OU hockey: Brothers reunite on the ice after three years
Every day, sophomore defenseman Kevin Zehnder and freshman forward Ryan Zehnder get to see each other at the rink and at home.
But that was almost not the case for the brothers.
Last fall, Ryan Zehnder was enrolled at Cal and was set to be a new member of the Golden Bears hockey team. The freshman had strayed from the familiar hockey path of putting off college for a year or two to play junior hockey and enrolled directly out of high school.
“I was always wondering why on earth he would not want to play junior hockey,” Kevin Zehnder said. “I thought he definitely had what it takes to go play in the [U.S Hockey League] or the North American [Hockey League].”
However, after arriving on campus at Cal and skating with his new team, Ryan Zehnder quickly had a change of heart.
“The school was awesome; I mean, it’s close to my house, but the hockey wasn’t quite up to the level I was wanting to play at,” he said.
Ryan decided Cal wasn’t for him and left after just two weeks.
“I was kind of taken by surprise," Kevin Zehnder said. "It was such a huge deal for him to get in there because, obviously, it’s one of the best public schools in the country. I was pretty stoked to hear he was going to give it another shot.”
After leaving school, Ryan Zehnder went to play for the St. Louis Bandits in the NAHL, the same team Kevin Zehnder played for for two seasons prior to coming to OU last year.
“I tried to stay out of it as much as I could,” Kevin Zehnder said. “I didn’t want to feel like [with] St. Louis, [it was] me coming to them wanting them to do me some kind of favor. I wanted that to be something where [Ryan Zehnder] calls up the coach; I really didn’t do that much.”
Prior to enrolling at Cal, Ryan Zehnder was tendered by St. Louis (essentially a verbal commitment to play for a certain team if he plays in their league), but opted to go to school instead. After leaving school, St. Louis was an easy choice for him.
“It was awesome," Ryan Zehnder said. "Looking back, I miss it a lot to be honest. The guys were awesome, the coach was cool; I grew a lot [last] year, for sure.”
After one season with the Bandits, Ryan Zehnder found the type of school he wanted from the start in Oklahoma.
“Just the balance between hockey and school, it’s a good mix of playing the sport you love while still learning something while you’re doing it,” he said.
After avoiding influence in Ryan Zehnder’s move to St. Louis, Kevin Zehnder didn’t have to say much about OU to get him here.
“I think the hockey sells itself. I think we had a really good year last year,” Kevin Zehnder said. “I think it’s really cool how the school is so big, but it still has a small school feel. You don’t have to take cars to other parts of campus or anything like that. Obviously, we have some of the best school spirit.”
And a little push for good measure didn’t hurt.
“I would always tell him the really cool gear we get,” Kevin Zehnder said laughing. “When I come home with a whole warehouse full of dry land gear and stuff like that, I think that kind of upped his chances of coming a little bit.”
Now, the brothers not only get to play together but live together as well.
“It’s awesome,” Ryan Zehnder said. “It brings back a lot of childhood memories. We played together all the time when we were young, but we haven’t played together in a while. It’s kind of weird.”
With Kevin Zehnder moving away from home to play in St. Louis three years ago, getting to live together again is a new experience.
“It’s definitely a lot different,” Kevin Zehnder said. “I haven’t lived with him in so long; I mean, I might as well move in with a complete stranger. But, we have a blast and it’s kind of cool getting to bond again, if you want to use that cliché.”
So far, brotherly fighting hasn’t been an issue, just an occasional argument about the dishes piling up in the sink.
After everything that’s happened in the last year, Ryan Zehnder said he would only change one thing.
“My only regret is just not living in the moment,” he said. “Sometimes you look into the future a little too much and that’s my major regret, just not soaking it in and realizing how good you have it.”