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Bonded as brothers, together through hockey

They learned to skate together, they were drafted by the Medicine Hat Tigers together, and now identical twins Markus and Liam Ruck are wearing the Maple Leaf together at the Youth Olympics

Jonathan Yue
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January 27, 2024
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Markus and Liam Ruck are twins through and through. Born eight minutes apart on Feb. 21, 2008, the brothers have been inseparable on and off the ice ever since.

From playing minor hockey in the small town of Osoyoos, B.C., to rising through the ranks in the South Okanagan Minor Hockey Association, to being drafted by the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first round of the 2023 Western Hockey League (WHL) Prospects Draft, Markus and Liam have been by each other’s side, stride by stride.

The Rucks are what the medical community categorizes as mirror identical twins, which is when a pair twins possess opposite traits that mirror each other. Markus is a playmaking left-handed centre, while Liam is the goal-scoring right-handed winger. By definition, they complement each other perfectly.

“We do everything together, on and off the ice,” Liam says. “We’re competitive off the ice, always trying to beat each other, and on the ice, we push each other, want to make each other better, and make our jobs easier out there.”

“It’s been really special to have us together,” Markus adds. “It’s always a little bit easier to have my twin with me throughout my whole life.”

Now, the brothers are making their international debuts together at the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon, South Korea.

“We’re going to go out there and show what we can do on the international stage, as a team and as individuals and play the way we play,” says Liam.

“We’re looking forward to putting our names out there, wearing that Canadian jersey,” Markus adds. “The goal is to find success with the team and come back with the gold.”

A family affair

Markus and Liam first hit the ice when they were two years old on the family's backyard rink and then at public skates. By the time they were four, they were already making plays to each other in games. With hockey smarts to back their chemistry, their skills were quickly noticed in their hometown.

“They loved the game from a very young age,” says Jim Liebel, the twins’ coach from ages four to 12. “They were committed to hockey, from shooting in their living room to showing up to the rink. They were soft spoken, but you could tell they really wanted to be hockey players back then. The plays they made, they just knew where the other brother would be, and that connection was just so special to see.”

Their connection has been evident for as long as they’ve been lacing up their skates. In 2018, the pair were members of the B.C. Junior Canucks at The Brick Invitational in Edmonton. Liam finished with a team-leading seven goals and co-led with 10 points. Markus had four points, including two assists, both of which came on goals scored by Liam.

Skating with the U15 Prep team at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, B.C., last season, Liam led the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) with 90 points (53-37—90) in 27 games, just ahead of Markus and his 87 points (22-65—87). So it was no surprise when Liam was selected ninth overall in the WHL draft by the Medicine Hat Tigers, 12 spots before the Tigers traded up to select Markus.

“We love playing together,” Markus says. “We love our give-and go-plays, our passes in between sticks and feet to create those two-on-one opportunities on the ice against the defenders, but the small community here [in Osoyoos] gives us lots of ice time and that support is always there.”

“We support each other a lot out there,” Liam adds. “Markus makes my job as a goal scorer a lot easier when he sets me up, so we definitely get a lot of good chances out there together. Our parents spend countless hours supporting us as well, and the all-around support from them and the community, it makes our lives easier to focus on hockey.”

It’s not only on the ice where the family connection is strong. Away from the rink, hockey has become an activity that has brought the Ruck family together on numerous occasions.

From the competitive mini-stick battles with their younger brother Landon, to family vacations scheduled around hockey, the sport has brought the whole family together. It’s something that the brothers’ parents, Nina and Derek, are thankful for.

“We’ve got to go all over Canada and the United States as a family,” Nina says. “We’ve had so many great memories with hockey and people sometimes ask if we even do family vacations, and I tell them ‘Of course,’ whether it’s to The Brick tournament or to Montreal for Meltdown, its some of the best memories of our lives so far together.”

The Youth Olympics will be a proud moment for family and friends, who will be cheering them on from Osoyoos.

“Kids in Osoyoos look up to them as leaders,” Liebel says, thinking about how emotional it will be to see the twins take the ice in Gangwon. “It’s a small town here and the kids see what Markus and Liam are doing on the ice and their level of commitment to hockey; they are the perfect types of people for kids in the community to look up to.”

International success runs in the family

When Markus and Liam hit the ice for Canada’s preliminary-round opener against the host Koreans on Jan. 27, it won’t be the first time a member of the Ruck family competes with the Maple Leaf on their chest. Their father played three years in the WHL with the Lethbridge Hurricanes (1998-2001) before winning the Allan Cup in 2007 as a member of the Powell River Regals, a year before the twins were born. The Regals were invited to represent Canada’s National Men’s Team at the Belarus Cup and Derek skated in three games for Canada.

And then there’s their second cousin, Taylor Ruck. She is a four-time Olympic medallist (a silver and three bronze) in the swimming pool, representing Canada at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Games, and tied a Commonwealth Games record with eight medals (one gold, five silver, two bronze) at the 2018 Games in Australia.

With all that success in the family, the twins hope to continue to represent the Ruck name with pride on the international stage.

“We’ve both dreamed of putting on that jersey,” Liam says. “A lot of Canadian kids have that dream, and to have the opportunity to do that is really exciting for us and the family."

“Ever since watching the World Juniors and the Olympics, we always dreamed to be in their positions and in their shoes,” Markus adds. “We have the opportunity now, it’s going to be unbelievable.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

emadziya@hockeycanada.ca 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

jknight@hockeycanada.ca

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