The McKelvie Twins: One in the Army, One with the New York Rangers
"The dream is not dead," said McKelvie, whose plans of playing a season in the the Boston Bruins organization were scrapped last year when the Army reversed its Alternative Services guidelines for exceptional athletes. "But I know a hockey career is probably unrealistic if I go too long between years of development. There are other things in life."
While 25-year-old Zach McKelvie waits for his next appointment -- including possible enrollment in the Army's Ranger school for enlisted officers -- 25-year-old Chris McKelvie (pictured right) is making the most of an invitation to the training camp of the New York Rangers. On Feb. 25, 1985 in New Brighton, Minn., Zach and Chris were born. While Zach went to West Point and Chris spent the last four years at Bemidji State, they remain so close that the Army officer can now live the hockey life through the eyes of his twin brother.
After four seasons as a relentless checking forward at Bemidji, Chris McKelvie was signed to play for the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate in Connecticut. He impressed management so much with his intensity and conditioning in six AHL games at the end of last season that he earned an invitation to New York's training camp this month. While he is likely destined for the minors in the coming week, Chris made a favorable impression on the Rangers' coaching and scouting staffs with his performance at the Traverse City rookie tournament. Mckelvie reported to Rangers camp headquarters in Westchester as one of the best-conditioned athletes on the roster.
At the same time, Executive Officer McKelvie follows as closely as he can via the Internet and by exchanging text messages with his brother.
"I'm proud of Chris," said Zach in a phone conversation from Fort Benning. "Through his work ethic, he's making the most of every opportunity the Rangers give him. After everything that went on with me last season, I feel like being in the Army was what I was destined to do. I feel like Chris is doing what he was destined to do. Things have worked out for us. When he's playing, no one's rooting harder for him than me."
Reached after a grueling day of on- and off-ice workouts at Rangers training camp, Chris McKelvie made it clear that he was playing for two people.
"What Zach and the rest of his colleagues are doing in the Army is so much more important than playing hockey," said Chris. "The bottom line is that I get to do this, we all get to pursue our career and personal goals, because of the men and women in the military. I know there was some disappointment last year when Zach couldn't play in the Bruins organization, but he has moved on and I could not be more proud of him. The best way for me to honor him and our family name is by giving my best on the ice every shift I get to play."
Zach, a defenseman at Army from 2005-2009, still has an outside chance of playing pro hockey in 2011. He will need a positive response when the Department of Defense plans to revisit the Alternative Services guidelines for athletes again next year. Then the former captain of Army's hockey team will need an NHL franchise to give him a shot at training camp -- after two years of being away from the game.
"I'm realistic about it," said Zach McKelvie. "If the Army decides I'm more valuable with them, I will proudly honor my commitment."
Now that he has a contract for the American Hockey League, considered by many scouts as the second-best pro league in the world, Chris McKelvie has a wish as strong as his pursuit of a job in the NHL.
"It would be the greatest thing in the world," said Chris, "if I could play a game against Zach in the pros. Just one game."
There is a more realistic chance that Zach could serve in the war. Besides a spot in Army Ranger school, another possibility is placement in Iraq as the platoon leader in an infantry unit. He had surgery to repair damage to his shoulder built up over years of hockey, so he was not medically qualified to serve overseas, but his time still could come in the next few months. Zach McKelvie is ready.
"For me," he said, "the United States Army is a higher calling."