By Keith Lacey
When it comes to the game of hockey, Liam and Markus Ruck have identical answers when asked what their long-term goals are.
“I want to play in the NHL,” said Liam, while his identical twin brother nods his head in agreement.
At the tender age of nine, the Ruck twins have a long way to go to achieve their dream of playing in the world’s best hockey league.
However, they have already shown they are amongst the best players in their age group in the entire province – and all of Canada.
At the recent Kings of Vegas Hockey Tournament – a summer tournament designed to attract the best nine-year-old players in North America, Liam and Markus, along with line mate Mathis Preston, were selected to the tournament All-star team as they led the B.C. Junior Canucks to the semi-finals in the 12-team tournament.
Markus, who plays centre, and Liam, who plays left wing, played for the South Okanagan Minor Hockey Association (SOMHA) Sun Devils Atom Rep team this past season and are gearing up to play a second season for the Atom Rep team starting in September.
Hockey talent runs deep in the Ruck family as their father Derek played three full seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League (WHL) between 1998-99 and 2000-2001.
With a job offer from the Town of Osoyoos on the table – a job he continues to hold to this day – Derek didn’t pursue a career in professional hockey after a solid major junior career.
Derek and most of the best players in town play every Sunday night during hockey season at the Sun Bowl Arena.
His twin sons play a lot more than that.
Derek and his wife Nina were both born and raised in Osoyoos and are obviously very proud of all of the success their twin boys have enjoyed very early in their hockey careers.
“They live and breathe hockey,” said Nina. “It’s all they talk about and all they think about. If they’re not out on the road playing ball hockey, they’re inside the garage shooting pucks. They’re all about hockey.”
Their youngest son Landon, who turned six last week, just started playing hockey.
Both Liam and Markus were on skates not long after they learned to walk and they showed at a very young age they were better than average players and have continued to excel at every level since.
Their proud father says he knew his twin boys were going to excel in hockey not long after they put on skates.
“They played their first year in pre-novice at age four against the five and six-year-olds and did quite well,” he said. “They’ve played against kids a year or more older than them through most of their minor hockey and never looked out of place.”
Like many hockey parents, Derek and Nina are on the road a lot as Liam and Markus pursue their hockey dreams by participating in spring and summer hockey camps across the province over the past several years.
“We’re on the road almost every weekend,” said Derek. “Most of the spring leagues and summer camps are in the Lower Mainland, so we’re travelling as a family quite a bit.”
Liam and Markus were invited to compete for a spot with the B.C. Junior Canucks after scouts saw them play on numerous occasions in the SOMHA last season.
In Las Vegas, the B.C. Junior Canucks competed against teams from Calgary, Manitoba, Toronto and Montreal, as well as several teams from the United States.
“They played six games and won five … with their only loss to the team from Manitoba that ended up winning it all,” said Derek.
Next year, Liam and Markus are hoping to make the B.C. team that will compete in The Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament, which has grown to become the world’s largest and most prestigious novice hockey tournament for players ages nine and 10.
It will take place next July in the West Edmonton Mall.
The NHL is littered with dozens of players who played in The Brick tournament.
“The Kings of Vegas tournament serves as a sort of tryout tournament for The Brick tournament,” said Derek. “Some of the world’s best players who are superstars in the NHL played in The Brick tourney, so it’s a really big deal.”
While they play a similar style of offensive hockey, the twins don’t share identical tastes when it comes to their favourite NHL player.
Liam’s favourite player is NHL superstar Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, while Markus’s favourite player is New York Islanders superstar John Tavares.
Despite their tender years, Liam and Markus know being physically fit plays a huge role in their success on the ice.
Under the guidance of their father, they are involved in a lot of dryland training during the spring and summer.
“They run a lot of stairs and hills and do plyometrics, (also known as jump training in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals, with the goal of increasing power, speed and strength),” said Derek.
“I love being out their with them as we get to spend quality time together and it really keeps me in good shape as well.”
The twins hope to follow in their father’s footsteps by getting drafted into the WHL.
As identical twins, the odds of them being able to play on the same team once they graduate from minor hockey are remote, but it’s not something they think too much about due to their young age.
For now, they’re thrilled to be able to play on the same team in the SOMHA and know that will continue through atom, peewee and bantam hockey here in Osoyoos.
To get to where they want to go in hockey, the twins realize there is much more hard work ahead, but it’s something they both look forward to in the coming years.