Family Values

A Passion For The Game Runs Through The Caufield Bloodlines
Greg Bates

Some families pass down priceless heirlooms from generation to generation. For the Caufields, a passion for hockey is their invaluable gift.

The Wisconsin family is in its third generation of passionate hockey talent on the ice. And that passion won't be stopping at any point too soon.

It started with Wayne, the family patriarch who played in the Eastern Hockey League from 1963-70, and later became a player/coach for the Milwaukee Admirals. His son, Paul, latched onto the sport at an early age and went on to star at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he remains the school's all-time leading scorer.

Then there are Paul's sons, Brock and Cole. Both traded in baby booties for skates at the tender age of 2, and quickly proved to be naturals on the ice - just like dad and grandpa. And now both are making a name for themselves as teenagers.

Brock, 19, will play his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin this fall, while 17-year-old Cole will skate one more season with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program's Under-18 Team.

"You look back and our family was together when we were in rinks," Paul said. "We were just growing up with it. My dad gave us the passion and the love of the game and it trickled down. You don't want to say genes are everything, but my kids have a couple generation of genes in them and I think that might help out a little bit."

Wayne, who was a Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 2011, loves knowing he's the first in a great line of hockey players in his family.

"I think it's great how an entire family is involved in the game," said Cole, who is one of the highest ranked North American skates eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. "Just learning from them and seeing what they did kind of just made me appreciate the game more and just love it from a young age."

Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Wayne would walk a couple blocks from his parents' house to an ice rink where he would skate with the likes of the Espositos - yes, Phil and Tony - and Lou Nanne. As a prospect in the Detroit Red Wings system, he spent seven years in the Eastern Hockey League before moving to Wisconsin in 1972 to join the Admirals program of the United States Hockey League. Years later, Wayne would coach his son at Milwaukee SHAW high school.

Paul would go on to make a name for himself as a college star at Stevens Point, where he tallied a school-record 254 points, including 126 goals. Several years later he would return to his alma mater to take an assistant coaching job. The city would serve as a launching pad for the next generation of Caufield hockey prodigies.

With two years of skating under his belt, Brock hit the ice as a 4-year-old with his mom and brother watching from the stands. That day was a turning point for the entire family.

"Cole would start watching and he started crying because he wanted to play," Wayne recalled. "So, the coach came out and said, 'Let him play. He can skate as well as anybody else on the ice.' And that's where it started. He was 2 years old then and still in diapers."

It's been hockey, hockey, hockey ever since for the Caufield siblings.

It certainly helped the boys' development that in 2006, Paul took over as the rink manager at Ice Hawks Arena in Stevens Point, which provided the boys with plenty of access to ice.

"We've always lived at the rink I feel like in the summer," Cole said.

Despite being 22 months apart, the two brothers are close. They're also extremely competitive.

"They're best friends, but when they have to compete for something you can see them driving each other and I think it was a great thing," their dad said. "It's been great having two boys that close and that built in friendship that they both have the same goals in life."

Coming up the hockey pipeline, the brothers played together growing up, including with Team Wisconsin. When Brock was a junior and Cole a freshman at Stevens Point Area High School in 2015-16, the two tore up Wisconsin high school hockey. But that was the final season they played together.  

Brock recently wrapped up his second season with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers with Brock put up 18 goals and 22 assists in 2017-18 last year and Cole was in his first year splitting time with the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 teams in Plymouth, Mich., and Cole lit up the scoreboard with 54 goals and 26 assists.

The brothers know they wouldn't have nearly as much success on the ice if it wasn't for each other.

"I don't think I'd be where I'm at today without my dad and brother," said Cole, who will join Brock at Wisconsin for the 2019-20 season. "They've helped me all the way up and just their knowledge and knowing what to do and how to push me to be who I am today. It's awesome to see how those two have shaped me as a person, as a player."

"I definitely wouldn't be the same without him, because he's a workout partner," Brock said. "It's almost better because you have someone to compete against. If he does this, I want to do that. It goes back and forth." 

The brothers faced off against one another four times last season, with Cole holding the upper hand with four goals and two assists as the U.S. National teams went 4-0 against the Gamblers. But Brock would have had the last laugh during their final meeting on March 2 in Green Bay, Wis., when he scored a power-play goal while his brother was sitting in the penalty box.

"He was chirping at me on the bench about it," Brock said. "'It took a penalty for you just to score.' It was cool."

Wayne and his wife, Eileen, loved witnessing the light-hearted moment between their grandsons.

"I was sitting up in the stands with Paul and Kelly, so when that happened we just all broke out laughing," Wayne said. "We knew the boys had something to say to one another after that."

That special on-ice moment between the brothers said it all. Hockey is more than just a game: it's about friendship and family. Having the "Caufield" name on the back of their jersey is what matters for Cole and Brock as they embark on a journey that will hopefully take them farther than either the grandfather or dad reached during their illustrious careers.

"Everybody knows the team comes first," Brock said. "But it's special to know what's on the back and know that you're representing your whole family and your grandpa, your dad."


Greg Bates is a national freelance writer based out of Green Bay, Wis.





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