T-birds see double

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

When Jeremy and Josh Schappert were in Grade 4, they pulled the old switcheroo.

Josh was better at math, and Jeremy was better at social studies. The only problem that day was Josh had a social studies test and Jeremy had a math test at the same time.

So they switched places and took the other's test. Hey, you can do that when you're identical twins.

"The teachers didn't know, but all the guys in the class had a good laugh about it," Josh said.

The identity confusion continues today, although probably not to the extent where a switcheroo is possible. That's because Josh is a right-winger and Jeremy a defenceman for the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds.

"On the ice it's no problem at all, because one's a lefty (Jeremy), one's a righty (Josh), one's a forward, one's a defenceman," Thunderbirds head coach Rob Sumner said earlier this week from the Emerald City.

That doesn't mean there wasn't an adjustment period last season, when the Schapperts were WHL rookies.

"The coach would yell 'Jeremy! Jeremy! Jeremy!' and I'd turn around and look up at him and say, 'Um, yeah, I'm Jeremy.' "

And that was with different numbers on their backs. Just imagine the confusion when they were wearing street clothes.

"One time one of our assistant coaches was criticizing me for a play that my brother did," Josh said, "and I had to tell him that was my brother and not me."

The fun began on January 16, 1989, when mom Elizabeth gave birth to Josh and, one minute later, Jeremy. Before long, dad Ellard had them on skates, and the two Winnipeggers have been playing together ever since.

However, on April 29, 2004, it looked like the Schapperts were about to be separated. The Moose Jaw Warriors picked Jeremy 98th overall, but the Thunderbirds scooped up Josh with the 163rd selection.

The Thunderbirds, however, were wondering if Josh would be willing to live 2,000 km from home without his twin brother. So they traded for Jeremy in November 2004, when the twins were playing together with the Winnipeg Warriors AAA city midget team.

"It was just great to have that feeling that I could be with Josh for the next four or five years in hockey," Jeremy said.

So Josh and Jeremy moved from St. Vital to Seattle last fall, both cracking the T-Birds lineup as 16-year-olds and continuing to live together with the same billet.

"It's a lot easier living with someone you know and feel comfortable with and, well, I wouldn't say get along with -- we have our fair share of fights and stuff -- but it's definitely easier," Jeremy said.

Sumner said Jeremy has developed into a top-four defenceman, while Josh, who played only 24 games last year because of a torn abdominal muscle, is starting to come into his own, with three goals and four assists in 34 games.

The team is doing well, too, as Seattle is second in the U.S. Division with a 16-9-1-8 record.

And on Nov. 19, the Schappert boys might have made a little WHL history when Jeremy assisted on Josh's goal in a 5-1 loss to the Prince George Cougars.

"Me and Jeremy just happened to be on the power play together," Josh said. "We did the same move that my dad taught us when we were kids. I passed it to him on the point, and he dragged the puck to the centre of the ice, passed it back to me, and I just simply took a slap shot and scored.

"It wasn't that hard of a shot, but it was kind of cool. Schappert from Schappert."


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