Just five years ago, Henry Staal's home in Thunder Bay, Ont., was a busy place and his four sons were making good use of the backyard rink.
Now, the Staal family rink is no longer and the house seems empty as Henry's boys Eric, Marc and Jordan are busy living out their NHL dreams and youngest son Jared is chasing that same dream in the Ontario Hockey League.
"It's definitely kind of a strange - it was a strange adjustment," Henry said Tuesday during an NHL conference call. "And I think the biggest thing, too, is not having to get home and organize the driving and tournaments and go here and go there sort of thing. It's a little more relaxed in that sense."
Henry and his wife Linda are now busy trying to watch their sons on TV, and sometimes in person. Eric, 22, is already a Stanley Cup champion beginning his fourth season with Carolina. Jordan, 19, has a prominent role in his second season with Pittsburgh. Marc, 20, is in his rookie season with the New York Rangers (also the only defenceman in the family). The parents will try to attend 15-20 games this season.
"Yeah, we try to get around a bit," said Henry. "Well, Marc is just starting this year, so we watched his first game. So we just try to plan like a month in advance and try to catch a few games in the Toronto area mostly because they all end up going there, Buffalo, Toronto.
"So that's kind of what we do. And then at home, it's a lot of PVR recording and watch one game and sit down and skip through and watch the other one."
That's not to say they've forgotten about the youngest, quite the contrary. Jared, 17, is in his second season with the Sudbury Wolves.
"Matter of fact I think we're going to head down there this weekend," said Henry. "He has a couple of games at home. That's been our focus last year and this year, as well, is go down there and catch a lot of games in a short time, and it's a relatively short drive."
Tuesday's conference call was unique in nature. Usually the league puts on one player at a time, not close to an entire family. The sibling rivalry and good-natured ribbing was alive and well during the call.
"Well, I think we all agree we like to go out and go golfing and stuff like that," Jordan said when asked about what the brothers like to do in the off-season. "Obviously we like to see Marc hack it in the bushes and stuff like that."
No worries, Marc was ready and waiting when asked about next Tuesday's game between his Rangers and Jordan's Penguins - the first face-to-face NHL encounter between the two brothers.
"I played against him in junior, in Peterborough, and I believe I laid him out," Marc said while Jordan laughed in the background. "I have a picture of it, too. I can send that to any of you guys if you want."
"I played against Eric last year all the time. But it's definitely a lot different playing against a brother who is a defenceman, for one, and going down his wing. And obviously this time I'm going to end up dangling him."
The Staals still have to pinch each other once in a while - three of them already in the NHL.
"Well, just a couple weeks ago, me and Eric were sitting on the couch and we were watching Marc play with the Rangers, and I kind of looked at him, like, 'Can you believe this? I'm playing you tomorrow, and we're watching Marc on TV," recalled Jordan.
"I don't think any of us really expected it to happen. You know, it is unbelievable that we all made it to this level. I'm proud of my brothers and I'm proud to be here."
Mom and dad are beaming.
"Well, we are both really proud of them," said Henry. "They work hard and they have obviously a certain amount of natural talent, but it takes more than that. And they worked really hard at it and are pretty determined to keep getting better.
"So, yeah, we're definitely proud of their work and what we've seen so far."
The one drawback of having three sons in the NHL?
"The actual winning and losing part of it doesn't really excite me because there's always one guy not too happy and one guy pretty happy," said Henry. "So that part I don't really care for."