Several years ago, during the first snow fall of the winter in Montreal, three brothers spent most of the evening in the backyard stomping down snow in the area of a high school basketball court.
After packing down the white powder, the Coteras — Denzil, Florian and Liam — unwound a water hose, attached it to a sprinkler and let loose the water, using a homemade Zamboni to keep the surface smooth.
This would be the Cotera’s playground for the next several months, their annual tradition, until temperatures rose and melted away the backyard ice rink.
“In Canada, everything was about hockey and in the winter we’d always be outside for hours and hours making the rink,” Florian said. “We’d be out there every night just playing hockey and shooting the puck. It’s pretty nice playing with my brothers now.”
Those days are a distant memory now. The Coteras moved to Frederick County during the summer of 2008 and backyard ice surfaces no longer are feasible. But it’s still hard to keep the Coteras off the ice and this year, the three are playing large roles for the Middletown High School ice hockey team (3-3).
When asked which of the three is best, none singles out one of his brothers.
Denzil, a senior, is the Knights’ captain. A hulking defenseman, he sets the tone physically for Middletown. Florian, a junior who goes by Flo, leads the Monocacy Valley Hockey League in goals with 13 in five games. The youngest, Liam, a freshman, has the potential to be the best of the bunch. He has six goals and is tied for second on the team with 12 points.
Seeing all three on the ice at the same time, while rare, is an unwelcomed sight for any coach.
“I can’t put all three on the ice at the same time because it’s not fair to the other players. They don’t take abuse from other folks so I have to keep them separate,” Middletown coach Paul Mangiafico said. “They’re good boys all around. All of them have 4.0 [grade point averages] or better, so they’re good athletes and good students.”
There is little infighting between the three. They prefer encouragement, both on the ice and in the classroom.
“We’re competitive and we know when we have to not be competitive against each other and be competitive as a group to be better,” Denzil said.
That started in their backyard in Montreal.
Building the ice rink wasn’t a one night job. It took work every evening, applying new layers of water to make the rink last the season.
And there was nothing better than having a rink outside to play on after finishing homework. Neighbors and friends flocked over to play. But even if it was just the three of them, they’d play, usually with Liam being muscled into playing goalie.
The time on their homemade rink made playing together for Middletown that much more special.
“It’s pretty fun,” said Liam, who wants to beat Florian in goals next year. “I hope to go to college with my older brothers so maybe we’ll have another chance.”