Older brothers Matthew, David inspire Alex Carle

Alex Carle
Two decades ago, Alex Carle could not get his brothers to pass him the puck on their pond. Today, both Matthew and David are generously imparting advice to Alex, who is at the halfway mark of his college career. (Photo credit: Jim Stankiewicz)

Alex Carle has grown up by looking up to his two older brothers, Matthew and David, and traveling a similar path to theirs. As time goes by, their influence has proved invaluable to the Merrimack defenseman coming off his sophomore year.

The three brothers were born in five-year intervals, which has allowed knowledge and experience to be shared first from Matthew to David, and later from both of them to Alex. Both, Alex says, have been instrumental in his journey to where he is now, but his start in hockey with them on an Anchorage pond was not quite as glamorous.

“I was probably only three, and I hadn’t even learned how to skate yet,” he recalled in an interview with Pucks and Recreation. “My dad put up a backyard rink for all of us. I remember my dad told me that you’re not allowed to go on the ice until you learn how to skate. So I remember standing on the edge of the ice with my stick over it and calling for the puck from either Matthew or David, and they never passed it to me.”

Once he did get in on the action, the Alaskan climate gave the added benefit of a long outdoor hockey season. Anchorage has an annual average temperature of 37 degrees. To put that into perspective, consider the comparison to the top three states that NCAA Division I players call home: Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts. The average annual temperatures in Minneapolis, Detroit and Boston are 46.15 degrees, 48.7 degrees, and 51.4 degrees, respectively.

As a result, the Carle brothers got a head start in their development on the backyard rink built by their dad. At older ages, it was easy to obtain ice time on one of the local high school’s outdoor rinks.

But while Alaska proved beneficial for getting to play the game often at a young age, it also had some drawbacks. Being so far north, the state does not have a large scouting presence.

With both of his older brothers leaving home during would-be high school years, Alex knew that this would be a necessary step for him as well.

“When I got around age 14 or 15 years old, that’s when I started having meetings with my parents and they were asking me what I wanted to do,” he said. “I think we knew that if I wanted to go anywhere with hockey, I had to get out of the state.”

In 2010, the year Alex turned 16, Matt Carle and the Philadelphia Flyers were playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final. The family took that as an opportunity to make a trip down to the continental United States. After watching games in Philadelphia, Alex Carle and his parents toured some prep schools in New England.

They ended up touring five or six schools, but settled on Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. This, in a way, led to New England becoming a “second home” for Carle, as he now plays his college hockey at Merrimack in North Andover, Mass.

This marks yet another chapter in his hockey story that is similar to that of his brothers. Both Matthew and David were involved in college hockey, although in different ways. This has proved to be a major benefit for Alex.

‘He had been through it at my age…’

Matthew played three seasons at the University of Denver, winning two national championships and a Hobey Baker Award. As a fellow defenseman, he is a great role model for Alex.

“It was nice to be able to have him there and be able to lean on him for advice,” the youngest Carle said. “He had been through it at my age. He’s a huge influence and has had a huge impact. I still call him to this day asking for advice.”

Matt Carle Alex Carle

Matt Carle, the eldest of Alex’s brothers, set a precedent for power-play productivity, among other influences. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Along with general advice, the fact that the two play the same position and that some of Alex’s high-level hockey years overlapped with Matthew’s time in the NHL meant his oldest brother was able to help from a training perspective.

Matthew Carle once had an offseason home in Minnesota, and a few years ago, Alex spent a significant amount of time visiting and training with him.

“I remember every couple weeks out of the summer, I would fly out to Minnesota and be with him for a week-and-a-half to two weeks,” Alex Carle recalled. “He was nice enough to let me into the gym with him and train with him and other pro guys, meet with his trainer, talk about certain things. We would shoot pucks in his driveway together, he would take me to whatever skating sessions he had.”

The experience proved eye-opening, as it showed Alex the time and effort required to not just stay in adequate shape, but also improve at such a high level. He was inspired by the work his oldest brother put in, which led him to continue to put in the necessary work to fulfill his hockey goals.

Matthew is now retired from the NHL, but his influence on Alex has not gone away. Both from a playing perspective and just enjoying the game together, their bond is strong.

“Now that he’s retired, we still talk about hockey, obviously,” he said. “Over this past spring break I went out to Minneapolis because that’s where he’s living and we were watching the NCHC tournament, the Big Ten tournament, other NHL games, and we would just sit back, relax and talk about hockey.

“He’s definitely always there for advice. He’s been around, so he knows the game pretty well, which is very helpful for me because we have similar styles, I would say.”

‘…just be yourself…’

Matthew Carle had some very impressive seasons offensively from the blue line. He often quarterbacked the power play for his teams, and also was a respected leader. He was a captain at Denver and an alternate with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and with Team USA at the IIHF World Championship.

The similar style Alex alluded to is evident in his power-play prowess. He has three goals over his two seasons with the Warriors, all coming on the man advantage.

Along with this, Alex has some leadership experience. He was the captain of his team at Kimball Union for two years. For this, he was able to lean on his eldest brother’s experience as well.

“He passed on to me that when you get a letter on your chest, it’s always important to not change and just be yourself,” he explained. “You got a letter for a reason; because of who you are and what you do on and off the ice and in the community.”

