The Dallas Stars winger was at a team dinner when he got word his brother, Nick, had “tucked” for his first career NHL goal in Game 3 of last year’s qualifying-round series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’ I gotta look at it,” Jason, 21, recalls in a joint interview with Nick.
“And I see that it’s a floater through the goalie’s chest that goes in,” smiles Jason.
“I aimed for that,” Nick, 19, pipes up.
“Yeah, OK, he aimed for his chest, squeaked in,” says Jason.
“I just wanted a quick shot,” says Nick.
“It was pretty special,” Jason relents.
“At the time, you could have said that I was a little jealous, he played a game and I was watching, but I was happy for him.”
The back-and-forth doesn’t end with Jason’s admission. More chirps are dished out in an exchange that lasts fewer than two minutes, but is indicative of the competitive, yet co-operative bond between the brothers from a tight-knit family, and the pro hockey journey they’ve embarked on together.
Jason — Dallas’ second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft — may have watched from the Stars’ taxi squad as his brother found early success in the bubble, but the tables have turned this season.
Nick, a second-rounder in 2019, has struggled to find his footing in the NHL after getting derailed by injuries and is back in the AHL with the Marlies. Meanwhile, his older brother overcame a stretch of scratches at the start the season to explode on to the scene in Dallas, making his case for the NHL’s Calder Trophy with 42 points 47 games to nip at the heels of the early favourite, Kirill Kaprizov, in the rookie scoring race.
But Jason isn’t thinking about individual accolades, his sights are set on two goals: getting the Stars back to the post-season, and, equally important, putting his little brother — who’s six inches and nearly 50 pounds smaller (5-9, 164 to 6-3, 210) — in his place.
“Right now, you talk to Jason and he’s like ‘We got one thing in mind and that is: make the playoffs,’ And then how he’s going to beat his brother in the summertime with floorball,” his father, Hugh, said with a laugh.
“I mean, let’s get real. There’s priorities,” joked his mother, Mercedes.
The Robertsons say there’s no rivalry on the ice (as long as they both do well), but in everything else — foosball, ping-pong, NHL, FIFA or floorball, in particular — things can get heated.
“It’d be like nine o’clock, everyone’s going to bed, and my brother and I used to say, ‘Let’s do a quick one,’ and I’d get the whole gear on and I’d be goalie, we’d do shootouts. I’d be screaming, my dad would be yelling, ‘What’s going on? What are you guys doing?’ He came down, he was mad. He took my FIFA disk, he tore it apart,” reflected Nick on his childhood battles with Jason.
“It was a blast.”
Literally. While the Crosbys famously had their dinged-up dryer that fell victim to Sidney’s hockey dreams, well, the Robertsons had multiple casualties: the basement and garage at the family’s home in Northville, Mich.
“If you look at the wall, they have shot through the wall, OK, to the point where you can see the studs, you can see the outside brick from inside in our garage, throughout our basement,” said Hugh.
“They’re just very competitive. Very competitive.”