Minnesota siblings find themselves on the same team for first time

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Jared and Jeremy Manzella are brothers from Eagan, Minn., that had a dream of playing on the same team. They find themselves doing so for BYU. (Jeremy Manzella)

Jared and Jeremy Manzella were six and four years old, respectively, when they suited up for a hockey team in Eagan, Minnesota. Family, friends and teammates made younger brother Jeremy play goalie that day because he was the youngest kid on the team. Little did they know that one decision would contribute to a lifelong bond between two brothers.

The oldest two of the four Manzella brothers grew up 18 months apart — two grades apart in school. Both began playing hockey at an early age because, as Jared explained, “that’s just what you do in Minnesota, you play hockey.”

The two grew up playing hockey day in and day out, specifically playing goalie. While Jeremy was the first to play goalie at his young age, Jared fell in love with the position as well. They grew up watching, supporting and challenging each other, but their age difference kept them from ever playing on the same team.

Jared, left, and Jeremy, right, pose in a youth hockey league. (Jeremy Manzella)

“We never really thought we would be able to do it,” Jared explained. “With the age gap, we never thought it was a possibility to play together. We were good with watching and supporting from other teams.”

They realized the best way to share the ice was by watching the other. The two supported each other at games from different levels, never being afraid to pitch advice and help when the other was struggling on the ice. Jared and Jeremy said they really began to bond personally through hockey when Jared was in his senior year and Jeremy was in his sophomore year of high school. 

“I always got to see him play,” Jeremy said. “It’s just amazing how much you bond with another goalie, and having it be your brother was really cool.”

The two brothers said they realized their talent as goalies could make college hockey a reality. Jared said he had always wanted to play hockey in college but didn’t think it was a possibility until his junior year of high school.

“It had been a dream for a while, but then I realized it was something that I could actually make happen,” Jared said.

After successful junior and senior seasons at his local high school in Minnesota, Jared left home for the first time to play goalie for the University of Utah. Thanks to a relative near Salt Lake and a Utes goalie coach who was from Minnesota, Jared had the chance to play college hockey. This left younger brother Jeremy to take control of the high school team as the starting goalie his senior year.

Jeremy, left, and Jared, right, pose for their high school hockey photos. (Jeremy Manzella)

After a successful senior season, Jeremy graduated but was unsure of where hockey and life were going to take him next. He took a year off, did some coaching, and did a year of school at a local community college. Meanwhile, across the country in Salt Lake City, Jared realized that more opportunities were opening up to play goalie at rival BYU. Jared transferred to BYU after two seasons with the Utes.

After a year of playing for BYU, Jared saw there was an open spot for another goalie on the team. After talking with coaches, the opportunity for the brothers to finally play on the same team had arrived. Jared placed a phone call, to Jeremy with the news: a chance to come to Provo and play with Jeremy at the collegiate level. There was just one problem.

Jeremy said no.

“I’ve always missed being around my family. When Jared reached out to me, I really didn’t know if I was interested. I just didn’t know if I wanted to be that far away from home, I was scared of it,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy had never been that far away from home before and wasn’t sure about the chance he had to leave Minnesota. To be that far away from his family at that point in his life was nearly the deciding factor in telling his brother no.

But Jared wouldn’t take no for an answer and enlisted his dad to help.

“I talked to my dad, and we were able to convince him. My dad told Jeremy that you only get a certain amount of opportunities in life, so you have to take a chance,” Jared said.

While Jeremy had some struggles adjusting to the new atmosphere in Provo, he said it was his brother that made him realize it was worth it.

Members of the 2018-2019 BYU Hockey celebrate their Mountain West Conference Championship. (Jeremy Manzella)

“Jared helped me realize that I needed to just keep pushing and that there was a reason I was here. After that, there was just kind of a light switch. It changed my life. I realized I had a family out here,” Jeremy said.

The Manzella brothers are now in their second year of playing together at BYU, and they said their favorite part of hockey is the chance to play together.

“It is literally like playing with your best friend, and you wish nothing bad upon them. You just want to see them be successful. You want to see the success as a unit,” Jared said.

The two have seen success together on the ice while at BYU. Last season, the team took home the Mountain West Championship after beating rival Utah State in what Jeremy called “the best game I’ve ever seen Jared play.” The Cougars also took home the Wasatch Cup, which honors the best team in the state of Utah.

Jared, as a senior, said that if an opportunity arises to play hockey after he graduates he would take it, but he would love to get into coaching young goalies. With Jared graduating, Jeremy realizes that next season will be his opportunity to lead the Cougars on the ice. 

Hockey has helped the two older brothers bond, and they said they plan on staying involved in their younger brothers’ hockey careers — both of whom are goalies, of course.

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