Did you hear the one about the triplets who play hockey and starred in a movie?
Yeah, happened years ago.
They look so much alike that one time, on April Fool’s Day, the second oldest pulled his hoodie over his head and sat in his “older” brother’s classroom for about 20 minutes.
Teacher didn’t know. Nobody did.
And that movie, I mean, wow.
Who could ever forget … “Baby Geniuses?”
What, you were expecting maybe the Hanson Brothers and “Slapshot”?
This is real-life stuff happening on the tiny campus of boomtown Bemidji, Minn., home of Babe the Blue Ox, Paul Bunyan and the Bemidji State Beavers.
The sign at the town limits says population 14,400, but don’t let it fool you. With hundreds of lakes nearby and thousands of cabins, the city built by lumberjacks is now a thriving tourism area with everything from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit to Walmart.
And an outdoor waterslide.
During the winter months you can look out the window of your hotel on the lake and see cars driving across the frozen tundra just steps from your door. It’s a constant movement to hundreds of fish houses scattered across Lake Bemidji. The goal, as always, is to pull up lunker walleye and northern pike through several feet of ice from the frigid water below.
It’s all so dang cool, really.
A city with a small-town mentality and a 50,000-population feel tucked in the heart of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Stanley Cup winner Joel Otto played college hockey here and in 2009, new to Division I, the Beavers announced their presence with a remarkable run to their only Frozen Four appearance.
This is why the Fitzgerald brothers chose Bemidji State never giving history a thought.
Gerald, Leo and Myles are just the second set of triplets to ever play men’s Division I hockey together. The first set — Brian, Craig and Glen Seabury — played for UMass-Lowell in 1989-90.
So, how did three good skaters who have a knack for scoring and a disdain for fighting (take that, Hanson brothers) get to BSU?
After being traded twice and playing for three junior hockey teams in Canada, they found a home with the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League where they spent two seasons playing together, something they didn’t always do until they joined the BCHL.
Each of them broke out during the 2013-2014 season with Myles tallying 83 point and Gerry 81 to rank second and third in league scoring. Leo was injured most of the season and had 15.
Their chemistry was obvious, and BSU coach Tom Serratore recruited a tenacious skating line that feeds off each other when healthy.
“We talked to a few teams that showed interest but we had some trouble with our transcripts transferring and coach was on top of it from the start,” Leo said.
“And we wanted to make it easy on our family so we wanted to pick a place where we could all go,” said Gerald, perhaps the most vocal of the three and the Beavers’ leading scorer with 12 goals and 9 assists.
“And it’s a small community kind of like home,” said Myles, maybe the quietest and definitely the shortest of the three by two inches. “When you come into our hometown (Port Alberni, B.C.) the sign says ‘Salmon Fishing Capital of the World.’ It reminds me a lot of this town.”
(Writer’s confession: I think I got the quotes paired up right. With the triplets, it’s sometimes tough to know who is speaking until you know them well. They graciously wore their uniform numbers to the interview. Gerald 21, Leo 19, Myles 26).
Dumbest question they’ve ever been asked?
“What’s it like to be triplets playing together on the same line? (Guilty).
“I mean, we don’t know anything different,” Myles definitely said. (I think). “We’ve been triplets our whole life so it’s tough to answer.”
Truth is, the Fitzgeralds are good guys and when they’re healthy they form one of the most potent lines in the WCHA. Myles has played in just six games this season because of injury and Gerald has missed four.
Old time hockey for them is a play where Leo, a left winger, digs the puck out of the corner and dishes it across to Myles on the right wing who then sets up Gerald the center for a one-timer.
Fighting like the Hanson brothers?
Cue Leo bowing his head and fidgeting with his cap that’s on backward so as not to overreact to a question he’s heard a few times — though surprisingly not as much you’d think — and Myles and Gerald quickly saying in unison “that’s not us.”
“We’re not anything like how they play,” Gerald said. (Pretty sure it was him). “The game has changed so much with more stick handling and skating.”
“We don’t drive people into the boards like they did,” Myles said.
So, if you’re wondering, yes, the Fitzgeralds have each the seen the best cult hockey movie countless times, but anyone who knows the trio would never associate them with the thick-rimmed glasses wearing triplets from Paul Newman’s classic “Slapshot.”
They’re respectful to the point that the only time they’ve ever tried to confuse somebody was that April Fool’s Day when Leo took Gerald’s spot.
“But it’s tough to do when you’re from a small town,” Leo points out. (Yes, definitely him, I think).
They don’t talk about “Slapshot,” they’ve never dressed up as the Hansons for Halloween (which, personally, I think is a low-hanging fruit for a guaranteed costume contest winner) and they barely talk about the story behind their own movie “Baby Geniuses,” which was shot in 1999 in Vancouver and starred Kim Cattrall, Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd and Dom DeLuise.
But hey, since we’re here …
“Our aunt saw they were looking for twins or triplets for the movie so she sent our photos in for the audition as kind of a joke,” Gerald said (I think).
“Babies can only be on movie sets so long without a break so they were looking for identical twins, but three babies is better than two, I guess,” said Leo. (Really not sure anymore,).
So, in one scene Gerald is on camera. Next up is Leo, then Myles. Or Myles, then Leo, then Gerald. (Who really knows, right?)
They went on to shoot the 2004 sequel — “Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2” — before the glitz and glamour of Hollywood gave way to sticks and skates.
And no, they receive no residuals from either show.
As identical as they are, they’re very much their own person.
They know jobs after college may take them to different cities someday, and maybe one, two or all three will get the opportunity to continue playing professional hockey overseas or in the NHL.
They’re good with that.
They are far from an oddity and much more of a necessity for the Beavers’ chances of winning the WCHA tournament again and advancing to another NCAA Tournament. They’re not overly big, but they’re tenacious in their approach and when they say they came to Bemidji for family reasons, they mean it. They have one older brother and two younger brothers. Scattering family to watch each triplet at different rinks on the same night wasn’t an option.
They are like Bemidji itself: Underrated until you see them, and it, in person.
And that’s pretty dang cool.
“Maybe we do take it for granted what we’re doing sometimes,” Gerald said. “Us three on the same team and on the same line … it’s been a great experience us. I mean, looking back, who’d have thought we’d all be playing college hockey together?”