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Team Canada's Patrice Cormier had hard edge cultivated by older brother Kevin

OTTAWA - Patrice Cormier scuffled with a Baie-Comeau player in the corner and took a punch in the face in one of his first games with the Rimouski Oceanic.

The 16-year-old looked up to see his older brother Kevin readying his fists.

``Pat saw me and he started laughing and I didn't want to laugh because I was trying to protect my brother, but it was pretty funny,'' Kevin recalls.

Adds Patrice: ``We were in the penalty box together after that and he said 'if somebody touches you, I'll be there.' He was always there to protect me and guys didn't think about coming after me.''

Patrice, now 18, no longer needs big brother looking out for him on the ice. He's Canada's muscle at the world junior hockey championship.

The checking-line centre hammered two Czech players on the same shift in Canada's tournament opener.

One Czech was woozy as he skated to the bench and Canada scored its first goal of the tournament about a minute later.

``Nobody wants to get hit like that,'' said Canadian head coach Pat Quinn.

Kevin Cormier, 22, was an enforcer during his four years in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He finished among the league's penalty-minute leaders every season.

Patrice, a prototypical power forward, combines size, speed and skill with the hard edge in his game.

The Phoenix Coyotes drafted Kevin in the sixth round in 2004. The New Jersey Devils took Patrice in the second round, 54th overall, in this year's draft in Ottawa.

Kevin refuses to take credit for the player his brother has become, but Patrice insists Kevin has influenced his hockey career more than anyone.

``Summer hockey, on the ice, it would be me and him and we'd battle it out a little bit,'' Patrice explained. ``He always wanted the best for me. He knew by pushing me harder I would get tougher and stronger.

``I always wanted to be like my brother.''

Kevin shepherded Patrice through the first half of his rookie year in Rimouski. The younger Cormier was devastated when Kevin was traded to Shawinigan during the season.

The Oceanic were building for a future that included Patrice and trading Kevin was a way to do that.

``It was a pretty big blow,'' Patrice said. ``Warmups, we always stretched together and the first game he was gone, it was tough. I was a little lost.''

The brothers from Cap-Pele, N.B., with a population of 2,500, were reunited this year in a sense.

A few days after Patrice arrived in Newark in September for his first NHL training camp, the Devils acquired Kevin's rights from Phoenix and he joined Patrice at camp.

``It was one thing to play together in the Q, but now to be in the same NHL organization, it's unreal,'' Kevin said. ``I remember my first training camp in the NHL. I was very nervous and I didn't know anybody, but then my brother comes to his first training camp and he has his big brother at the same NHL camp as him. That's pretty cool.''

The prospect of the siblings playing together again seems possible because the Cormiers are now in the same organization.

Kevin has to stay healthy first. The six-foot-three, 236-pound forward with the ECHL's Trenton Devils had surgeries last season on his elbow, hand and knee.

The enforcer's life in hockey is hard on the body. Kevin has managed to play 10 games in a row for Trenton, which he says hasn't happened in years because of injuries.

Patrice is almost six foot two and 200 pounds, with room on his frame for more muscle as he matures. A defensive forward with offensive skill and a mean streak is a type of player traditionally coveted by Devils head coach Brent Sutter. He has 12 goals and 12 assists in 27 games with Rimouski this season.

The Cormier brothers communicate daily via cellphone calls or text messaging. Kevin wore No. 90 last season with the Arizona Sundogs because Patrice wore that number with Rimouski.

When Kevin took No. 28 in Trenton, Patrice wanted the same digits on the back of his Canadian team jersey.

Kevin is still keeping an eye on his brother at the world juniors, albeit from a distance via the Internet.

``It's the world juniors, the thing we used to watch every Christmas with the family,'' Kevin said. ``My little brother is in it. It's really unbelievable.''



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