Victoria Royals twins Jason and Ryan Spizawka set to become WHL rarity

It will not be a typo on the scoresheet. There will be two Spizawkas listed on the Victoria Royals roster, either beginning tonight against the Kamloops Blazers or possibly on Monday against the Prince George Cougars, as Jason and Ryan are set to become the fourth set of identical twins to play on the same team in Western Hockey League history.

Jeremy and Josh Schappert skated with the Seattle Thunderbirds from 2005 to 2007, future NHLers Ron and Rich Sutter with the Lethbridge Broncos from 1980 to 1983, and Ted and Brent McAneeley with the Edmonton Oil Kings from 1968 to 1970.

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A few other sets of twins have played in the WHL at the same time, but not on the same team.

“It’s really cool, since we grew up playing together,” said Jason Spizawka.

“Our parents are pretty excited.”

There should be more than a few double-takes by fans in the years ahead on Blanshard Street.

It’s one thing to play together in youth hockey, which the twins did at the Racquet Club of Victoria, because that is a parental choice. It’s quite another in the major-junior WHL, where players are dispersed across the western part of the continent to 22 teams in the bantam (now labelled Under-15) draft. But the Royals managed to nab both twins in the 2019 draft, the highly-touted defenceman Jason 19th overall in the first round and forward/defenceman Ryan 137th in the seventh round.

Parents Tim and Maureen Spizawka were season-ticket holders and the twins practically grew up in Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre watching at first the pro Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL, then the Royals of the WHL. Never did the twins, nor likely their parents, think they would be playing together on that ice sheet in the WHL.

“We always joked about being selected by the same team in the draft,” said Jason Spizawka. Yet never really believing that would happen. Not only did that come to pass, but by their hometown Victoria WHL team, to boot.

The twins are intensely competitive on the ice, with each hard-driven, some say ­intrinsically hardwired, to try to out-do the other’s performance in practice and games. Yet they are typical identical twins off the ice in many ways.

“We share clothes and that kind of stuff,” said Jason Spizawka, who, as with his brother, is taking Grade 11 online through Spectrum Secondary.

Jason made his rookie debut as a regular this year with the Royals during the current abbreviated WHL season taking place in the Kelowna and Kamloops hubs and has three assists in 10 games. Rookie Ryan is an associate player who was recently called up to play by the Royals and has yet to make his WHL debut. But it’s coming as sure as spring rain on the Island.

“It’s a unique situation and well deserved by both players,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price.

“They are both extremely competitive and very detailed.”

Ryan Spizawka skated in the pre-game warmup Wednesday night in the 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Giants, but did not dress for the game.

“Ryan will absolutely play this season, and probably soon, although I can’t tell you exactly yet what will be his first game,” said Price. It will be a notable and rare occasion, a first for the Royals, when it happens.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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