club.
But chances are not too many hockey fans know the whereabouts of Greg and Brad Leeb as they are not playing in the National Hockey League - or even North America.
Instead the brothers, who are Cree, are in England this season suiting up for the Coventry Blaze, members of the Elite Ice Hockey League.
Greg, 35, and Brad, 33, were also teammates the past four years with Germany’s Nuremberg Ice Tigers.
So how did they end up in England this season?
“There was an opportunity to continue to pursue my education and at the same time play hockey,” Greg Leeb said.
Besides suiting up for the Blaze the brothers are also both studying at Coventry University. They are enrolled in the Sport Business Management program.
“I had heard good things about the league and Coventry University,” Brad Leeb added. “And it was also another opportunity to play with my brother.”
The brothers are from Red Deer.
Though they only spent a brief time in the NHL, both have managed to have lengthy pro careers. Greg played two games in the NHL, for the Dallas Stars during the 2000-01 season. Brad ended up appearing in five NHL contests, four with the Vancouver Canucks and one with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Greg played a total of 10 years in Germany while his brother was there five seasons. They also played for various minor pro squads in North America.
Now they find themselves where hockey is not the most popular sport.
“Soccer is number one here and hockey is down the scale a little bit,” Brad said. “(It’s) very comparative to how hockey is the number one sport in Canada and soccer is down the list a little.”
Both brothers also have some advice for young Aboriginal players who aspire to become pro.
“There seems to be many opportunities that can come about from playing hockey,” Greg said. “Not only can a player possibly play pro hockey but there are opportunities to further education, make contacts in other fields of interest and pursue coaching and training positions. I think for young Aboriginal players having the aspiration to better themselves and seek a variety of opportunities is what is important and will help them achieve better things in their lives.”
And Brad offers this thought.
“As with anything, it takes commitment.
If you are entirely committed to something, you will find a way to make it happen. That goes for anything in life.”
With the Blaze both Leebs are off to decent starts. Despite missing a game, Brad was leading the club in scoring with eight points, including five goals, in five games. Greg was fourth in team scoring with six points (three goals, three assists) after six games.
Both brothers believe the quality of play in the EIHL is high.
“It is one of the European leagues that allows a lot of imports,” Brad said. “Most of the imports are North American players, so there is a similarity to the North American game.”