Victoria Grizzlies’ Shawn O’Malley (left), T.J. Friedmann and Justin Michaelian played on the same AAA team in Plymouth, Michigan. They were spread out on different junior hockey teams throughout North America but found their way back to each other. (Heather Clark/Victoria Grizzlies)

Youth hockey linemates defy odds, land on same junior roster

Friends spread across North America on different junior teams before joining the Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies’ forwards Shawn O’Malley, T.J. Friedmann and Justin Michaelian go way back, back to the days of playing AAA hockey in Plymouth, Michigan for a team called Victory Honda.

Now, they continue to play on the same line for the Grizzlies and so they’ve been given the nickname Victory Honda Line.

Friedmann moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Michigan to play hockey, and Michaelian said they consider Friedmann one of their own. When the three of them first met, Friedmann and O’Mally couldn’t tell Michaelian and his identical twin brother, Brendan, apart. But once they got over that hurdle, and a couple practices later, they clicked.

The trio played together for one year in Michigan before disbanding to different junior A teams in North America.

But they weren’t separated for long before they landed back together on the same roster.

Michaelian came to the Grizzlies first for the 2016-2017 season. After being 2,500 miles away from home or anyone he knew, it was a pleasant surprise to welcome Friedmann to the team in October 2016, he said.

Friedmann was playing in the NAHL, on a team where he thought his minutes could be limited all season, so he opted for the possibility of more ice time. He said that knowing Michaelian was already on the Grizzlies roster definitely helped with his decision to play for Victoria.

“It was a smooth transition getting out here,” Friedmann said. “We came out first practice, we were on a line together I think, and we were pretty much on a line the whole year except maybe a month of it, so it was pretty easy.”

O’Malley was traded to the Grizzlies in January 2017 from a NAHL team in Louisiana and the three buddies were back together.

O’Malley said getting traded midway through the season is tough on and off the ice because the team builds friendships early on, it’s hard to maneuver that four or five months in.

“I have two friends on the team and it’s easier to make friends with all the other guys instead of coming in, knowing nobody and coming from a different league,” O’Malley said. “It definitely makes you feel more at home.”

Their chemistry on the ice isn’t by mistake, they spend a lot of time together.

Since they’ve known each other their lockers have been next to one another in the team room and they have lived together with billet families.

Michaelian and Friedmann lived together last year and Michaelian and O’Malley live together this year.

Not to mention practices, travelling to games and playing.

Unfortunately, most good things come to an end.

O’Malley and Michaelian will finish with the Grizzlies this season and are hoping to play college next year, but think the chances of them playing on the same team are slim at this point in the recruiting process.

Friedmann will play one more year with the Grizzlies, and has committed to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut for 2019.

They had fun and are sad to see this time in their lives end, but know they will bump into each other again on the ice.

Friedmann said he’s heard people talk about their junior hockey days being some of the best times of their lives, and he’s just happy he got to spend it with friends he had before.

Michaelian said if they had to matchup against each other, it wouldn’t be as sweet as being on the same line, but they’d be happy for one another.

“As long as we’re playing college hockey that’s all we care about. We want each other to be successful and go as far as we can because we all know we’re capable of it,” he said.

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