|The Penguins' Jordan Staal and the Rangers' Marc Staal each hope this is the year that they follow the lead of older brother Eric and win the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I thought if my brother can do it, why can't I," Jordan said.
Those words were likely common during those confrontational two-on-two battles on the home-made ice rink nestled on the Staal property in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It was there that Henry Staal, the father of four hockey-crazed sons, Eric, Jordan, Marc and Jared, would play the role of maintenance man.
"Heck, I couldn't skate and when I did, the boys would just laugh at me anyway," Henry told NHL.com. "My job was limited to filling holes and scraping the ice surface, and I was fine with that."
The memorable matchups usually paired the oldest, Eric, now 23, with the youngest, Jared, now 17, against middle siblings Jordan, now 19, and Marc, now 21.
Today, the passion and intensity exhibited back then hasn't changed; just the age.
"When we were younger, we picked a player that we wanted to be," Marc Staal recalled. "It usually varied, but most of the time we picked the same guys. We never really had a trophy to play for, but we just played a mini-series; a best two out of three or something like that. It was just a lot fun for us growing up and doing that kind of stuff."
Those were the days when Henry and his wife, Linda, would watch the shinny games from the kitchen window and shake their head in amazement about how their sons could handle the bitter cold. And while dad always dreamed of one day having his boys play professionally, he could have never imagined the scenario now transpiring right before his eyes.
This playoff season, Eric, Marc and Jordan will be the first set of three brothers to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1992, when the Broten family -- Aaron, Neal and Paul -- and Sutter family -- Brent, Rich and Ron -- entered the postseason with visions of avenging backyard quarrels of yesteryear.
This time around, Eric is starring in Carolina, Marc with the Rangers and Jordan in Pittsburgh. Jared, who is eligible for the MHL Entry Draft in June, is currently having great success with Sudbury in the Ontario Hockey League.
"Just from skating with (Jared) over the summer, you can see his development and his confidence growing," Eric said. "He's improved over the last couple of years and he's put up some good numbers. He's got a good future ahead of him in this game, but he's just got to continue to do what he's doing; working hard and getting stronger."
Marc, Jordan and Jared are all hoping to follow the lead of Eric, who topped the League in playoff scoring with 28 points in his second season during Carolina's Stanley Cup run in 2005-06. Oldest brother actually toted the Cup back to Thunder Bay in the summer of 2006 to the delight of his younger siblings.
"Eric's brothers wouldn't actually come out and say it, but you could see on their faces that they would enjoy celebrating in the same fashion as Eric," Henry Staal admitted. "The Cup was in the house and in the yard where they played and I know they were kind of thinking how great it would be to win it all."
The sight of Eric and his teammates reveling in victory following Carolina's seven-game Stanley Cup victory against Edmonton inspired Jordan, who scored three goals in five playoff games as a rookie in Pittsburgh last season.
|The eldest Staal brother, Eric, won the Cup with Carolina in his second season in the NHL. Eric Staal highlights|
Marc, the NHL rookie of the group, is gearing up for the challenges that lie ahead in his first postseason.
"I'm pretty excited to experience the playoffs in the NHL," Marc said. "I watched the playoffs all the time and to now get a chance to be involved is something I'm looking forward to. If I go up against one of my brothers, that adds a whole other element to it and would be pretty cool as well."
Henry Staal has a different perspective.
"I tell you, I'm not looking forward to the playoffs knowing I might have to watch two sons going against each other," he said. "I want to be a cheerleader but it's going to be tough knowing one will be happy and the other won't when a series is over. But it's great knowing three of my boys are getting an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup."
Actually, it won't be the first time two Staal brothers will be squaring off in a hockey playoff series. Marc and Jordan crossed paths a number of times in the Ontario Hockey League when Jordan played for Peterborough and Marc for Sudbury from 2004-2006.
The memories are vivid.
"One time I remember Jordan coming through center ice and I caught him and that was pretty good," said Marc, the lone defenseman of the foursome. "That's the only one I remember because we didn't fare so well in that round."
Added Jordan: "I scored one goal, which stuck out for me. It wasn't the biggest goal or anything like that, but our team did pretty well, so I guess it was just nice to sweep the brother."
Make no mistake, if Marc is given another chance to line up Jordan or, perhaps even the golden boy, Eric, this postseason, he'll probably jump at the opportunity while reflecting back on those cold winter months as a kid in Thunder Bay.
In fact, Marc still believes he and Jordan would win the fictitious Cup from Eric and Jared even today on the home-made rink if the foursome hit the ice for old-time's sake.
"There's no doubt Jordan and I would win that game right now, just as we did when we were younger," he said.
Spoken like a true brother.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.