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Brothers on and off the ice: Slaggerts, Janickes join history of Notre Dame hockey siblings

| Friday, April 8, 2022

On the way to preschool, the Janicke family car blasted the Notre Dame fight song on repeat. A love for Irish hockey was ingrained in the two Janicke brothers’ heads since before they were even old enough to pick up a stick.

Eight hours away, the Slaggert brothers jammed along to the same melody with similar visions of one day joining the Notre Dame hockey roster.

Two pairs of brothers, four different jerseys, one Notre Dame Hockey Team.

Though each pair of brothers are unique with their own special style on the ice and their own story, they are bonded by their brotherhood. Graham and Landon Slaggert — South Bend natives and son of associate head coach and former Irish player Andy Slaggert — always dreamt of playing side by side. States away in Minnesota, Justin and Trevor Janicke followed in the footsteps of their dad Curtis Janicke who played for the Irish from 1989-93.

Both the Janickes and the Slaggerts began playing hockey before they even learned their ABCs. For Justin Janicke, his hockey career began at two years old, strapped to a tiny walker in the Janicke’s makeshift ice rink set up in their backyard. The Slaggerts’ first experience with hockey never even involved ice — only their living room carpet and a puck.

From first learning how to skate to grade school teams (which involved daily trips from South Bend to Chicago for the Slaggerts), to traveling tournaments, to the USA Hockey junior program throughout high school, both sets of brothers followed similar paths to earn their spot on Notre Dame’s hockey roster.

The Janickes come as the sixth father-son duo (including Justin, they’re a trio) to play for the Irish. Their father Curtis Janicke played for the Irish from 1989-93, appearing in 125 games and earning 144 points (46 goals and 98 assists). Overall, they make the 16th set of brothers to take the ice geared up in Notre Dame’s blue and gold.

The Slaggerts joined these two exclusive clubs as well, just one year before the Janickes. As a coach at Notre Dame for 29 years, after playing under Lefty Smith and Ric Schafer, Andy Slaggert has been a long-standing part of Irish hockey. Because of him, the Slaggerts were the fifth father-son set. On their own, they are the 15th set of brothers to gear up for the Irish.

“Our lives pretty much revolve around the game,” junior Trevor Janicke said. “It’s like all my family talks about.”

The Slaggert family shares a similar obsession.

“The conversation still always circles back to the team or what’s going on in the hockey world,” senior and captain Graham Slaggert agreed. “Honestly it gets pretty annoying when guests are over. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves.”

A love for all things hockey was instilled in both households — on the TV, at the dinner table and in the yard. For both families, Notre Dame hockey became more than a dream; it became a lifestyle.

Older brothers Trevor and Graham both set the stage for their younger brothers. They worked hard to make a good reputation for themselves, setting the bar high for their younger brothers Justin and Landon.

“It’s all about wanting to be better than your older brother,” sophomore Landon Slaggert explained. “Graham really paved the path for me and allowed me to see that my dreams truly are possible.”

Freshman Justin Janicke agreed, saying that having hockey as a similar passion definitely strengthened his relationship with his older brother Trevor. He noted that the only downside to this might have been the constant comparison and competition.

“But at the same time, the competition really did push me because I always wanted to do better than him,” Justin said.

Despite their competitiveness and their clashing schedules, both sets of brothers feel that playing hockey has made them closer. It gives them not only a constant topic of conversation but also a multitude of shared experiences.

This season marks the Janickes’ first time playing on the same team together and the Slaggerts’ second. Being on the ice at the same time is something both sets of brothers had adjust to, as their relationship on the ice is very different than off.

For Trevor Janicke, it’s all about finding a balance, and he hopes to let Justin find his own rhythm.

“I didn’t want to be that overbearing big brother who always says do this and do that,” Trevor said. “I just kind of let him figure it out on his own because that’s what you have to do.”

Landon Slaggert is thankful for the communication he has with his older brother Graham.

“Graham wasn’t always in my ear about stuff,” Landon said. “I think we found a balance where we can constructively give each other criticism and kind of build off that.”

But this stable and comfortable relationship as players did not come easily. Transitioning from brother to teammate has its challenges.

“It took time to develop that relationship,” Landon added. “We definitely had some rough patches early on especially because we have the opportunity to play on the same line as each other. We had to learn how to work together towards a common goal.”

Both sets of brothers have been working together since they were kids, but playing together on the ice changes everything. The Slaggert brothers may have struggled to find their flow at first but have since gained a level of comfortability and trust that makes them a perfect pair on the ice.

Landon believes that their shared familial connection makes conflicts easier to resolve.

“We’re brothers. We may get under each other’s skin, but at the end of the day we know we love each other,” he said.

The Janicke and Slaggert brothers bring something special to Notre Dame’s roster this year that is hard to replicate. Playing the game together brings back years of memories. Trevor remembers little brother “JJ flying around” in the backyard while Graham and Landon remember hanging out on the long daily commute to Chicago.

But, both the Janickes and the Slaggerts don’t necessarily think that their relationship is much different from the rest of the team. To these four hockey stars, blood isn’t the only thing that defines brotherhood.

“We all have each other’s backs,” Landon said. “We’re all brothers on the ice.”

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About Gracie Eppler

Gracie Eppler is from St. Louis, Missouri and lives in Flaherty Hall. Her top three favorite things ever to exist are Nutella, the ND drum circle and thesauruses (in that order).

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