In 2009 Jordie Benn was trying to figure out if he could make it in the game he loves. He was a defenseman for the Allen (Texas) Americans, a team in the now-defunct Central Hockey League, at least three rungs below where he wanted to be.
His younger brother, Jamie, was in his rookie season with the Dallas Stars, playing his games some 30 miles south. He would score 22 goals that season, establishing himself as one of the most exciting young power forwards in the NHL. Jodie was still waiting and wondering if there was a place for him in the world‘s best hockey league.
Not that Jordie was or is jealous. Not at all. He is the consummate older brother. He loves Jamie. Loves what he can do on the ice, even if he can’t quite figure out how his little bro just made that move, scored that goal. Jordie loves that Jamie is a star, a sniper on the ice. He often shakes his head at the stuff Jamie does on the ice. Like when Jamie clinched the Art Ross Trophy last season with a four point night, the last coming eight seconds to go in the Stars’ final game. Jordie can be seen saying to a teammate, “That’s unbelievable,” his smile wide.
But Jordie, now 28, did have nagging doubts. Maybe it’s time to try something different, he thought. Am I really going to succeed at this hockey thing?
He would talk to his dad, Randy, back home in Victoria, B.C. And his dad would tell him not to worry. Have fun, play the game you love. Randy would take care of everything else.
“And he’d just say, ‘Never quit,’” Jordie recently told SI.com.
Jordie wakes up every morning now and sees those two words tattooed on his arm: Never Quit. He never did. He also wakes up in the same house as his little brother and they drive to the same place for work, just two kids playing the sport they love on the biggest possible stage.
GALLERY: NHL Stars and Their Lesser-Known Brothers
NHL Stars and Their Lesser-Known Brothers
Jamie and Jordie Benn
Jamie (right), the NHL's 2014-15 scoring champion, was a fifth round pick by the Stars in 2007. At 26, he's now a two-time All-Star and one of the team's feared offensive weapons. Older brother Jordie was signed by Dallas as undrafted free agent in Oct. 2010 and worked his way out of the AHL to become a valuable depth defenseman with the Stars.
Wayne and Brent Gretzky
The NHL’s all-time highest scoring brother duo torched the record book with combined career totals of 894 goals, 2,861 points, 10 scoring titles, nine Hart trophies, and four Stanley Cups. Of course, big brother Wayne did the bulk of the work. Brent, also a center, contributed a goal and three assists in 13 games for Tampa Bay from 1993 to ’95 during a brief interruption of his 15 years in the minors and overseas.
Mario and Alain Lemieux
The Hall of Famer and his older brother were briefly teammates during the 1986-87 season when Mario was sidelined by a virus and Alain was called up from the AHL to replace him. The Penguins' equipment manager offered Alain jersey No. 33, a play on Mario’s 66 and their respective sizes: Alain was 6’, 185; Mario 6’ 4’, 210. Alain’s lone game with the Pens concluded his NHL career, which lasted parts of six seasons as a fourth liner with St. Louis, Quebec and Pittsburgh.
Gordie and Vic Howe
The legendary Mr. Hockey’s storied pro career spanned 2,186 games, 975 goals, 2,358 points, six Art Ross and six Hart trophies, four Stanley Cups, two Avco World Cups, two leagues (NHL, WHA) and 32 years. Younger brother Vic’s consisted of parts of three seasons (33 games, 1950-55) as a winger for the Rangers.
Marcel and Gilbert Dionne
Marcel’s 18-year career with the Red Wings, Kings and Rangers made him a Hall of Famer and the NHL’s fifth most prolific goal scorer (731) of all time. Gilbert, 19 years younger, was drafted by Montreal in the fourth round in 1990. He arrived in the league the year after Marcel retired and lasted six seasons, twice scoring 20 or more goals. He was also included in the 1995 trade that sent John LeClair to the Flyers. But he did one thing Marcel didn’t: win the Stanley Cup.
Ken and Dave Dryden
Ken’s achievements—five Vezinas, a Conn Smythe, the Calder, six Stanley Cups—during an NHL career that lasted only eight years are the stuff of legend and the Hall of Fame. Older brother Dave’s pro career began as an emergency goalie with the Rangers in 1962. He later became Hall of Famer Glenn Hall’s backup with Chicago. As a Sabre, he faced Ken in a 1971 game (Montreal won, 5-2) and later played in the 1974 NHL All-Star Game before jumping to Edmonton of the WHA.
Sergei and Fedor Fedorov
Sergei defected from the Soviet Union in 1990 and went on to a Hall of Fame career with Detroit, Anaheim, Columbus and Washington. A superb two-way forward with dazzling offensive skills, his 483 career NHL goals were the most by a Russian player until Alex Ovechkin topped him in 2015. Fedor, 12 years younger, was a center who had cups of coffee (18 games) with the Canucks and Rangers between 2002 and 2006, posting one assist.
