Tkachuk family story_tkachuk family pic

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Even tough guys weep.

So says Keith Tkachuk, he of the 2,219 penalty minutes for his NHL career.

During his 18 seasons from 1991-2010 with the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers, the ornery forward was one of the meanest hombres in the League.

On Monday, as the final horn sounded at Amerant Bank Arena, as the confetti began fluttering down from the rafters, as the Florida Panthers began celebrating their 2-1 Stanley Cup-winning victory against the Edmonton Oilers, he looked anything but.

“I was up in the stands crying,” the 52-year-old said. “Who wouldn’t? That’s my son down there. He just won the Stanley Cup.”

If that wasn’t a reason to break into tears, what is?

“I’m so proud of that kid,” he said.

Keith was referring to son Matthew, the Panthers forward and new Stanley Cup champion.

Tkachuk family celebrates Matthew's victory in the Stanley Cup final

Between Keith and sons Matthew and Brady Tkachuk, a forward with the Ottawa Senators, the three have combined for 2,391 NHL games played. It took that many games for one of them to finally be able to hoist hockey’s Holy Grail. It was a long, at times painful journey to get to this point. But get to this point they did.

And for Matthew, this was all worth it.

“This is for my family,” Matthew said, his arms draped around Keith, Brady and mom Chantal during the euphoric on-ice celebration. “Finally, the Tkachuk name will be on the Cup. This is for them. It was a long time coming but this was for them.

“That is the best part of all of this.”

Tkachuk family story_tkachuk family with Cup

As Matthew hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head, Brady was reminded of their childhood days growing up in St. Louis. Whether it was rugged mini sticks in the basement or games of ball hockey in the driveway, the goal always was the same.

“It's something we've dreamt of since we were kids -- mini sticks nonstop. We've always talked about that 3, 2, 1 countdown to score the winner. And to see him be able to accomplish that …”

Brady paused to collect his emotions.

“I know 100 percent without a doubt that he's going to be there for me,” he said. “Honestly, I'm speechless for him. This is amazing. I couldn't picture any better moment than it is right now, and I'm excited to celebrate with him. Just such a great moment.”

One that Matthew dedicated to his parents.

“When I left the house to come to the game, I said I was going to win this one for Mom and Dad,” he said. “I’m glad it came to fruition.”

Unlike 12 months earlier.

During the 2023 Stanley Cup Final, Matthew suffered a cracked sternum when he was flattened by a clean check from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar midway through the first period of Game 3. Not only did Matthew play through the excruciating pain for the remainder of the game, he scored the tying goal with 2:13 remaining in the third period, setting the stage for Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime goal in Florida’s 3-2 victory.

Brady said he had no idea how bad the injury was at the time. He quickly found out when he arrived at Matthew’s residence on the day of Game 4 with the Panthers, down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, looking to tie things up.

“At one point he said, ‘Can you help me up?’” Brady recalled.

Brady thought Matthew was joking. He wasn’t.

“Lift me up,” Matthew said. “I can’t get up on my own.”

With Brady’s help, it took Matthew 15 minutes to get dressed.

Tkachuk family story_Matthew-Brady

Matthew somehow fought through the discomfort to log 16:14 of ice time and fire four shots on goal in the Panthers’ 3-2 loss. That would be his final game. He did not dress for Game 5 in Las Vegas, when the Golden Knights won their first Stanley Cup championship with a 9-3 victory.

This time it was different. This time he finished the job.

"It's night and day,” Brady said. “To see the sacrifice he made last year, to see what he wanted to accomplish with this team last year and then to see this year -- top to bottom, they were built.

“Just to see how my family and just to see Matthew, it's a childhood dream. This is something that we've talked about between Matthew and I that this is what we've wanted to accomplish our whole lives. And to see forever that there's going to be ‘Tkachuk’ on the Stanley Cup, it's a dream come true. And I know he's going to be doing the same thing when it's my time.”

On this night, it was Matthew’s time. And there was no place he would rather be.

His Florida experience began on July 22, 2022, when the Panthers acquired him in blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames for forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, forward prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional first-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft. He’d spent his first six NHL seasons in Calgary and wanted a change of scenery.

For him, ending up in South Florida could not have worked out any better.

"It's a not a dream anymore. It's reality,” he said. “I can't believe it. I can't believe how good these two years have been. So thankful for this group of guys. It's the best place.”

Tkachuk family story_Matthew-Keith

In the process, he showed some love to Flames fans. For years, he’d been part of the Battle of Alberta against the Oilers. Now, here he was, having the last laugh against his one-time hated foes.

“Shout out to my fans in Calgary,” he said. “You know I couldn't let Edmonton win the Cup.”

And even though several of his teammates said he’d been playing through a significant undisclosed injury, he didn’t.

With the Oilers coming up short, it’s now 31 years and counting since a Canada-based team won the Stanley Cup, the last being the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

Brady was asked if his Senators would be the team to break that drought.

"I don't want to say it,” he said. “I'm happy of course [for] Florida, for Matthew, but I want to be the next Canadian team to win.”

With that, he and Matthew each popped open a can of beer and cheered each other. Within seconds, Keith came over and did the same. The three then disappeared into the mass of humanity on the ice to continue their party.

Knowing the Tkachuks, it lasted deep into the night.

And many more of them, to be sure.

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