From a quiet farm to Rochester

Chase Norrish twins
Chase Norrish has been a crucial physical presence for the RIT Tigers, a trait he credits to growing up competing with his twin brother and teammate, Brady. (Photo courtesy of RIT Athletics)

Brady and Chase Norrish, like most twins, have a lot in common. They have similar interests, similar skills and even the same favorite athlete.

The Norrish twins’ most unique similarity, however, is that they are both Division I hockey players, entering their senior year as co-captains at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

In talking with them, one thing is clear. Their upbringing has played a central role in shaping their lives. The twins grew up in Strongfield, Sask., a town of roughly 50 people located about an hour south of Saskatoon.

A particularly noteworthy aspect of growing up where they did is how big of a role farming plays in the community. Both Norrish twins list farming as one of their hobbies, and it’s something they have known as long as they can remember.

“It’s pretty much been a part of our lives ever since we started walking,” Chase explained to Pucks and Recreation. “When we were little, our dad would take us out in the tractor and stuff like that. We just loved that lifestyle where you’re always outdoors and stuff like that, and we just got so used to the community, which is all farming-based. Everything around us was all farming, so we were just born loving it.”

That aspect of their lives has remained even as they have grown up and moved away to play hockey. Every offseason the two return home to work on the farm and help out the family. The lifestyle has helped them develop strong work ethics, and is a nice change of pace from frequent winter travel.

‘…we definitely have our parents to thank for that.’

Travel is something that any hockey family has to get used to. At the youth levels, out-of-town weekend tournaments are the norm. As players advance, they may join a team further away from home.

Despite living in such a small town, the Norrish brothers were able to play close to home until around age 12.

“Around that time we started making a little more of a commitment to driving,” Brady shared with Pucks and Rec. “The average distance we drove was an hour or an hour-and-a-half. To get to keep playing hockey at a high level was a little tricky, but we definitely have our parents to thank for that.”

The family was lucky, however, that the boys were always at a comparable skill level. This enabled them to play on the same team, so each weekend meant one trip, not two.

This also meant that early in their hockey days, their dad coached their team, which won quite a few league titles.

When it came time to move out and play in junior, they knew they would likely be able to play together. They ended up in Yorkton, where their team success continued.

During their final junior season, the Terriers won the RBC Cup, one of the twins’ favorite hockey memories that they’ve shared together. Aside from the championship, that year also featured a showcase where the Norrish twins first talked with RIT.

‘…we were able to stay together.’

Given the influence that family plays in their lives, being able to play Division I hockey together, which would again mean just one trip for their family to come watch on weekends, was a very attractive option.

“That was one of the main reasons that we did come here. We were able to stay together,” Brady recounted. “We didn’t always think we were going to the same place, but we’ve been very fortunate that it’s worked out that way so far.”

As they prepared to transition to college life, their upbringing again played a role. Growing up farming so much influenced Chase’s choice of major in college, environmental science at RIT.

“Before coming here, because of the farming I was always interested in agriculture, because I liked being outdoors and everything like that,” he said. “So down here, I wanted something where I could kind of learn along the same lines, so environmental science seemed to fit in that category.”

Rochester, N.Y., is a much larger town than Strongfield, with a population of roughly 210,000. RIT has an undergraduate enrollment of over 15,000. It is a safe bet that Brady and Chase have had numerous college classes with more students in it than people in their hometown.

This seemingly big adjustment was not as difficult as it would appear on paper. The Norrish twins had spent time in Yorkton and Saskatoon for hockey in the past. Both are moderately sized, similar to Rochester, which gave them enough experience to know what to expect in their new environment.

“We loved our quiet farm,” Brady laughed, “but to come out here wasn’t too terrible.”

From a day-to-day life standpoint, the transition to RIT was relatively seamless. This held true on the ice as well. One helpful factor was being able to play on a defensive pairing together from time to time.

‘…it definitely pushed us to be the players we are today.’

Both Norrish twins have been defenders for as long as they can remember, aside from occasional shifts at forward during a summer men’s-league game or pickup game. While it is admittedly easy to play with any defensive partner at the Division I level, there is something to be said for the chemistry when they are on the ice together.

“When you play with someone for as long as we have you kind of know things like what his game style is and where he would like me to be,” Brady remarked.

Along with the chemistry, the two have always pushed and motivated each other to be better players. They would go back and forth playing against each other, and their similar skill levels made for challenging, fun play.

Brady Norrish twins

Brady Norrish was the Yorkton Terriers’ top defenseman in 2013-14, the year he and Chase co-led the team to an RBC Cup title. (Photo courtesy of RIT Athletics)

“Every day after school, we would go out there and scrimmage against each other for hours,” Chase recalled. “That’s where a lot of the competitiveness comes from, just pushing each other all the time. I don’t know if there was ever someone who always won, but it definitely pushed us to be the players we are today.”

