Amerks' Peters no longer the "other brother"
When Geoff Peters arrived in Rochester near the end of the 2001-02 season, he was somewhat of a novelty. His younger brother was Amerks' tough guy Andrew Peters, a fan favorite. Geoff was probably best known in Rochester for the night he came into town with the Norfolk Admirals and ended up duking it out on the ice with Andrew, much to the delight of the fans in attendance -- all except their mother.
Three years after his first stint with the Amerks, it turns out that Geoff Peters is more than just half of the story of two hockey-playing brothers. The fan favorite's brother has become a fan favorite himself.
The story starts April 30, 1978, when Geoff Peters was born in Hamilton, Ont. A couple of years later, following the family's move to St. Catharines, younger brother Andrew was born. As they grew up, both brothers played hockey, but Geoff says that originally Andrew wasn't all that interested.
"Growing up with him, I would have never thought in a hundred years that he was going to make the NHL," Geoff explains. "He was the type of kid who would rather stay at home and play with his G.I. Joes than go to the hockey rink. I think he only played because I was in the spotlight and he rode my coat tails for a little bit."
Geoff continued to work hard, honed his skills in the Ontario Hockey League with the Niagara Falls Thunder and Erie Otters, and was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. Andrew eventually got more serious about his game and was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round of the 1998 Entry Draft.
Each brother continued on his own path through pro hockey, and on one fateful night at the Blue Cross Arena, their paths crossed. Andrew was in his first season with the Amerks, and Geoff was playing for Norfolk. At one point in the game, all eyes turned to two players squaring off to fight. The two Peters brothers suddenly took brotherly childhood battles to the next level, with their family watching from the seats above.
"That was a weird night. Andrew said he didn't know it was me. I think that's false," Geoff says with a laugh. "I think he's just embarrassed to admit he went after his brother who was smaller and couldn't defend myself against him if I tried. It was funny, and it's something you can look back on and tell a story about later in life.
"My mom likes to show the tape -- they did a little piece on the news -- and Andrew just snaps and takes the tape out. I think he's embarrassed now. He's a tough guy in the NHL and he's beating up his brother in the American League."
The following season, Geoff made a couple of stops around the East Coast Hockey League before the Amerks came calling. It marked the first time the brothers had played together professionally.
"That was probably one of my greatest moments in hockey, to be able to skate on a line with my brother," Geoff says. "The first game we played we each had a goal and an assist, and he had a fight. Andrew only had one assist that year, and it was on my goal, so that was kind of ironic.
"We actually scored a goal like that in summer hockey," Geoff recalls. "He took a slap shot and I banged in the rebound, and I looked at him and he looked at me, and I said, 'That was just like Cincinnati [the Amerks' opponent for their first game together].'"
In 2002-03, Geoff decided to head across the pond to try his hand at European hockey. He had previous international experience after playing with the Canadian National Team in 1998-99. He had traveled around the world and experienced wide-open international hockey against some of the best players and teams in the world. He feels he took a lot of the experience for granted at the young age of 20, but deciding to play in England was another opportunity for a unique life experience.
"I played in Manchester, which is a pretty big city in England, and I guess we had a pretty good following," Geoff recalls. "The fans were completely different. They didn't know much about it. They never called it 'hockey'. They called it 'ice hockey'. I guess you could get it confused with field hockey. Our team folded a month and a half or two months into the season, but the hockey wasn't bad.
"It was a pretty good experience for me to go over there and play, Geoff continues. If I knew then what I know now, where I was going to be, I wouldn't have gone. At that point in my life, I think I panicked and went over there too early. I thought that there were no jobs in the American Hockey League, so I went over to Europe. That was the best offer for me, and it turned out that it didn't really work out because our team folded."
After finishing that season splitting time between the AHL (Milwaukee) and the ECHL, the 2003-04 season brought Geoff back to Rochester. His return to the Amerks didn't include a reunion with his younger brother. Andrew defied the odds and stuck with the Buffalo Sabres for the entire 2003-04 season.
"It's been a thrill [watching Andrew in the NHL]. I'm so proud of him. He worked hard, he worked his butt off, and he deserves everything he has," Geoff says. "It took him a long time to realize that he had the potential to make it. Believe it or not, he's got a lot more skill than people think he does, and I think he's starting to realize that now."
Geoff had a successful season in Rochester, starting the season with a couple of try-out contracts before signing a deal in January. He collected seven goals, four assists and 109 penalty minutes in 46 games. Though the goals and assists are nice, offensive numbers don't really paint the picture of what he really brings to the Amerks. His style of play suits the team's system (and the fans' preferences) very well.
"I think I bring a little bit of everything. I've never been a 'rah-rah' type guy. I'm more or less just a hard worker. I go out on the ice and hit everybody that I can hit, or that I can chase down, anyway," he explains. "I think I'm just 'old school'. I come to the rink every day and I work hard.
"The thing about Cunney and Houds [head coach Randy Cunneyworth and assistant coach Doug Houda] is that they demand hard work. I know if I don't play hard for these guys, they won't play me. So in my mind I know that when I come to the rink every day, I have to be as good as I can be, or at least work as hard as I can. I think if a coach can get that from all his players, then everything's going good."
Among Geoffs favorite memories during his time here in Rochester is last seasons exciting playoff run. The experience epitomized the players hard-working attitude throughout the season.
"When you're down 3-1 [in the best-of-seven first round series against Syracuse], there's always doubt in the back of your mind, but I think we just knew that we hadn't played our best hockey. Obviously it was do or die, and everyone just stepped up. It showed how much potential we had and how hard guys worked. It's unfortunate we lost. I think we should have fared better, but we had some bad breaks."
Geoff spent the summer working with Andrew to get into shape for this season. Departing from the usual routine of weight lifting, the Peters brothers worked with a trainer two days a week doing plyometrics. Activities included such unconventional activities as running with tires and doing sprints and hurdles. Boxing was also a part of Geoff's summer program.
After signing a new contract over the summer, Geoff has been looking forward to wearing the red, white and blue for another season. He likes the team, likes the city, and appreciates the experiences he has had here.
"Rochester gave me the opportunity to play hockey when no one else wanted to or no one else had the room to. I love Rochester. I have family and friends here. [The Amerks] were always good to my brother, and they've been very good to me. They gave me the opportunity to rejuvenate my career," he explains. "I feel very comfortable here. I'm the type of person who takes a little while to get used to something, but when I'm used to it I get very comfortable very easily. I think the second half of last year I felt a lot more comfortable and I think I played that way. It was just nice to know that people actually took notice of what I was doing."
Thanks in part to his laid back personality and distinctive sense of humor, Geoff has increasingly become a popular player around the Blue Cross Arena. His participation in charity events such as the annual Salvation Army bell ringing, along with his appearances on the Amerks' weekly television show Faceoff and the R-News feature "Over the Boards", have provided fans with unique insight into what Geoff is like away from the ice. He enjoys these experiences and realizes that they are an important aspect of giving back to the fans.
"I love the fans in Rochester. I love this arena. You can't get a better setting than where we are right now. It's a great sports town with such a great following," he says. "I like to give back to the fans. I think the fans are the most important part of the game.
"It's all about the fans. If they're not interested, then there's no point in really us playing. We won't be playing."
Geoff Peters has gone from being "Andrew's brother" to holding his own as a valuable component of the Amerks' success. He may not bring fans to their feet on a nightly basis like his brother did, but Geoff's contributions may help bring fans to their feet for another reason -- as he helps the Amerks move one step closer to the Calder Cup.