Identical twins Ryley and Drew Nadon had fun playing tricks on their teachers by switching seats in the classroom.
There were days when Ryley went home sick for the day and Drew would tell the teacher he was his brother.
They got away with their shenanigans until they got older and began their pursuit of post-second education.
It was fun while it lasted, they said.
“You either can tell us apart when you first meet us or you can’t, there’s no in- between it seems,” Ryley said earlier this week.
The Nadon twins, who hail from the tiny town of Kapuskasing, Ont., play for the Port aux Basques Mariners in the West Coast Senior Hockey League.
Ryley is a goalie for the league-leading Mariners, while Drew is a versatile forward who plays the game much bigger than he is.
It wasn’t always this way though.
The twins grew up playing minor hockey in their hometown with both playing up front and considered the top offensive producers on their team.
Ryley had an issue with people always comparing him with Drew. It wasn’t a problem for them at all, but people in the community made it a point to draw comparison, and Ryley believes a lot of that had to do with being identical twins.
Ryley eventually decided to move back on the blue to remove himself from it. However, the comparisons continued. He figured the only solution he had was to strap the goalie pads on to make it go away.
“That put a stop to it,” Ryley said with a chuckle.
Corner Brook has been home for the twins for six years. Faced with a lack of teaching jobs available in Ontario, Ryley ended up taking a job at Immaculate Heart of Mary School after seeing a Newfoundland and Labrador tourism ad promoting the province.
Ryley thought it would be a good place to go given his wife is a Cape Breton native and the move would at least bring them closer to her family and friends.
Drew followed him, arriving in the city six months later to teach at the city’s private school.
When Ryley joined the Mariners three seasons ago, a mini-season to get the league off the ground, it was his first game in eight years.
He missed four games during that shortened season after a player slid into him and he wrapped his leg around the goal post.
Last season, Ryley missed a month of action following a concussion after a collision behind the net.
He thought about giving it up, but he didn’t want to end his senior hockey ride that way.
He realized the Mariners were willing to take another chance on having him as the No. 1 goaltender so he came back.
The close bond between the two resonates on the ice.
Ryley has been run over a number of times. If Drew happens to be on the ice, Ryley knows it’s his twin coming to his rescue because their dad taught them a long time ago to always look out for the other guy.
Drew and Ryley were both ejected for fighting the last time a player took liberties on the Mariners goalie. That was during a regular season game last season and Ryley has been relatively free of collisions so far this year.
Ryley appreciates having a brother who stands up for him, but he doesn’t want Drew in the penalty box or kicked out of the game.
Drew grew up playing the game as one of his team’s top-six forwards, but his role with the Mariners is a versatile one where he has been moving up and down the lineup depending on who was available for a particular game.
“Sometimes it’s a little hard on the body, because I’m bit of a smaller guy, but I enjoy it,” Drew said with a smile. “I always pride myself on doing the little things like blocking shots and playing the body, and letting guys know you’re out there.”
Drew came to the city thinking he would spend a year and move on.
“I still get a hard time in the league about being from the mainland, but I’d like to think I’m pretty well much a Newfoundlander now,” Drew said.
The twins spend the week teaching and coaching all the school teams at Immaculate Heart of Mary School. They are in their element because they have always coached young athletes in various sports before making the move.
There is no time for either guy to train. It’s a matter of grabbing the equipment on Friday and making the long drive to the gateway town.
It means a lot to the twins to have young minor hockey players waiting for them after the game. Signing a stick or a Mariners jersey is as much fun for them as making a big save or scoring a big goal.
“It can be a hard place to play sometimes when things aren’t going well and I found that out,” Ryley said with a laugh to follow.
One of the rivals of the Mariners, of course, is the Corner Brook Royals.
This is where it gets pretty interesting for the twins.
The students at the school have been known to give the teachers a bit of ripping for the jersey they wear. They make it known to the twins that the Royals are their team and don’t have a problem making a comment when they pass the twins in the corridor.
There is a glimmer of hope, however
Drew scored a goal against the Royals at the Corner Brook Civic early in the season. A fellow teacher told the boys about a student doing a quick fist pump after the goal, but quickly lower his hand with hopes nobody had seen him show support for the “bad guys.”
“They’re starting to come over to the dark side now,” Ryley said with a laugh.