His grandfather was from Montreal.
“He loved the Canadiens, and obviously, not a Bruins fan,” Shayne Gostisbehere said.
His sister was a competitive figure skater. They lived in South Florida, roughly 40 miles from Miami. Obviously, not a hockey environment, but they both flourished in what they did.
Shayne’s youth hockey club gave new meaning to the word “travel,” playing up and down the Northeast and across the Midwest.
None of which goes to explain how the 5-foot-11, 170-pound American-born defenseman has become such a hot button topic with Flyers fans, many of whom saw his Union College team win the Frozen Four last winter at Wells Fargo Center and would love to see "Ghost" -- his nickname -- patrolling the blue line this season as a Flyer.
“He has offensive abilities and creativity, well, like you can’t teach that,” Kjell Samuelsson, the Flyers' director of player development, said. “When he comes up ice, it’s just hard to teach that.”
He will weave and skate, and well, if he reminds you of a young Bobby Orr rushing the puck, it may be because he actually studied videotapes of Orr when he was growing up in Margate, Fla.
“My grandpa showed me some footage of Bobby Orr and the things he did. I said, ‘I want to try that stuff,’” Gostisbehere said at Flyers development camp last week. “I started trying to rush the puck. He’d show me videos.
“I loved the way he played. I wore No. 4 when I was little because I wanted to play like him, rushing the puck, making things happen offensively. Just thought he was a great player.”
Nothing would make the Flyers happier than if Gostisbehere someday puts his own spin on Orr as an NHL player.
Among the prospects he will have to beat out is Robert Hagg from Sweden, who is a more well-rounded, two-way defenseman, yet lacks the offensive flair and flat-out maneuverability of Gostisbehere.
Along with Prongeresque-type defenseman Samuel Morin, over the next year or two, one of these young players is going to emerge.
General manager Ron Hextall said on Friday he would relish seeing Gostisbehere come into training camp this fall and make a case for himself to play right now as a 21-year-old, but he is fearful for his size and feels he needs at least one year in the AHL.
“I don’t want him getting killed out there, either,” Hextall said.
None of the Flyers' defensive prospects, including Morin, seem particularly focused on coming to camp and making the roster right now. All seem to agree they need more seasoning. All are focused on now, not the future.
“I am just coming to development camp and training camp and trying to learn,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s my first training camp. I am trying to learn most importantly. Everyone wants to make the team, but of course, that is not going to happen.
“I look over at the [others]. It is a competition, at times. Right now, we’re not looking too much into it.”
The Flyers need quicker, younger legs on defense. Until they get another shot of both, they will not be in the same class as a number of other NHL clubs who are closer to winning a Stanley Cup than they are.
Which means a waiting game is about to unfold. Unless something unforeseen occurs in September.
“The Flyers have a plan for me,” Gostisbehere said. “I’m all ears. I’m a sponge. I want to learn every day. I just want to give myself a chance to be on this team, not for a couple games, but for long term. If it’s a year in the AHL or two years in the AHL, then that’s what it’s got to be.”
What raised the expectations of so many people was the Frozen Four. Gostisbehere put on a one-man exhibition, earning MVP honors (see story).
It was almost too good a script for Philly. Third-round dark-horse pick from 2012 has a stellar collegiate career and comes into his own at the same time the Flyers have a pressing need to get a homegrown defenseman on their roster, then amazes fans in Philadelphia, whetting their appetite for more.
“Such a special feeling for me and my teammates at Union,” Gostisberhere said of the Frozen Four. “Initially, I forgot when we were in the regionals that the Frozen Four was here in Philly.
“Just seemed the timing was right. The way we ended there. I could not say anything better. It was special to win in that building in front of my friends and family.”
And Flyer personnel, as well.
“He has a little way to go and he put some pounds on this summer,” Flyers director of player development Kjell Samuelsson said. “He won’t go up to 200 pounds. He gets away with it because he is so good on his skates. As soon as he gets the puck, he gets away from pressure right away.”
One thing Hextall stressed. He wants Gostisbehere to be fully ready for the physical brand of hockey in the NHL and develop the skills needed to minimize the dangerous hits at his smallish size.
Gotisbehere said he’s heard that before. His answer? You can’t hit what you can’t catch and he’s a snail darter.
He played two games with the Phantoms last spring. Just for a taste.
“I got hit one time,” he recalled. “I’m an elusive player. I won’t take hits like most guys would. I won’t shy away from them either. My skating allows me to maneuver around hits and play smart with my body type.”