While Matthew has been a huge help to Alex due to his playing experience, David has been able to help in a number of other areas.

David appeared to be following Matthew’s footsteps quite closely. He was committed to play at Denver and was expected to be taken as high as the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft.

However, it was discovered at the draft combine that he had a heart condition that would force him to retire from playing hockey immediately. This led to him being a student-assistant coach at Denver instead of playing. He eventually became a full-time coach at his alma mater.

David Carle Alex Carle

Denver’s David Carle, who turned to coaching after a heart condition ended his playing endeavors, has offered Alex Carle a unique perspective on approaching the college game. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images for the NHL)

‘…you can always find the good in a bad situation.’

“I think David’s been a huge inspiration not only for me but for our entire family of four,” Alex remarked. “We are so grateful that he was good enough to get invited to the combine that year, because if they hadn’t, I don’t think they would have noticed his heart issue.”

Alex was particularly inspired with his brother’s ability to recover quickly from being told he would no longer be able to play the game he loved. David was able to accept the diagnosis and turn it into another opportunity, which has worked out very well for him to this point.

David ended up being a student-assistant for what would have been his playing years at Denver, then coached with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL before returning to Denver. He is now a national champion (just like Matt was) and a rising star in the coaching world.

“To see what he’s done from a mental standpoint, I think, really influences our family because no matter how bad it is, you can always find the good in a bad situation,” Alex said. “For David to not be able to lace them up anymore, and being his younger brother and see what he could have done with his hockey career, playing-wise, would have been awesome.

“But I think he’s definitely very happy where he is now. He will be 28 this coming November, and to already have a national championship under his belt is definitely a testament to how hard he’s worked and how far he’s come since becoming a coach, and it’s awesome to see.”

‘Talking to David definitely made things easier…’

David’s perseverance and dedication to advancing his career despite an unexpected obstacle is something that Alex has been able to learn from.

Alex was faced with a number of significant injuries during his junior hockey years, playing only 17 games between the USHL and NAHL over parts of three seasons. He also had to deal with rehab and recovery.

While his whole family helped during that time, David was particularly helpful.

“Talking to David definitely made things easier because when I was going through those, I hadn’t played a hockey game in about a year-and-a-half,” Alex reflected. “So I was able to lean on him and ask him for advice on what he went through. Obviously, his was a lot more extreme than mine. I just kind of asked him what he did to keep himself busy and just kind of not think about it because I was out for so long.”

Alex ended up spending a lot of time attending college hockey games on the weekends, watching NHL games whenever he could, taking online classes and focusing on his rehab. This helped him get through a significant challenge on his path to becoming a Division I college hockey player.

Having a brother who coaches in college has since proven helpful to the youngest Carle. Not only from the perspective of the overall college hockey landscape, but also from a player-coach relationship perspective. David has been able to share the viewpoints of a coach, something young players might not often understand.

“Now that we are both kind of in the same spectrum, being in the NCAA ,it’s definitely very easy to get caught up in hockey with David,” Alex explained. “We are both in college, me being the player and him being the coach. We will always talk about different conferences and what recruits are coming in, things like that.

Alex Carle

Alex Carle, who was barred from stepping on the ice with his brothers until he mastered the art of skating: “I don’t think anything was ever given to us during our childhood, and our parents had a very big impact on our careers.” (Photo credit: Mike Gridley)

“I definitely will go to him for advice because maybe if there is something I don’t see from a coaching perspective that my coaching staff wants I will bring that issue to him, like ‘What am I doing wrong here?’ and he will tell me what the coaching staff is probably thinking. He gives me a better understanding of what’s going on that can help me and I can implement into my game. So it’s definitely very useful for sure.”

David has a unique hockey mind, and often shares ideas that Alex never would have thought of on his own. Along with this, David has shown him a plausible path to remain involved with hockey after his playing days are over. He can envision himself getting involved in the coaching world.

‘It’s very special…’

While both of his brothers have clearly played key roles in his career, Carle asserts that everyone’s success traces back to their parents.

“I think our parents did a very good job of teaching us right from wrong and teaching us how to be respectful and learning how to put in the hard work and be rewarded,” he recounted. “I don’t think anything was ever given to us during our childhood, and our parents had a very big impact on our careers. As successful as David and Matthew have been, I think it always goes back to my parents and how they raised us back in Alaska.”

Alex’s first hockey memory included his brothers excluding him from playing when he was just three years old. It did not take long, however, for Matthew and David to prove themselves as invaluable resources for their youngest brother as he has advanced through the ranks.

Along with their influence on his playing career, the fact that all three grew up following such similar paths, shaped by their parents, has allowed them to develop a unique, lifelong bond.

The three share a meaningful relationship, one that has not strained despite the fact that they each now live in different time zones. They have remained connected thanks to their love of the game and strong family ties.

“It’s definitely special,” Alex said. “It’s very special just to be able to sit down with David and Matthew in the same room and have dinner together. It’s rare that our whole family gets together nowadays because we are all over the country, and obviously we are very busy with hockey.

“When we do get together, it’s special, and it’s something I look forward to every time we have a trip planned out. But yeah, it’s fun. It’s hard to put into words for sure.”

Andrew Wisneski

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