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Foote brothers living out NHL dream with Bolts

Cal and Nolan will both be in Tampa Bay's lineup for tonight's preseason matchup vs. Nashville

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Before the start of the second period of Tampa Bay's preseason contest Wednesday at Carolina, Nolan Foote found himself sitting on the Lightning bench next to his older brother Cal, a defenseman in the organization.

Nolan looked over and caught Cal's eye.

And they laughed.

"It was just really cool," Nolan said.

Start of the third period, same situation.

Again, more laughter.

"It felt surreal," Nolan said. "It's so cool. Being in a NHL rink together is awesome."

If someone snapped a picture of the Foote brothers sitting next to one another by themselves on the Carolina bench together, Nolan would like a copy. So would Cal.

"Probably good for the parents," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper joked. "They get to watch one game and catch both their sons."

With both brothers in the lineup again tonight when the Lightning travel to Nashville to complete a home-and-home preseason set versus the Predators, the two will get another opportunity for that surreal moment.

Get those cameras ready.

Other than the Prospects Showcase in Nashville earlier this month, the last time the Foote brothers were able to play together for the same team in an actual game came during Cal's final year of junior hockey in 2017-18. Both were skating for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. It was the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets were playing the Tri-City Americans.

"We got swept," Nolan said. "It was my second year of junior, his third year."

Cal had already been drafted by the Lightning, the organization taking him the summer prior to that season with the 14th pick at the 2017 NHL Draft.

Nolan would be selected by the Lightning two years later with the 27th selection at the 2019 Draft.

Now the two suit up together once again for the same team for Lightning preseason games. On the charter flight to Carolina, Nolan said he sat next to his brother on the plane to pick his brain. It would be his first NHL game and he'd be going up against stars like Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin for the Hurricanes.

"Just go and have fun and enjoy it, first NHL game, take it all in," Nolan said of the advice his brother gave him on that plane ride to Raleigh. "Listen to your coaches and take advice from your teammates because you're playing with NHL guys and learn from them and the opposing team. There's a lot of good players in both lineups that are playing, so just try to take it all in."

Having an older brother who's in his third Lightning training camp is a luxury for a player like Nolan in his first camp. It's allowed him to assimilate seamlessly into the organization, have a better understanding of the systems the Lightning run, get to know the rest of the prospects a little quicker.

It's also allowed him to be a lot more at ease in his play. Nolan has impressed during camp with his physical style of play and accurate, difficult-to-stop shot. He's been one of the surprises of camp. The Lightning knew they were getting a good player when they drafted him, but maybe didn't think he'd be this good this early.

"Cal's been here for a little bit," Cooper said. "He's kind of the elder statesman in the organization as far as the brothers are concerned. I think it's good for Nolan to have his brother around, somebody that you're familiar with, that's been down the road and you know what to expect. Just having that sounding board I think it's comforting for both."

Nolan said he watches a lot of hockey on television, but seeing players like Aho skate from a rink-side vantage point was eye opening.

"It was crazy. Everything I expected," Nolan said of his debut. "The NHL is fast, physical. That's something I need to work on is continuing to get quicker and faster. It really pushed me, and I think it's making me a better player figuring out what I need to work on. It was awesome. It was a surreal feeling coming into Carolina and playing that first game."

Tonight in Nashville, there will be more opportunities for both brothers to impress and make a statement to the coaching staff they belong in the NHL.

There will be more picture-perfect moments for the Foote family scrapbook.

And there will undoubtedly be more laughter between Cal and Nolan on the Bolts bench.

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