Marian and Marcel Hossa
Marian (right), a first round pick by Ottawa in 1997, is earning Hall of Fame consideration with a career that now includes more than 490 goals and 1,000 points, five All-Star Games and three Cups with Chicago. Younger brother and fellow winger Marcel played in 237 NHL games with the Canadiens, Rangers and Coyotes (2001-08) before returning to their native Slovakia. As recently as 2009-10, he had a 35-goal season in the KHL, a pro career high.
Paul and Steve Kariya
A speedy, diminutive (5’ 10”, 185) winger, Paul was a first round pick (No. 4) by the Ducks in '93. He took more than his share of lumps during 15 seasons in the NHL (concussions forced him to retire in 2010) but he heroically produced seven All-Star nods, two Lady Byng trophies, 402 goals and 989 points. Younger brother Steve, even smaller (5’ 8”, 170), starred at Maine but went undrafted. He was signed by the Canucks in 1999 and spent parts of three seasons in the NHL before departing for Sweden and Finland.
Henrik and Joel Lundqvist
King Henrik reigns on Broadway as one of the NHL’s finest goalies, a three-time All-Star and the 2012 Vezina winner. Twin brother Joel, a center, was a 2000 third round pick by Dallas, who passed on Henrik that year until the Rangers plucked him in the seventh round. Joel lasted three seasons with the Stars (200-09) scoring seven goals and 26 points with a -17 rating in 134 games before returning to their native Sweden to continue playing.
Ryan and Drew Miller
The Miller boys played their college hockey at Michigan State, with Ryan being taken by the Sabres in the fifth round of the '99 NHL draft. He won the Vezina Trophy with Buffalo in 2010 and is a two-time Olympian with Team USA. Drew, his younger brother, was drafted by the Ducks in the sixth round in '03. He’s now a hardworking, defensive winger with the Red Wings. Three of their older cousins—Kip, Kelly and Kevin—also played in the NHL.
Mark and Paul Messier
Hall of Famer Mark was a legendary leader, 15-time All-Star, and winner of six Cups (Oilers, Rangers) and two Hart trophies. He ranks second on the NHL’s all-time points list (1,887). Older brother Paul, a center who starred at the University of Denver, was a third round pick by the local Rockies in '78. Not as big or physical as Mark, he made it into nine NHL games that season, scoring no points and ending up -6. He spent the rest of his career in the AHL, CHL and Europe, where he finally blossomed into a scorer.
Chris and Sean Pronger
Bruising backliner Chris was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, after a stellar 18-year NHL career that included winning the 2000 Hart and Norris trophies. A first round pick (No. 2) by the Whalers in '93, Chris hoisted the Cup with the Ducks in 2007. Older brother Sean, a forward, played for 16 pro teams (seven of them in the NHL) in five leagues and three countries between 1988-2005, chronicling his career in the 2012 book “Journeyman.”
Patrick and Stephane Roy
Known in Montreal as St. Patrick, the Hall of Fame goalie held the NHL’s career victories record until Martin Brodeur broke it in 2009. Along the way, the 11-time All-Star won three Vezina, three Conn Smythe trophies and four Cups between 1984-2003. Younger brother Stephane, a forward, was a third-round pick by the North Stars in ‘85 who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him NHL career: 12 games in 1987-88. He scored one goal and played in various minor leagues until 2001.
Billy and Gord Smith
In the 1970s, while Battlin’ Billy was developing into the gritty “money goaltender” who would backstop the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups (1980-83) and earn enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, older brother Gord was manning the blue line for some woeful Capitals and Jets squads. He spent six seasons in the NHL, scoring nine goals and ending up with a rather unsightly career mark of -137.
Scott and Mike Stevens
A first round pick (No. 5) by the Capitals in 1982, Scott was a notoriously punishing defenseman and respected leader who spent 22 years in the NHL, racking up Hall of Fame credentials that included 13 All-Star Game invites, three Stanley Cups (with the Devils) and the 2000 Conn Smythe. Younger brother Mike, a winger, was taken by the Canucks in the third round (1984) and later appeared in 23 NHL games with four teams before spending the rest of his career, which ended in 2004, in the minors and Europe.
Bryan and Rocky Trottier
A superb two-way forward, Bryan was a pillar of the dynastic Islanders of the early ‘80s. Along with four Cups, he won the Calder, Ross, Hart, Conn Smythe and King Clancy trophies during his 18-season, Hall of Fame NHL career. Younger brother Rocky, a winger, was the first-round pick in the family (No. 8 in 1982; Bryan went in the second round of ‘74). Expected to become the face of the Devils franchise, Rocky's NHL career lasted 38 games between ’83 and ’85. He spent the rest of his career in the AHL and Europe.
