As much as boys compete, brothers would far rather fight together.

I’m the oldest of three sons in my family. All of us played hockey but never together. In fact the hardest I’ve ever been hit was by my brother as he caught me crossing centre ice with my head down. Let’s just say he won that round; I had to be helped to the dressing room.

He brags about it to this day.

If this hockey off-season could be recounted in a single phrase, ‘oh brother’ would likely do the trick. Jordan Staal joins brother Eric in Carolina and quickly signs a ten year deal. Toronto’s trade for JVR united brothers Luke and Brayden Schenn, a fantasy of Leafs Nation coming to fruition in Philadelphia; the city of brotherly love.

Dallas qualified brothers Jamie and Jordie Benn, the latter being signed to the AHL Stars the season following Jamie’s run to the Calder Cup in Texas’ inaugural campaign. The older brother brought on-board either in-part or in-whole due to the play of the younger (I wonder how that plays out at Christmas).

Well, Toronto sees your pair and raises you twins.

When the Maple Leafs prospect camp roster was released last week, inclusion of the brothers Rupert drew considerable attention. Ryan was selected at the recent 2012 NHL Draft in the sixth round by the Maple Leafs, while Matt found himself without a new sweater (though let’s be honest, their twins – he could probably wear Ryan’s).

The two are identical in almost every way, until they smile.

Ryan, the first to exit the dressing room, dropped the hint; he’s retained all of his chiclets while brother Matt is missing the front two. A victim of two separate assaults to the face, one by way of a stick and another from a puck. The demise of his pearly whites however did not come at the hand of Ryan, though the same cannot be said about other injuries.

If you bring up Matt’s foot, Ryan may shy away from the story.

“He will say he pushed me, but I jumped,” laughs Matt through a grin deserving of Bobby Clarke’s 70′s Flyers sweater and a Stanley Cup. The story goes a little something like this.

About four or five years ago Matt failed to surrender the computer to brother Ryan when asked. If their household was anything like mine, they would have been allowed only an allotted time online after which the computer was to be turned off. If the exploration of CapGeek or HockeyDB (because really, what else do any of us use the computer for these days) were to cross into another’s time slot, one may be cheated of his fare share of researching how many goals Darcy Tucker scored in his rookie season.

For all of you who have siblings (especially of the male variety) you know how quickly impatience becomes expressed in physical form. Pleas and please changing to pushes and knees.

The way the two Ruperts shoot smirks back and forth while discussing it, you can almost imagine the whirlwind that passed through the family home. Ryan chased Matt, likely with that “junkyard dog” instinct Brian Burke referred to. As indicated above, the jury is still out on exactly how the elder twin (by 10 minutes) was launched through the air but all are clear on the result upon landing; a broken foot. Leaving Matt lamed and the computer free for Ryan’s use.

Aside from time on the PC, the pair admit to competing at only one other thing in life; dice. Or if you ask Matt, it’s called quarters. Though Ryan’s pretty sure it’s called dice.

It’s a Rupert family tradition involving three quarter-dollar pieces and two dice. When the extended family of 50 – including approximately a dozen cousins older than the twins, and even more younger – gather every Christmas, it’s a must.

“Two, four and six are your safe numbers,” explains the minutely younger Ryan. The details get a bit blurry from there, as does the line between winning a losing. It seems almost as if the one to laugh the hardest is the true winner anyway. And it appears laughter comes in copious amounts around these two.

Born and raised Leafs fans, the womb-mates have dreamed of playing on the storied franchise since boyhood. Having been together as early as tykes on the Thedford Thunder, they admit to always playing their best when side by side. It’s evident with the OHL Knights, where alongside 2010 Leafs draftee Greg McKegg, ventured to the Memeorial Cup.

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