Comets Tales: The Gaunce Brothers
by Don LaibleMay 25, 2016
For Brendan and Cameron Gaunce, hockey is the family business.
Their work addresses were 360 miles apart this past season, but the Gaunce boys are routinely as close as a phone call or text. Brendan, 21, just completed his second pro campaign for the Comets/Canucks, while the Cameron wrapped up his sixth pro season, and first with the Portland Pirates.
Being an intricate member of a Comets' team that won the Western Conference championship in 2015, Brendan's growth as a first-year pro carried over into this season.
A season earlier, Cameron, 25, also saw his summer plans placed on-hold into mid-June, as a member of the Texas Stars. Gaunce’s Stars downed the St. John's IceCaps in five games to capture the 2014 Calder Cup in five games. Similarities as this have been shadowing the Gaunce brothers since their youth. Growing up in the Greater Toronto area, in the Southern Ontario City of Markham, becoming hockey players is all Brendan and Cameron can remember wanting to be.
"We weren't thinking of the big picture as kids,” said Cameron, an AHL All-Star this season. “It became a natural progression."
With all of the brother’s combined organized hockey history, surprisingly, not until the 2014-15 AHL season when the Stars and Comets squared off, did the brothers meet on the same sheet of ice.
"It was tough to concentrate during my first shift," Brendan recalled, when the Comets were visitors in Cedar Park, TX on Oct. 18, 2014. "For me, it was emotional."
Perhaps, what aided the Comets' center to getting back to "normal" during the game came, when a scrum broke out between the two teams. Among the pile up of players, with Cameron on top of a Comet, Brendan contributed by grabbing hold of his brother's jersey.
"The first time I would catch myself watching him," Cameron, a defenseman, remembers of the first Comets-Stars game.
Brothers in hockey are not new by any stretch and appear to be on the rise in recent years. When combing through team and league registries, you could check back many decades and come up with handfuls of successful siblings, on the pro level. Bobby and Dennis Hull, Mark and Marty Howe, Phil and Tony Esposito, to current NHL brothers - Brian and Stephen Gionta are among the class.
Both Brendan and Cameron give much credit to their early years of finding their passion for hockey, with their parents as the main catalysts.
"We played street hockey and all sports. We were lucky that our parents let us figure out what we wanted to do,” Brendan said. "We're a close family."
With their teams' scheduling precluding Brendan and Cameron from seeing much of each other during hockey season, in the off months, the brothers are regulars at each other’s homes. For Brendan, home is still in Markam.
"We talk, but not about hockey. We try and get away from it," Brendan told. Cameron resides in Toronto.
Recently married, Cameron, a second round pick by the Colorado Avalanche in 2008, paints a picture of he and Brendan solidly supporting each's quest to the NHL. "I'm happy for him. He (Brendan) supports me 100%."
Stephen and Julie Gaunce have offered support and been present, when their sons received the call to the NHL. Both were in Syracuse to support Cameron for the AHL All-Star Classic this past winter.
This past October, when Brendan put on a Vancouver Canucks' jersey for the first time in regular season play, his dad, Stephen, flew to Dallas for the debut. After the game with the Stars, the following night, with a game in Arizona, Brendan scored his first NHL goal. On Oct. 30, in his second NHL match, Brendan redirected a shot past Coyotes' goalie Anders Lindback, in a 4-3 Canucks victory.
For big brother Cameron, he too, knows the euphoria of not only being summoned up to an NHL parent team, but finding the back of the net for the very first time. On Feb. 12, 2011, his third game with the Avalanche, Cameron notched his first NHL goal and point against Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Gaunce brothers success doesn't come as a total surprise, to those in the hockey-rich community of Markham. Markham has produced 10 NHL players, with current standouts being Jeff Skinner, Michael Del Zotto, and Steve Stamkos.
A sure sign of the Gaunce brothers rooting for each other’s hockey dreams to come true, Brendan tells of calling Cameron right after he received word of the all-star nod. "I told him that was awesome, and that he deserved it. Cameron's had a good year."
With all the daily personal demands; practice, workouts, travel, game prep, and actual game action, it's easy to tell that the duo look forward to competing against one another. As Cameron fielded questions at the AHL All-Star Classic Skills Competition in Syracuse, Cameron willingly brought up that he looked forward to his next scheduled visit to Utica.
After peeling off his equipment, and relaxing after going into overtime at The AUD against Lehigh Valley on Feb. 12, in mid-conversation, Brendan tells of the Pirates coming to town soon. This is a sure sign that players (especially brothers) indeed do circle certain games, during a calendar season.