Dvorak brothers' bond strengthened through hockey

Mar. 15—DICKINSON — Even without considering their last name, it's unmistakable that Kass and Kaden are brothers. Their close bond is evident, both on and off the ice, as they work together in a variety of ways from a coach-player dynamic to their goals of staying in the family business.

Kaden Dvorak is part of a large group of seniors from the Dickison Midget hockey team that made history in taking home their first-ever West Region Championship. Though the seniors were on the cusp of success in previous seasons, Kass Dvorak stepping in as the new head coach would be the genesis of a new chapter in Dickinson.

It was a pairing that not only guided the Midgets to achieve something never before done, but it granted the siblings an opportunity to grow their own relationship in a passion the two have had since their earliest days.

"All of our family is pretty tight, but this season we spent more time with each other being at the rink all the time and I feel like I got to know him better in an atmosphere where it is not all fun and games," Kaden said. "I got to know him in a serious manner."

Kass emphasized that although the puzzle's pieces had long been present, his objective was to assemble them effectively.

"I really didn't reinvent the wheel. Dickinson has been building towards this for a long time and we continued to build on top of it," Kass explained. "Further developing good habits and just being team guys. Doing stuff one shift at a time, is something we talked about a lot."

While Kass was not nominated for Coach of the Year, despite leading the Midgets to the program's historic West Region title, he has never been one for personal accolaids. According to him, the praise belongs entirely to "his boys and his assistant coaches."

"His focus was not just on the fundamental base stuff, but the things that we actually needed to work on," Kaden said. "He watched the film ... Anything that we struggled at during the game, we switched it back on in practice to get better with what we actually need help with."

At the start of the season, the entire team underwent a significant change with the introduction of a completely new coaching staff. For Kaden, this transition brought about worries due to the unknown. With his older brother now in a coaching role, Kaden expressed concerns that their close bond might be strained. He feared that their relationship as player and coach could potentially disrupt the strong connection they had developed over the years.

"I was somewhat nervous, hesitant really, because I wasn't sure if our bond would remain the same," Kaden admitted. "But when he stepped onto the ice and treated me like any other player, I knew it would work. I received no special treatment whatsoever."

Kass shared Kaden's sentiments, emphasizing their professional dynamic on the ice.

"We had a good connection during hockey. He didn't treat me like a brother; he treated me like a coach, and I reciprocated by treating him as a player," Kass affirmed. "There was mutual respect, understanding that on the ice, we were coach and player, not brothers. I think that was crucial."

Nevertheless, despite the shift in roles, their bond persisted and extended beyond familial ties to encompass the entire team. Kaden and other players had observed Kass' performance for the Midgets during his high school years between 2011-2015 and admired him as a role model for success.

"I always thought about coaching, but I never thought I would dive this deep into it. I really enjoy it though," Kass said. "As a new coach coming in, these guys maybe don't trust you because they never seen what you do or they don't know what you are going to do, but just the fact that I knew a lot of these kids and I knew Kaden trusted me and him being a senior leader helped them all other kids trust me. Sometimes that takes more than a year to get that from your players, so getting that early on was huge for our success."

The pinnacle of success came during the West Region tournament, marking a significant milestone not just for the entire program but especially for the senior class, who had dedicated years to clinching the region title. While the state tournament marked the end of their season with two losses, their resilient performance showcased their determination. Kass attributed their success during the season to the players' ability to maintain composure amid intense competition, stressing the importance of staying focused regardless of the circumstances.

"I glanced at the clock, can't recall the exact time, but I knew there wasn't enough time left for them to stage a comeback. That's when I put my hand on Kaden's shoulder, realizing we had secured the West Region Championship," Kass recalled. "The excitement among the boys as they leaped off the bench, tossed their gear aside—it's a moment etched in my memory. That sheer joy is what motivates me to keep coaching. There's nothing quite like it."

For Kaden, the achievement forged enduring friendships and now shifts his focus to college. He'll be attending Dickinson State University in the fall to pursue a degree in business while also working alongside his brother at the Charbonneau Car Company.

Charbonneau, owned by their father Terry Dvorak and co-operated with General Sales Manager Jamie Praus, currently sees Kass as a sales manager. Both brothers harbor aspirations to eventually run the business together. Recently, they worked together at the 31st annual indoor sale at the West River Ice Center, the same venue where they played their home games during the season. Their shared experiences in hockey have strengthened their bond, founded on mutual respect and a shared vision. With their past accomplishments as a springboard, the possibilities for their future endeavors seem boundless.

"Hockey served as a litmus test for our teamwork," Kass remarked. "I'm confident we can take on the family business together. That's our plan, and it'll be built on a solid relationship."