Gavin Brindley and Seamus Casey have been best friends since they were 5 years old.
They started playing hockey for the Junior Everblades more than a decade ago, with Gavin’s father and former Florida Everblades standout Ryan serving as their coach. They quickly developed into budding superstars, and they’ve been a part of the Florida Alliance – a top-flight travel team encompassing the entire state of Florida – for the last six years.
Their latest accomplishment is their most impressive as the two phenoms were recently named to Team USA for the upcoming Youth Olympics tournament in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"Being a kid from Florida, there’s nothing I wanted more than to put on that USA jersey," Gavin Brindley said. "And doing it with Seamus, that’s just an unbelievable feeling. We’ve grown up together, we’re practically brothers. Having two kids from Florida, from the same community, representing Team USA, that just doesn’t happen."
The Americans take on Finland at 2 p.m. Saturday and Switzerland at 2 p.m. on Sunday in preliminary-round action. The semifinals will be held Tuesday, Jan. 21, with the medal games scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 22. The games will be broadcast on the Olympic Channel.
Gavin Brindley has grown up around the game. When Ryan was still a player for the Everblades, Gavin was a mainstay in the locker room.
"As a toddler, he was always around the locker room and on the ice when we were practicing," said Ryan, who played in 150 games for Florida from 2003-2007. "He’s just always been around the game."
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Gavin, 15, and Seamus, 16, are part of a 17-player Team USA roster, one that has been in the works for the past few years. Scouts representing Team USA have hit all the top tournaments across the country, looking for not only the most skilled players but also high character kids who buy into the team concept. Gavin says he already knows many of his teammates from competing against them in various tournaments through the years.
"I’m most looking forward to being around the guys," Gavin said. "We know each other pretty well already, it’s just a matter of getting comfortable as teammates since we’ve mostly played against each other in the past."
He knows there’s at least one guy he’ll have no problems playing with – the 5-foot-9, 145-pound defenseman he’s seen nearly every day over the last 10 years.
"Seamus sees the ice really well, there’s really no weakness in his game," Gavin said. "He’s got a good shot, excellent hockey sense in that he’s always in the right place on the ice. It’s a lot easier playing with him than it is other guys because he’s a natural out there."
A 5-foot-8, 150 pound-forward, Brindley is a natural scorer with plenty of explosiveness in his game. In just 15 games with the Alliance this season, Brindley scored 17 goals and dished out 25 assists for a total of 42 points. Over the last three years playing for the East Coast Selects all-star squads, Brindley has scored 12 goals and distributed nine assists in 22 games.
Casey has been just as good, showing tremendous offensive skill as a defenseman. In 15 games with Alliance, he had 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points. Even more impressively, he scored seven goals and delivered eight assists in nine games for the East Coast Selects squad last season.
"Playing for Team USA has been something that’s been on their radar for a few years now," Ryan Brindley said. "There’s all sorts of scouting reports and blogs out there with ratings for the kids, and they’ve consistently been at or near the top of those ratings. They’ve really earned this. I’d say they’re honored but not surprised.
"When picking the team, they don’t just look at hockey, they’re also looking at character, so it’s a tremendous honor to be picked. And for two players who have grown up together playing in our local rink and represent Florida hockey on a world stage, it’s a really cool story."
Ryan Brindley, who has coached them for 10 years, says both players will likely be high picks when the sport’s top junior hockey leagues – the Ontario Hockey League and United States Hockey League – conduct their drafts later this year.
"My biggest advice to both of them is just to be kids and enjoy the ride," Ryan Brindley said. "It’s such a long road and when you think you’re working hard enough, you really have to work that much harder. But it’s been a pleasure coaching these kids. They’re way ahead of the curve of where most kids their age are. They have all the skill and talent in the world, but a lot of guys have skill and talent.
"It’s about having fun, being passionate and just enjoying the process. If you truly enjoy all the hard work that goes into it, you’ll have a much better chance of making it."
This story originally published to naplesnews.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.