By GAVEN CRITES
In the hallway near the dressing rooms at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre following a recent 100 Mile House Wranglers home game, coach/general manager Doug Rogers was asked about two of his forwards – William and Robert Orrey, 19-year-old twin brothers from Terrace.
“I would say they’re more similar than they are different,” Rogers responded. “They both take a lot of pride in what they do.
“Will is a little fierier than Robert is. They are different people and they have different attributes, but they are quality kids and they work hard every night and that’s what we can count on.”
The Wranglers are an expansion team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) this season and Rogers has often juggled the lineup looking for the right combination of players to take the team forward. Two-thirds of the Orrey line, with William at centre and Robert on the wing, however, hasn’t been touched yet.
In some sense, they’re one constant on a new team in a young season sure to come with a ton of growth and change. When asked if it’s better for the club if they play on the same line, both answer in the affirmative.
“I think, mentally, it’s a big help having my brother there with me,” Robert says. “I think [Rogers] saw our chemistry in tryouts and saw what we were capable of. We push each other forward.”
Adds William: “It’s a little frustrating we haven’t found the back of the net. But, we’re coming through. We’re a new team, trying to figure stuff out, that’s the way it is.”
Robert agrees. “As a new team, everyone is trying to find their spot and focus on that.”
(Indeed, they have already started coming through. Robert scored twice, including the overtime winner, against the Revelstoke Grizzlies on Oct. 13.)
The twin brother dynamic is an interesting one to consider in the realm of sports. Since the day they started playing hockey in atom – “It was one of the greatest days of my life,” says Robert – the boys have used one another as markers of how well they’re progressing. Their style of play is similar in that they’re a bit undersized, but quick, skilled and tenacious. Having spent so much time on the ice together, the chemistry between them is obviously there.
But when things go wrong, they agree that criticism, no matter how well-intentioned, is more irksome coming from your brother’s mouth than a regular teammate’s.
“It’s family,” says Robert. “You have that pride thing.”
William, the elder by 45 minutes and admittedly quicker to show his emotions, says it does get heated between them at times, but they try to keep things positive.
“I rely on him as much as he relies on me. No matter what’s going on, we try to do our best. You have to battle through it.”
Growing up in Terrace – some 900 kilometres northwest of 100 Mile House – the boys say they played the sort of customary tricks you’d expect identical-looking people to play. And they say it is funny and a bit of a mood-lightener when coaches, often shouting for everyone to hear, mistake one for the other on the ice. They are technically fraternal twins – but the differences are slight. And the coincidence isn’t always comical. With it comes the regular annoyance: Are you William? Are you Robert?
“I respond to both now,” says William. “If someone says ‘Robert,’ I look up.”
Like coach Rogers says, as much as the two are similar, they are different people with different characteristics. Robert, for instance, seems a bit quicker to converse.
But when the question comes up about who is better with girls, it’s William who chimes in first: “Robbie,” he answers. “[That’s a] smooth talker over there.”
Robbie, with bashful laughter, concedes this is true.
Adapting to Junior B hockey and staking a place for themselves in the KIJHL is something the Orrey boys say they’re enjoying thoroughly. They look to the future and see college, Junior A or potentially professional hockey.
For the Wranglers, even with the challenges to be expected in an inaugural season, they say it’s not too early to be thinking playoffs.
“I think for everyone in the dressing room, that’s the bar,” says William. “I think if you come into the year and you don’t picture yourself making the playoffs, you sell yourself short.”
As far as life in the South Cariboo is going – they found jobs as ranch hands baling hay and also doing some electrical work on the side – both say they couldn’t be happier with the community and their billet family.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Robert says. “It’s like we’re part of the family now.”
Chris and Andrea Thain reside in 108 Mile Ranch and have three young children. With the Orrey boys there the grocery bill is a lot higher, but otherwise Chris says the arrangement is working out and having them around makes the new Wranglers team that much more exciting.
“It’s almost like your kids are playing,” he says of the experience.
“They have teammates coming over here and we’ve met most of the players now I think. It’s different to sit in the stands. I feel more involved.”
The boys help out at home with the kids, too, Chris adds.
“We have a 20-month-old boy and now he’s addicted to hockey. They take him downstairs and play hockey with him. That’s like the one word he’s really good at saying – ‘hockey’.
“It feels like our family got a little bit bigger.”