Thirteen years ago today, the Florida Panthers were up 1-0 over the Buffalo Sabres. With less than two minutes remaining in the first period, defenceman Mathieu Biron scored what would be the game-winner to give the Cats a two-goal lead. The kicker? Biron's tally came against his older brother, Martin.
Although the Biron brothers had squared off before, Martin always seemed to have the edge. Despite firing off nine shots in four contests before their November encounter, Mathieu had no answer for his brother. Finally, in their fifth matchup, he managed to get the upper hand on his elder sibling.
While that goal certainly gave Mathieu some family bragging rights, it was even more significant because it was the first time an NHL player had scored on his brother in 23 years. The last time it happened the Black Hawks were still stylized with two words and the league had only 21 teams. It was on that night, Nov. 5, 1980, that Phil Esposito scored on his younger brother, Tony.
Of course, that wasn't the first time that Phil got the better of Tony. Following that game, Phil told reporters that he figured he had played against his younger brother 40 to 50 times and scored somewhere between 38 to 45 goals on him. You can't always trust an older brother's brags, but over the 12 seasons they were both full-time NHLers, Phil scored 559 goals, so his story probably checks out. In any case, that proved to be Phil's last goal against Tony, he retired at the end of the 1980-81 season with 717 career goals and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame three years later.
But back to the Biron brothers. Growing up, there had always been a bit of a sibling rivalry between them. Martin remembers how even though Mathieu was three years younger than him, he still got to do all the same things that he was doing. When they got to the NHL, that trend continued, with the 1999-00 campaign the first full-time season for both of them.
Mathieu made the New York Islanders out of training camp, while Martin was recalled by Buffalo three weeks into the year. It had been a longer road for the elder Biron, who was drafted by the Sabres in 1995, before he became an NHL regular four years later. And, of course, it just so happened it was the same season that his younger brother made his debut.
In their matchups before that memorable game, Mathieu was not without his chances. In fact, Martin remembers one contest where the game was tied and Mathieu had rung one off the post. "I remember thinking, 'That's too close for comfort, I can't let my brother score, especially a shot from the point,'" Martin told VICE Sports.
So when Nov. 24, 2003 arrived, the two brothers would be playing against each other for their fifth time. The game was even more special because they had both of their parents in attendance. It was certainly shaping up to be an unforgettable family showdown. Fast forward, it's late in the first frame, and Florida has a two-on-one chance as they drive toward Buffalo's goal. Martin can't see which Panther gets the shot off, but before he can react, the puck goes by him, hits the post and goes into the net.
After locating the puck among the twine behind him, Martin turned around to see who had scored. At that point, he recalled seeing Mathieu "jumping in the air with his teammates like it [was] Game 7 of the Stanley Cup and I said to myself, 'Oh no, that just happened.'"
That turned out to be Mathieu's first goal of the season, so Martin was able to see the elation across his brother's face. And as much as he was upset that he had been scored on, Martin was happy for him. "He was ecstatic, so I did have that part of me that was glad and really happy for him. Did I want my team to score two goals so we could win 3-2? Absolutely," he said. But that competitive nature didn't diminish the happiness and pride he felt for his younger brother that night.
We haven't had a moment like that in the NHL in the last 13 years, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. While the goaltender-skater brother combination is rarer than the usual fraternal ties we see in professional hockey, there have been a few cases since where a player has had the chance to score on his own brother.
The Schaefer, Sigalet, Hunwick and Rask brothers were all goalie-skater sibling combinations who made the NHL, but none ever had the chance to play against each other. The next set of siblings, however, did go head-to-head.
You may recall that New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has an identical twin brother, Joel, because, evidently there isn't enough handsome in the world. From 2006-07 to 2008-09, Joel played 134 games with the Dallas Stars. While his time in the NHL was brief, Joel had the opportunity to play against Henrik three times. Although the Stars won two of those games, Joel, limited to a maximum of ten minutes in both those contests, was unable to register any shots on his brother.
The best chance we've had at seeing a player score on his own brother in the last 13 years has been between Drew and Ryan Miller. This is currently their tenth season that they've both been NHL regulars, but so far, elder brother Ryan has done a pretty good job at keeping Drew's pucks out of his net.
The two had their first NHL matchup during the 2007-08 season. At the time, Ryan was in his junior season as the Buffalo Sabres' starter and Drew was with the Anaheim Ducks, the team that had drafted him. That game, the younger Miller was on the ice for 10:13 minutes and fired off two shots against his brother, but to no avail.
They've since faced each other eight more times in the NHL, which must be incredibly nerve wracking for their parents. But considering that Teresa Miller has been spotted at games wearing her heart on her sleeve, it's safe to say that she has found a way to evenly splits her allegiances.
While Drew's teams have had the better record in those contests, Ryan has been perfect on all 16 shots that he's faced from his little brother.
If there was ever a time that Drew was going to bury one on his elder sibling it was when the Wings hosted the Canucks on Nov. 30, 2014. Drew registered two shots that game, but he had no better chance than on a breakaway late in the third period.
After beating Canucks defenceman Lucas Sbisa in a footrace for the puck, Drew was all alone going on in on his brother. He fired off a shot on his backhand but it was easily turned aside by Ryan.
The Millers' next encounter could be on Feb. 28, 2017, when the Red Wings travel to Vancouver, so mark your calendars. With both brothers now well into their 30s, and Drew on an expiring contract, there may not be many more opportunities to see these two brothers go head-to-head.
As the opportunity for the Millers to enshrine themselves into the hockey history record books winds down, another family is just gearing up. Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban has yet to become an NHL regular, but if he does, he'll have the chance to square up against his older brother PK. But don't look for the Predators defenceman to tip his hat about how he feels about the thought of putting a goal past his brother. It's not something he's really given much thought to.
The Norris trophy winner told VICE Sports that, "if it comes and it happens, great, but it's not something that I have on my to-do list."
Alright, so maybe PK isn't as excited about the prospect of scoring on his younger brother as much as we are, but don't forget the youngest Subban, Jordan, plays defence for Vancouver's AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. He currently has 12 points in 15l games this year and if he finds himself with a full-time position in the NHL in the future, maybe he'll be more eager to give Malcolm the same treatment that Mathieu Biron gave to his brother, on this day, 13 years ago.