They were able to emerge as key players right away for the Tigers. Brady dressed for all of the team’s games during his first two seasons, while Chase appeared in all but five. The team won back-to-back Atlantic Hockey championships during these seasons, earning trips to the NCAA tournament.

These experiences rank at the top of their hockey memories, along with the aforementioned RBC cup championship and youth hockey with their dad as coach.

The run during their sophomore year was particularly impressive. That year RIT matched up against the top overall seed, Minnesota State, in the first game of the NCAA tournament and pulled off a shocking 2-1 victory.

‘…it’s special to be able to share that with him…’

The Norrish’s performances during those first two impressive years clearly stood out among the RIT coaching staff and their teammates. Heading into their junior year, Brady and Chase were named co-captains of the Tigers.

“When you’re recognized in any way by your teammates, it’s pretty special,” Brady reflected. “And to be able to share that with Chase is great.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a letter. You just go out there and play the same way you’ve always played. But yeah, it’s special to be able to share that with him, and just an honor.”

As captains, they are leader for their teammates and also the face of the team to young fans, which offers them a maximum opportunity to be role models.

As sports fans, they too have favorite athletes. Chase’s favorite current NHL player is Erik Karlsson, while Brady’s is Drew Doughty. Certain hockey preferences are some of the few differences you will find among the Norrish twins.

Brady roots for the Bruins, his dad’s favorite team. This means that he’s had bragging rights over Chase, a longtime Oilers fan. However, Brady admits that the tide may soon be shifting with the Oilers’ emergence this past season.

Among their most noticeable differences is that Brady shoots “righty” in hockey while Chase is a “lefty.” Brady wears No. 10, Chase wears No. 8. However, that is pretty much where the differences stop.

When they ask their teammates for any differences in their game, they don’t receive any clear answers. If they were to race each other on the ice, Brady might win one day and Chase would win the next.

‘…can I have your autograph?’

The idea of racing is especially relevant because of their shared favorite athlete, Usain Bolt.

Bolt is someone that the twins look up to because of the way he handles his obvious star stature. “Just his character and the way he carries himself,” Brady said. “He’s pretty loose and easygoing.”

Bolt recently ran his last solo race, and ended up receiving the bronze medal. While this was not the result most expected or hoped for, Brady was still able to admire it.

“It as tough to watch, but he’s getting old and he still carries himself with a lot of respect,” he remarked. “He represents what he does and the sport pretty well. I still think he did great.”

If given the chance to hypothetically meet Bolt someday, Brady already knows what he would ask him.

“I would ask him what was the biggest feat that he had to overcome, and how did he overcome it,” he reflected.

However, it would not be purely a business-like exchange. Because Bolt such a high-profile athlete, Brady would want to be a fan as well. “Also, ‘Can I have your autograph?,'” he added as to his intended queries.

When it comes to Bolt, there is one thing that both Brady and Chase agree on. If they were in skates and he was on foot, he would beat them in a race every time. No matter the distance, they believe Bolt would win.

‘…it’s great how they’re still playing together…’

Hockey is definitely a family game. There are numerous father-son combinations who have had noteworthy NHL or collegiate careers. There are also a number of brothers who’ve enjoyed success at various levels.

However, twins are much more rare, especially cases where both have enjoyed similar levels of success throughout their careers.

When it comes to twins playing hockey, the gold standard, if you will, is Vancouver’s Sedin twins. The Sedins, currently 36 years old, have played together their entire lives. They have consistently been star players for the Canucks, have won gold and silver medals with Sweden in the Olympics and are definitely a treat to watch.

“I think it’s great how they’re still playing together for that long and at that high of a level,” Brady shared.

As they enter their senior year, the Norrish twins aren’t sure what their hockey futures may hold. They know they will never reach the stature of the Sedins, as it’s unlikely any other set of twins will reach that level together.

While they would naturally love to continue playing hockey together, there are no guarantees. One thing is clear, though. They are locked in and focused on making the most of their last year at RIT, their last guaranteed year of playing together.

That means one more chance to complete a checklist of championships in the amateur ranks. They have won league titles as children, the RBC Cup in juniors and two conference crowns in college.

There’s seemingly only one championship remaining that they haven’t won. It seems their team goals for 2017-18 were made with that in mind.

“I think we have a pretty good group this year and we can push pretty far,” Brady said. “So let’s just take it day by day, game by game and shift by shift, and hopefully we’ll do well.”

“Of course, the end result is always the national championship,” added Chase.

Andrew Wisneski

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