When it comes to ice cream, the toppings are the best part. From creamy caramel and chocolate to fresh berries and whipped cream, there are no rules and there are no limits.
In the Western Hockey League, there are just two Toppings — brothers Mitch and Joel.
Mitch Topping, 19, is a veteran defenseman for the Tri-City Americans, while Joel, a rookie, suits up on the blueline for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Tonight, the brothers from Red Deer will face each other in a sanctioned game for the first time when the Hurricanes visit Toyota Center.
“I’m really excited,” Mitch said. “It’s a special moment for us. We are two years apart, and I just missed him (at the lower level) because of the age gap. We get two games in the WHL, one this year and one next year. We are pumped. We are brothers off the ice, but on it, he’s just another guy out there.”
Joel, 17, said he always has looked up to his older brother and that he looks forward to tonight’s clash.
“It’s going to be different looking on the other bench and seeing him,” Joel said. “I’m sure there will be some friendly chirps. He’ll make me work, I’m sure.”
Craig and Kathy Topping will not be able to make the trip to see their boys play because of work commitments.
“It’s a little disappointing, but their lives can’t stop for our hockey,” Joel said. “They will be watching on the TV. Our auntie, Brenda Dion, will be here, and there are people in Red Deer who will be watching us play. Most of the time, there will be a Topping on the ice for them to watch.”
Mitch has had a successful career between Chilliwack and Tri-City. Last season, he had four goals, 16 assists and a plus-11 rating in 66 regular-season games. The Americans won the U.S. Division title and advanced to the Western Conference finals. This season, he was named an alternate captain.
Joel has played all four games for the Hurricanes this season. He has no points and a minus-2 rating, but he’s just getting started.
“I’ve been in the lineup every night. I can’t complain,” Joel said. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can, being a student of the game. You can’t get comfortable in this league at my age. There’s always something more to learn.”
The Hurricanes arrived in Kennewick on Wednesday. The Topping brothers were scheduled to carve out a slice of time to spend together on Thursday. Joel, who was a star defenceman last season with the Telus Cup — Canadian midget AAA — champion Red Deer Optimist Rebels, said Mitch planned to give him a two-cent tour of the Tri-Cities, take him to his billet’s house and treat him to ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.
“I’ve been to Tri-City before,” Joel said. “But I wasn’t paying too much attention because Mitch was playing for Chilliwack at the time.”
Joel had better pay attention Friday, because big brother’s hospitality will end with the ice cream.