Pierre and Sylvain Turgeon
A first round pick by the Sabres in '87 and expected to become Buffalo’s next Gil Perreault, Pierre went on to score 515 goals and 1,327 points during his 19-season NHL career. A gifted playmaker, he had a career year with the Islanders in 1992-93 when he scored 58 goals and 132 points while helping them reach the Eastern finals. Sylvain, a winger, was often overshadowed his younger brother, but from 1983-95 he quietly put together a career that included an All-Star nod plus two 40-goal and two 30-goal seasons with four NHL teams.
Growing up, the Benn brothers were outside, always. Baseball, hockey, it didn’t matter. They played at the tennis court that their friend Brian Smith had in his backyard. Strap on the roller blades and play for hours and hours in the Victoria sun.
They had dreams, sure, but it didn’t really cross their minds that something bigger was possible. They just played. And they kept moving up levels.
There was no sibling rivalry. They always got along well. OK, so there would be the occasional fight—they are brothers, after all—but they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.
Jamie, now 26, was born two years later than his big brother, and with a short fuse. Jordie was even-keeled and there to diffuse an angry situation if it needed to be brought under control.
The Benns always played on the same team. In 2006-07, Jamie, then 17, took off, scoring 42 goals in 53 games for the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL and was drafted in the fifth round by Dallas. The brothers were set to play another season together in Victoria, when, three games into the 2007-08 season, Jamie moved on to Kelowna of the WHL, where he averaged 40 goals in two seasons. From there he was off to the NHL. Jordie, he became an undrafted free agent trying to cling to a dream.
“Everyone asks, ‘Are you jealous? Is there conflict between you two?’ And it’s just not the person I am,” Jordie says. “I want him to succeed to the best of his ability every night, and to go as far as he can in this league.”
A package deal
Now that the Benns are living together again, if you want to hang out with one, you’re going to end up hanging with both, whether you like it or not. That’s fine by Jason Demers, their teammate and close friend. He came over to the Stars last season in a trade with San Jose and was immediately paired on defense with Jordie. They enjoyed playing together and hanging out.
As they spent last summer in Dallas together while Jamie recovered from off-season hip surgery, Demers got a sense of the Benns’ relationship, and liked what he saw.
“Every day, it’s funny to see the dynamic,” Demers told SI.com. “The younger brother who’s the stud hockey player, and he has to deal with his big brother all the time. Sometimes, Jamie will think he’s the big dog in the family. But he’s still the kid brother.”
The Benns bring a family atmosphere to the Stars’ locker room and Demers enjoys every minute of it.
He also likes that even though Jamie is the team’s captain, everybody supports Jordie, who has been nicknamed Yukon Cornelius because of his resemblance to the character in the animated film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He sometimes jokingly refers to himself as The Other Benn. “The important thing is that the guys in the room and his brother know what he brings to the team, how important he is to the team, not just right now but going forward,” Demers says.
The Stars are heading for the new year with the best record in the Western Conference, a glimmer of hope seven years and four coaches after their last playoff round victory. They have Jamie and Tyler Seguin, two of perhaps the best five players in the league. They have young rising talents like defenseman John Klingberg, veteran playmakers in Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza, effective depth with backliner Johnny Oduya and winger Antoine Roussel.
And they have a bond between two brothers that is unbreakable.
“There’s not much sibling rivalry,” Demers says. “Just sibling support and love.”
Jordie finally got his break when the Stars organization signed him in October 2010. He stayed with theirAHL team for two seasons, playing regularly and effectively, earning call-ups to the Stars as their seventh or eight defenseman. He was often scratched, but he never forgot his father’s advice.
“I bided my time,” Jordie says. “I took it upon myself to work hard every day. Keep things fairly simple. A little bit of timing, little bit of luck. I’m here now.”
He cracked the Stars regular lineup in 2013-14, played in 73 games, scored 20 points and averaged 19 minutes of ice time. In their first round playoff matchup against Anaheim, he scored three points in six games, averaging 21 minutes on ice and earning a reputation as a solid, depth defenseman.
“It’s all confidence,” he says.
There was a time when the brothers’ roles were reversed. It was back in juniors. Jordie was 18, playing in a league of 20-year-olds. He had been in the BCHL for a full season, a lifetime of development for a teenager, and was a stellar defenseman for Victoria, his former teammate Jordan MacIntyre says. And when Jamie joined the team full-time in 2006, he was a chubby kid following his big brother.
Jordie showed him the ropes, MacIntyre recalls. Showed him how to compete in a league of soon-to-be-men. Everyone knew Jamie was going to be a star—he was dominant even then. But Jordie was already a professional.
MacIntyre, now a chiropractor in Edmonton, ran into the Benns a few years ago in Vancouver. And nothing about them had changed, despite their NHL status.
“That was refreshing,” MacIntyre says.
They’re now two brothers who made it to the big time. One’s the star, the other the unflashy workman. That suits them just fine.
“We get to do it for a living,” Jordie says. “It’s pretty cool to do it together.”