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Dylan Duke Honed Competitive Hockey Spirit With Brother Tyler

By Becky Olsen, 07/08/20, 3:45PM EDT


One-on-one battles on the backyard rink helped make Dylan the player he is today

Photo by Rena Laverty

If there was one word to describe brothers Dylan and Tyler Duke, it would be competitive.

The brothers, who are 16 months apart, had their fair share of squabbles growing up, but in the end, it made both of them stronger, even if their mom had to break up a few “misunderstandings.”

“My brother and I were very competitive growing up,” explained Dylan. “We had a backyard rink that my dad would flood. All winter, we would be on the rink, playing some 1-on-1 hockey.

“When it was warm, we would be playing mini-sticks in the basement. Every game, it seemed that we'd get in a fight because we both wanted to win so bad. My mom was always breaking up fights in the day.”

For Dylan, a center with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, skating and hockey started just as soon as he was able to start walking.

“I started learning to skate when I was a year old, really as soon as I could stand on the ice,” explained Duke. “The funny thing is that we still have those skates today. They have been passed down through my family — my brother wore them, some of my younger cousins and some friends of our family.”

It was his dad Steve, who played college hockey at Western Michigan and professionally in ECHL and AHL, was the one who first introduced him to the sport.

“My dad played hockey and I wanted to play, too,” explained Duke. “He had a lot of influence on us. It was fun to us and it is something that really brings people together.”

Duke’s dad also served as his head coach from when he was 4 until he was 10. Along the way, he taught him some very valuable lessons that still resonate with the brothers today.

“He coached us when we were growing up,” said Duke. “For me, he was there to help grow our game, guide us and hold us accountable.

“The one lesson that he taught me was to be humble, and never get too high or get too low. It is all about being steady. You need to work hard, and good things will come to you.”

The Strongsville, Ohio, native and his family moved to Michigan six years ago so the brothers could continue their hockey careers. Both played in the Compuware program, which shares USA Hockey Arena with the NTDP. It should be no surprise that Dylan dreamed of wearing the Team USA colors.

Photo by Rena Laverty

“I played at the same rink as the NTDP, so we were always walking past the locker room and going to games,” said Duke. “I made it a goal of mine that I wanted to join the program as soon as I realized and saw what it was. I knew that I had to keep working hard so I would have a chance to make the team.”

Fast forward a few years, and Duke has finished his first season with the program. It was an eye-opening experience for the 5-foot-9, 168-pound forward, but with all that he learned, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“My all-around game grew the most,” he said. “Coach Wrobo [John Wroblewski] really helped us. It was all about positioning, defensive zone coverage and playing to win. I grew on both sides of the rink, both the offensive and defensive zone. It’s really how they want us to play and grow our all-around game.

Photo by Rena Laverty

“One thing I learned is that good defense leads to offensive opportunities. When you do a good job in the D-zone, it will lead to offensive opportunities and that is a big part of the game. When you do a good job, you are going to keep getting better.”

Duke, who finished with 29 goals and 48 points in 52 games, earned a late season call-up to the Under-18 Team. The jump in class taught him some valuable lessons.

“I took away the leadership the team had, especially Matthew Beniers and Jake Sanderson,” Duke explained. “It was great to see how they go about everything, whether it was the rink or school. It was good to see how hard they work in practice. It will definitely help next year and I’ll be able to help lead.”

Duke did have a few favorite moments from the season, including the team’s first international tournament title at the Four Nations in Kazan, Russia, in December.

“It was amazing when we played Russia in Russia,” Duke said. “We came out in the first period and took the lead and that really cemented the game. We played hard and played to win. It was an awesome experience.”

Even after a full season, it’s still special for Duke to wear the USA jersey.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “To represent the country and wear the USA crest is something that I take pride in. It was so cool to walk in and see the jerseys hanging. It’s an unbelievable feeling that we get to wear it every day.”

Duke will soon be joined by a familiar face as his younger brother Tyler will begin his NTDP career in the fall as a member of the U17 team. Last season marked the first time the brothers haven’t played on the same team.

“It was definitely different for me, my brother and my parents last year,” said Duke. “They were dealing with two different hockey schedules.”

Photo by Rena Laverty

At the end of the day, despite he and Tyler’s competitive nature, Duke was able to offer some words of advice based on his own experiences from his first year with the NTDP.

“I told him it was going to be hard and he will have to put in the work at the rink,” said Duke. “You will practice how you play. I told him to trust the process. You will need to go 100% every day, not just on a game day. You will need to be ready to work hard every day.”

The brothers will be hard at work this summer, hopefully with no fighting, to prepare for their respective upcoming seasons.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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