WESTFIELD, NJ — Chris Aslanian had just finished practice when his phone started buzzing.
The general manager of the Denver Outlaws, the Major League Lacrosse team Chris plays for, was calling. He had a simple message to deliver.
We got Pat.
Pat Aslanian — Chris’ younger brother by one year — was acquired from the Chesapeake Bayhawks in return for faceoff specialist Zach Meillo. For the first time since high school, the Aslanian brothers were back together again.
“If you had told me back in first grade that this would happen, I’d have been the happiest kid in the world,” Chris said. “It’s just an awesome feeling.”
Lacrosse has always been in the Aslanian brothers’ blood. Their father, Chris Sr., was a decorated attackman at Westfield High School and Rutgers University, where he captured first team All-Big East honors.
In second grade, Chris set out to follow in his father’s footsteps, kickstarting his lacrosse career in the Westfield youth program. Pat, while a year younger, tagged along, playing up a grade to roam the field by his brother’s side.
“Chris was always out in the yard at a young age with a stick, so Patrick followed suit,” Chris Sr. said. “And Chris was always positive and encouraging. It was never a ‘one outshines the other’ situation.”
With Chris Sr. as their coach, Chris and Pat played together throughout elementary school. When Chris entered sixth grade, the brothers split up for the first time, Pat heading back to play with the rest of the fifth graders.
While on different teams, Chris and Pat never strayed too far from each other. Backyard training sessions lasted for hours on end, with the brothers helping to further each other’s game: Chris, an attackman, helped Pat sharpen his offensive skills while Pat, a defensive midfielder, honed Chris’ defensive technique.
“We grew up together with a stick in our hands,” Chris said. “There was always mutual respect there. It was all about pulling for one another and trying to be the best players and people we could be.”
Sibling relationships tend to naturally lead themselves toward competition. Sports have a way of exacerbating such rivalries. But for the Aslanians, lacrosse welded their relationship rather than pull it apart.
“Going to bed every night with a dude sleeping in the same room as you, you don’t really have a choice but to get along,” Pat said. “He’s my best friend. I’m his best friend. We’ve never let sports or competition get in the way of that. We’ve spent our whole lives having a pretty special balance between pushing each other, but also supporting each other.”
At Westfield High School, Chris and Pat were reunited on the field. The tandem played a year of jayvee lacrosse together before starring as upperclassmen on varsity. In 2014, Chris’ senior year, the brothers helped secure a state championship for Westfield, piloting one of the most successful campaigns in school history.
“You could see the look on their faces, how happy they were,” Chris Sr. said. “They celebrated together and with their teammates. It was just a true reflection of their relationship with each other and with the game. Sharing that experience, it was the culmination of years and years of hard work and dedication.”
After high school, Chris took a postgraduate year at the Hun School in Princeton before heading to Hobart, while Pat played for Georgetown. Each summer, they would train for their collegiate seasons in similar fashion as they had done growing up. Come the season, they made sure to keep close tabs on the other’s performance.
“We’d go our separate ways after the summer, but we’d always just try to be there for one another,” Pat said.
The Outlaws made Chris their second-round selection in the 2019 MLL Draft. Pat opted to play one more year of collegiate lacrosse as a graduate student at Notre Dame, a season that was truncated in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This past April, the Bayhawks selected Pat in the fifth round of the 2020 MLL Draft, momentarily dashing the opportunity for the Aslanians to play together at the professional level.
That is, until June 26 arrived. Chris, hunched over at his locker, picked up his phone to learn of his brother’s trade. A lacrosse journey that started 15 years earlier had come full circle.
“It’s always been a privilege,” Pat said. “No matter what level we’ve been at, we’ve always enjoyed it. It’s always been a treat to play with my older brother.”
“I’ve probably spent more time with him than really anybody else,” Chris said. “We’ve been through this journey together. We grew up together. We’ve helped push one another and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”
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