Occasional heated disputes end in laughter within 10 minutes. With frequent ribbing and steadfast loyalty toward one another, the relationship between new Wildcat hockey players Alex Vazquez and Alex O’Dea is as close to brotherhood as can be, without the actual blood relation.
Apart from 2010, both 21-year-old freshmen have played on the same youth and junior teams every year since they were 12. Vazquez and O’Dea, who are also roommates, have lived together since age 16, besides the one season of junior hockey that they weren’t in matching sweaters. Vazquez even said he has lived with O’Dea longer than with his actual brother.
Growing up 15 minutes apart from each other in Michigan, the two met at a Troy Youth Hockey Association tryout. While Vazquez and O’Dea may be best friends now, that was not the case following their first meeting on the ice.
In the opening shift of the tryout, Vazquez hit O’Dea from behind, igniting a feud between them, that lasted about half of the season. However, in the following year they started to become close, according to Vazquez.
“We both had the same desire, I think. We wanted it more than other people on the team and had better work ethics than everyone else,” O’Dea said. “I think that attracted us to each other a little bit.”
Vazquez and O’Dea began their junior league hockey careers on the Yellowstone Quake Junior-A team in 2009 under current Arizona head coach Sean Hogan. The succeeding year they parted ways — O’Dea went to play a full season with the Little Caesars U-18 squad while Vazquez appeared in 22 games as a Quake and 14 for the Topeka Roadrunners.
The duo reunited on the Capital District Selects in 2011 and the Nepean Raiders and South Shore Kings in 2012.
O’Dea is a forward and Vazquez is a defenseman.
As freshmen, Vazquez and O’Dea are most excited about coming to Arizona as a package because they can cover for one another on and off the ice. O’Dea, an honors student, said he and Vazquez will be pushing each other to attend classes and excel academically.
Over the summer, the duo prepared for upcoming seasons by skating and working out as often possible. O’Dea said he and Vazquez are one another’s workout trainers, which causes them to butt heads at times.
“That’s not how you do it!” Vazquez said, reenacting the scene with an oversized grin. “He went and did his thing and I did mine that day, because we were mad at each other.”
Vazquez is a Michigan State fan while O’Dea supports the rival team from the University of Michigan. O’Dea said last year things got out of hand while they watched the Wolverines reclaim the Paul Bunyan Trophy in a 12-10 victory over the Spartans in football.
It didn’t help that the loss was a stab in the hearts of all Michigan State fans, coming in the last five seconds on a game-winning, 38-yard field goal for the Blue. Laughing, Vazquez recalled that they didn’t talk for a while after.
This year as Wildcats, Vazquez and O’Dea said they look forward to continue improving their chemistry and complementing one another’s game.
“We both play a different style,” Vazquez said. “[O’Dea] has the speed, he can fly out there and I can get him the puck and win the battles for him. He’s definitely one of the fastest guys I’ve ever played with.”
— Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo