They share the same first name and Christiaan Minella and Christian Hanson are crusading to join the lion-hearted of the United States Hockey League this season.
Rookies Minella and Hanson, teammates in the past, will be on opposite sides tonight when the Sioux City Musketeers and Tri-City Storm help christen the 25th anniversary season of the USHL in a 2003-04 season opener in Kearney, Neb.
Saturday, Coach Dave Siciliano's Musketeers make their home debut at Sioux City Auditorium against the Chicago Steel.
"It's going to be real weird going out there against each other," said Sioux City's Minella, who centered a line for the Pittsburgh Hornets Triple-A Midget team last season that featured Hanson on a wing. "Christian and I actually talk on the phone about every day.
"We were teammates so long and we're pretty close. We talk about making the transition to Junior 'A' and try to give each other some support getting through the rough spots.
"Like I said, it's going to be weird, but a fun rivalry."
Not only were Minella and Hanson teammates last year, they also attended the same high school, Peters Township, in McMurray, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Minella poked in 18 goals and scored 43 points for the Hornets last season and was Sioux City's ninth pick in the 2003 USHL draft.
Still, Hanson might be considered a more marquee name.
Christian's father, Dave, played the role of Jack Hanson, one of the three Hanson brothers in the raucous hockey movie "Slap Shot" that featured Paul Newman. Dave Hanson played 10 years in the NHL with Detroit and Minnesota.
Christian Hanson is a senior in high school in Kearney, while Minella graduated from Peters Township last spring.
Hanson's team won the recent Buc Bowl pre-season tournament in Des Moines, winning all three of its games.
"We played well as a team," said Hanson, a rangy 6-3 and 190 pounds. "Everybody helped each other out. We were like one big family and won all of our games.
"My family has been real supportive in making the transition to juniors."
Minella says Christian Hanson does not follow the rough-and-tumble style of his father.
"They're the complete opposite," said Minella. "Christian's more of playmaker than Mr. Hanson, who played the role of a goon-type player, I guess, in the movie. Christian's always bugging me about the spelling of our names. He says his is the right way and mine's always being misspelled.
The Musketeers hope to embark on a campaign that would equal the 2001-02 campaign when Sicilano directed the franchise to the league's playoff championship, winning the Clark Cup.
Last year, the Musketeers won 36 games, but were defeated in four games in a first-round playoff series with the River City Lancers.
"We open the season against a team many think might be the best in the league," said Siciliano. "Tri-City certainly looked the part in the Buc Bowl.
"But, we're excited about our team. I think there's a good mix of veterans and first-year players."
One line will have newcomer Adam Krug centering returning vets Matt Hartman and Mike Ramirez, while Blair Yaworski, another first-year Musketeer, will center Mike Curry and Troy Brummett, who played last year at Cedar Rapids.
The other veteran trio has Ohio State recruit Domenic Maiani centering Peter Cartwright and Brian Bales, all returnees from last season.
Krug, the eighth Sioux City pick in the last league draft, is in his third year of juniors. He brings a defense-oriented mindset to his offensive game.
"I'm considered more of a defensive forward, but I did lead my team last year (Junior 'A' Capital Centre Pride in Lansing, Mich.) in scoring (16 goals, 39 points)," said Krug, who lives in Livonia, Mich. "We've got a lot of experienced guys on the team and a skilled and talented group of first-year players.
"We're pretty deep up front, but our rookies will play a big role, too. Playing for Coach Siciliano has been great. He's the best."
LINE NOTES: Siciliano will rotate goaltenders Jimmy Spratt and Jeff Lantz. Spratt knocked away 48 of 50 shot attempts in the Buc Bowl and each picked up a win in beating Sioux Falls twice last weekend in exhibition games. Lantz led his Bismarck team to the America West Hockey League title last year....
Bill Thomas, who notched a hat trick in a 6-3 win over Green Bay in the Buc Bowl, keys the Tri-City offense and former Musketeer Eric Aarnio could get the starting goaltender call for Tri-City in tonight's contest....
Chicago, the home foe Saturday, is coached by former Musketeer player Wil Nichol. Topher Scott and Matt Clackson are tempered Steel regulars. Clackson, too, is from McMurray, Pa....
The league's two newest franchises -- the Danville (Ill.) Wings and St. Louis Heartland Eagles -- play tonight. Danville hosts reigning Anderson and Clark Cup champion Lincoln, while St. Louis hosts Cedar Rapids. Also tonight, Chicago plays at Sioux Falls....
Sioux City was the sixth playoff seed in the first USHL season, a seven-team organization in 1979-80. The Musketeers lost an open three-game series to Waterloo in '80. The Hennepin (Minn.) Nordiques won the playoff title on goal total (17-15) after going 0-1-2 with Waterloo in the finals.