They value defense in the Benning family.
Mark Benning, a Harvard junior, plays defense for the men's hockey team. His older brother Jim is in his fourth year on the blue-line for the Toronto Maple Leafs, his younger brother Brian was the St. Louis Blues' first round draft choice last year--as a defenseman.
Last, and certainly not least, 13-year-old Craig plays defense at home in Edmonton, Alb. Mark thinks Craig may be the pick of the litter. Unless.
"If he played hockey, my dog would probably play defense," Mark says.
But aside from choosing to play defense. Mark Benning hasn't gone the traditional Benning family route: from skating as two-year-old through midect bantam and junior hockey to the National Hockey League.
It started out normally enough, skating all day in the Benning backyard rink. Pictures in the family photo album show Brian, age one-and-a-half. Mark, age three, and Jim, age four, all stuffed into snowsuits and standing on skates with their parents out on the ice.
Three boys who would try to pursue the Great Canadian Dream--the N.H.L.
His brother Brian, who was the Blues' first choice in the draft (23rd overall), played several games for the big club at the beginning of the year and then returned to the Junior A Kamloops Oilers for more seasoning. He's suffered several injuries. After breaking his leg a week ago. Brian's decision to turn professional has taken on added significance.
Brian is sidelined for the season and while the injury is serious, it is not career-ending. Nonetheless, any such incident is worrisome.
"My brother's having some trouble dealing with it," Mark says. "He and I are very close and I feel for him. We talked a lot about his decision [to turn pro]. He enjoyed school, but he said he didn't have the aptitude for it."
His older brother has met success in his pro career. In his fourth year with the Maple Leafs, Jim Benning is emerging as a team leader.
The once proud Leafs, however, have become the laughing stock of the National Hockey League. Entering action tonight, Toronto was an embarassing 6-29-5.
"The team hasn't been doing that well," Mark says with considerable understatement. "So I don't go around bragging."
But all kidding aside, Mark is quite proud of his older brother's accomplishments.
"My older brother put all his eggs in one basket and has been very fortunate." Mark says. "He's wanted to be a pro hockey player since he was eight and he's realized his dream."
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