It's certainly not the most romantic of settings, but Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux's love for hockey spawned in a backyard swamp known as "The Coulee" in Grand Forks, N.D.
With no boards, refs or coaches, the twins would hit the frozen lagoon with their four older brothers for hours of playtime far above and beyond what any average rink rat acquires.
"We could pretty much just skate whenever we wanted, and it was where we really learned a lot of our skills," said Jocelyne, who, along with her sister, was part of the silver-medal-winning U.S. team at the 2010 Winter Olympics (both girls play forward). "It was fun because we didn't always have someone telling us what to do. It was just about going out to play and have fun."
Growing up, the six Lamoureux siblings dominated that patch of ice -- officially the English Coulee -- from late fall through early spring. Each night their mom would emerge on the front step and blow her whistle three times, signaling bedtime.
"We would rarely listen, and she would have to march over to get us," laughed Monique. "It was just something we always loved to do."
With six talented hockey players in the Lamoureux clan, however, some of the locals were left to speculate as to whether their dad, Jean-Pierre, who in his day helped the University of North Dakota win two NCAA titles, was pushing them to play, rather than letting them choose their own paths.
"We weren't playing hockey because our parents made us play, it was just something we gravitated toward because our brothers played," Monique said. "It was something we could all do together as a group, whether it was on the coulee in the winter or street hockey in the summer."
Indeed, while the extensive amount of time they spent scrimmaging and skating was seen as far from normal by outsiders, the twins never second-guessed their early passion for the game.
"Right away I just loved it and wanted to be like my brothers and follow them around," Jocelyne said. "I remember spending a ton of time shooting and thinking it was cool. A lot of kids just wouldn't think that was fun, but we always loved it."
"I remember my dad bought a weight set and put it in the basement when we were in elementary school," Monique said. "We would have bench-press contests with my brother, Mario. What 12-year-old girl does that? It was just always fun and competitive."
Sibling bonding and rivalry prompted a love for the game, but it was the sport's competitiveness that helped continue to cultivate the 24-year-old twins' commitment. Just as they had been in constant pursuit to outskate their brothers, they say they are still motivated by the need to always demonstrate their worth on the ice. They'll be at it again this week in Lake Placid, N.Y., playing for the United States in the Four Nations Cup against Canada, Sweden and Finland, the top four teams at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The Four Nations is part of Team USA's preparation for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
"Playing with the best girls in the world, it's about going out and proving yourself every single day," Monique said. "While that can be stressful, I sometimes just step back and think about the fact that I get to play the sport I love and it's my job. This is what we have worked for our entire lives, and it's all a part of the dream."
To be sure, while they rarely play with their brothers anymore, that shared ambition between sisters makes the game that much closer to their hearts.
"The sibling bond has always been a common theme for us, and being able to play and make the team together has made it that much more special," Jocelyne said.
"But we aren't satisfied yet. We are hungry for more and eventually want to be able to go out on top."