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From New Brunswick to B.C., Nadeau brothers enjoying life with the Penticton Vees

Growing up in a tiny rural community in northern New Brunswick, brothers Josh and Bradly Nadeau quickly developed an unbridled passion for the game of hockey.

Josh, 19, and Bradly, 17, joined the Penticton Vees of the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) partway through last season, and, despite the huge upheaval in their young lives, quickly carved out a niche for themselves here.

Instrumental in the Vees winning the Fred Page Cup in 2021-22, the pair have quickly set an explosive points pace in the first half of this season.

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After 31 games, the Nadeaus were ranked one and two in the league’s scoring stats, Bradly has 63 points (27 goals and 36 assists) and Josh has 62 points (21-41).

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As a result of their dynamic offence, both have also dominated the BCHL’s weekly three-star selections in their sophomore season.

Josh has topped the rankings on three occasions, most recently last week after registering seven points in two games, including his first hat trick of the season.

He has also been voted the third star twice.

Bradly has one first-star and three second-star performances including last week with an eight-point showing, including a season-high six points in one game.

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The two wingers are the only Vees to be named to the BCHL Interior Conference squad and will be playing in the league’s re-scheduled 60th anniversary all-star game in Penticton later this month.

Although they have played together for fun most of their lives — both having learned to skate on outdoor rinks shortly after taking their first steps — this is the first time on the same team in competitive hockey.

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“Playing together, it’s just fun because we think a lot alike on the ice,” said younger brother Bradly after practice this week before heading off to Prince George. “He’s (Josh) a good player, I’ll give that to him, he just makes it easy for me on the ice.”

Added Josh, “It’s nice playing together and we do think a lot like each other and we can find each other easier on the ice.”

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Both players have committed to the University of Maine Black Bears in the future and are expected to go in the early rounds of the National Hockey League draft.

While they were both picked in the top 10 of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League while playing in Atlantic Canada, the brothers and their parents decided the Vees would be the best fit.

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When they arrived in Penticton they weren’t disappointed.

“We really didn’t know what to expect, but when we got here and saw the rink (South Okanagan Events Centre) and just how the organization treated us was really special,” said Bradly who plays left wing opposite his brother on the right side and centre Dovar Tinling.

Vees head coach and general manager Fred Harbinson couldn’t happier to have the pair on the roster each game night.

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“We have had some pretty special players here over the years and they’re right on the list of the elite,” he said. “They’re program changers and were a massive addition to us last year helping us win a championship and they’re obviously taking the league by storm again this year.

“They come to the rink each and every day with a good attitude and a contagious work ethic and when you have that type of talent with that attitude it’s going to do wonders.”

He credits that attitude to the players’ parents, John Nadeau and Manon Oakes.

“Their father and mom have done a really good job of instilling the right morals in these kids,” said Harbinson.

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Something both brothers agree on.

“They (parents) just did so much for us, maybe too much,” said Josh. “All the travel, all the money, they just did so much for us. Making it to the NHL would pay them back.”

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The parent’s efforts have gone above and beyond just letting their kids play the game but doing whatever they could to help them excel at it.

That included having their father convert a barn on the family farm in St-Francois-de-Madawaska into a covered outdoor rink complete with their own Zamboni.

John wore number 20 for many years playing for the Haut-Madawaska Panthères in the New Brunswick Regional Hockey League senior men’s league before retiring last year.

Growing up the boys idolized their father and both wore his number in their respective leagues which created a bit of a conflict when they began playing on the same team last season.”

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“I’m the oldest so (Bradly) gave it to me,” said Josh.

About why he selected number 82 his brother said with a shrug, “It was one of the only ones left.”

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One of the most difficult things for both players is being so from home.

“That’s the hardest thing,” said Josh.

They added having each other here helps that although Bradly said with a sideways glance at his brother, “Do we get along? Well, that depends. At the rink, we get along. But at home, it’s a different story.

‘But having my brother in the (dressing) room and the billet makes it feel more like home.”

Neither player is big in stature, especially Josh at 5-foot-8 and 158 pounds, a stigma that has followed them for most of their playing years.

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“My whole career everyone is saying I’m not big enough, I’ll never make it to the next level, but I think I’ve proved many people wrong,” said Josh. “It just give me the inspiration to try harder.”

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Harbinson has no concerns in that regards either.

“They are determined young men. ‘You want to run at me? I’m going to run back at you or I’m going to run right through you,’” he said. “I think teams have already tried that (physical intimidation) to no avail.”

If they continue their two-point-a-game pace they are projected to put up numbers in the three-digit range.

The Vees visit Prince George for back-to-back games this weekend against the Spruce Kings, then visit Trail on Jan. 13 before returning to the SOEC the following night for a game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

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