U-18’s Rust follows brother all the way to the CCHA
January 22, 2010
By Becky Olsen
Special to USAHockey.com
Please excuse the Rust family if it forgets what shade of blue to wear sometimes. After all, the family members must find time to watch hockey with the National Team Development Program, the University of Michigan and in the very near future, the University of Notre Dame. One thing is for certain — NTDP Under-18 forward Bryan Rust would not have it any other way when it comes to the opportunity to play hockey and wear the red, white and blue of Team USA.
Rust began playing hockey when he was 5 years old. After all, he had to take after his older brother Matt, a member of the NTDP from 2005-07 and currently a junior on the University of Michigan hockey team.
“My older brother was the first one to play hockey,” Rust said. “My parents didn’t play hockey and didn’t really grow up with hockey. Matt’s friend down the street played hockey, and he got Matt into hockey. Of course, I had to be like Matt so I decided why not.”
Growing up, the boys played street hockey together and just maybe, would try to beat each other up.
“There were other kids in the subdivision that played hockey, and we would go out in the street and play,” Rust said. “There would be older kids and I would be the one playing goalie. It was just fun. We would have laughs and have fun. That is probably one of the best times I had growing up.”
The brothers never had an opportunity to play together until Oct. 3, 2009, a 4-2 win by the Wolverines against the U-18 team. But the moment was probably something more special for Bryan, who finally had the opportunity to show what he had learned growing up. And in case you were wondering, Bryan finished with two penalty minutes and two blocked shots while earning the starting nod while Matt had two penalty minutes.
“I would always go to Matt’s games and watch him and wish that I could be at that level,” Rust said. “It was really fun playing this year against Michigan. It was the first time that I ever got to go on the ice against him. I have always kind of been in his shadow and I just wanted to prove to everyone that I could skate on the same ice with him and maybe do better.”
Who did his parents cheer for in the game?
“That is for whoever was watching to say,” Rust laughed. “My parents wore blue because we have blue and they [UM] wears blue. They just called it even.”
All joking aside, there was one very special individual in the stands that fateful Saturday night at Yost Ice Arena, cheering for both Rust boys. That would be none other than Grandpa Rust, who commonly sports a Notre Dame hat at USA home hockey games.
“My grandpa has been huge,” Bryan said. “He comes to my games and my brother’s games. He is always there for the warm-ups and the last buzzer. He is one of the reasons why I work so hard and play so hard, because he enjoys watching us so much.
“My grandma has had a hard time with her health. I know that he doesn’t have much to look forward to in his life — me and Matt’s hockey is his way of living and this is what he lives for.”
The Notre Dame hat also has significant meaning for Rust, who will play for the Fighting Irish next year, even if it met rooting against that other shade of blue that his parents loved so much.
“It has been a dream school of mine since I was 12,” Rust said. “When my parents would be rooting for Michigan, such as at the football games, I would be ‘Go Notre Dame.’”
This dream grew out of a special friendship, one that even after all these years still remains fresh in Rust’s mind.
“One of the biggest reasons I chose to go there, when I was in first, second and third grade, I had a really close friend [Tony] whose dad went to Notre Dame and was in love with Notre Dame,” Rust said. “Tony was in love with Notre Dame and that is all we would talk about. Just after the new year, in third grade, Tony got into a car accident and died and that was a big waking up thing for me — even though I was that young.
“Over the past few years, I have really gotten to see how terrible that was for me. His dad ended up being my coach for football all through middle school; it sounded like it was the most unbelievable place and I knew that was the place that I wanted to go there.”
In order to get to Notre Dame, Rust has had to work hard and learn to play his game. He probably had one advantage that others did not have — he was able to use Matt as a sounding board prior to joining the NTDP in 2008-09.
“When Matt was here, I did come to most home games with my parents and watch him. As soon as they asked me to join this team, I said yes,” Rust said. “Matt said so many great things about it and obviously, it helped him get to where he is now. He said it was hard but definitely well worth it.”
As Rust’s time slowly starts to wind down in the Team USA uniform, a few things still stand out in his mind. One is the intensity and two, the bond that he has shared with his teammates over the past year and a half.
“It is intense — day in and day out, throughout the week and throughout the year. It is a grind but when it is done, it is all worth it,” Rust said. “It is a tough experience and hard work but at the end of it, there will not be any better bonds that you make with any 20 guys that you will ever play with. You build the bonds and friendships with your team because you are going through some of the hardest training that you will ever go through together and playing internationally and wearing your country’s colors.”
The one thing that can never be replaced is wearing that Team USA jersey on a nightly basis. Ask any player on the NTDP, and the one answer that sticks out is the pride and glory of wearing the red, white and blue.
“Not many people get to experience it; for us, it is easy to see past it because we wear it every day but once you think about it hard, you know that you worked so hard to get here and so many kids dream about playing here that it is an unbelievable feeling that can never be replaced,” Rust said. “Last year, when we won the Vlad Dzurilla tournament *— it was the first time that our team really came together and won. In the locker room with the guys after the win was probably one of my most special moments.”
That feeling has helped Rust become a better play and a leader on the ice. Even though Bryan and Matt have a sibling rivalry when it comes to hockey, Matt is there to help Bryan and offer advice and assistance. Round 1 may have gone to Matt on the ice, but be sure to stay tuned for the next round. Sometime in the near future, Bryan will have his turn and the opportunity for bragging rights.
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.