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Three's company in Staal television room

by Bob Condor

"We have two TVs, two remotes, two recalls. It works for two games. We have both sets on, turning up the sound on one and turning down volume the other."
-- Henry Staal

The Staal household in Thunder Bay, Ontario, has two televisions, which doesn't seem to be quite enough this time of year. That's because Linda and Henry Staal – you might recognize the surname – have three sons who play in the NHL and make a habit of reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

On Wednesday's opening night of the postseason, the Staals sat down to follow two 7 p.m. ET starts (son Jordan with the hometown Penguins in Pittsburgh and son Marc in D.C. as his Rangers played the Capitals). No problem, at least for 30 minutes.

"We have two TVs, two remotes, two recalls," said Henry Staal, laughing. "It works for two games. We have both sets on, turning up the sound on one and turning down volume the other."

But then the juggling started. Son Eric and his Carolina Hurricane teammates were slated for a 7:30 ET start in New Jersey against the Devils. Uh-oh, overlapping was inevitable.

"Well, two of those games turned into bigger leads [Jordan's Penguins won 4-1 and Eric and the 'Canes lost 4-1], so we were switching back and forth with those games and had the sound on for Marc's game [a 4-3 Rangers victory]," said Henry.

Friday night will be back to a two-TV proposition for the Staals, because the Rangers and Capitals will play Saturday afternoon on NBC (1 p.m.) and move that series to different days from here out. The Penguins host Philadelphia for Game 2 while the Hurricanes are back in New Jersey hoping to square that series. Those two series have the same dates for the first six games, but only four run concurrently because Pittsburgh-Philly has two 3 p.m. games scheduled.

The Staals' mom, Linda, will be right beside her husband in front of those two TV screens. "She is OK when the boys hit another player but not when the boys get hit," said Henry.

Henry said that hit-but-don't-get hit perspective can be challenging for Linda every time the Rangers and Hurricanes hook up, because "Marc and Eric can go at it pretty good."

Along with an obvious rooting interest, all three Staal brothers currently in the NHL – youngest brother Jared is a top prospect with Phoenix – consult their father at times during each season. All that use of the TV remote and recall has a practical element.

"Each of them will ask me [for feedback] when they think they are not playing well," said Henry, who played hockey but only coached the boys at the youngest ages in order to have enough time to watch all four play their games. "It's funny that they ask me, but I have watched them a lot over the years. I talk to them about whether they are playing smart enough or physical enough, talk about when their feet aren't moving or that their body position is why they are getting beat."

Positioning themselves for the second round involves last-minute strategy for the Staals. They will wait to see which teams will be opponents and, even then, wait several games before traveling to Carolina, New York or Pittsburgh for a series.

"Last year for Game 5 of Pittsburgh and the Rangers [which the Penguins won to eliminate New York], we weren't going to go; then, at the last minute we decided to go," said Henry. "If the series went to six or seven games, we were planning to travel to New York and back to Pittsburgh to stay with the series."

Henry said he finds it difficult to attend games in person if he and Linda have a son on both sides, though regular season is a bit easier than the win-or-go-home nature of the postseason.

"You sit with the parents and wives of the home team because that's where you get the tickets," said Henry, laughing. "But then when the home team scores and everybody is cheering, we find it hard to cheer because of our son on the other team. So the other family members in those seats look at us sort of funny when we aren't cheering so hard."

When a series is decided, the Staals' father said it is "not easy as a parent because you feel more for the son who lost out, while you still want to be happy for the guy who moves on."

Since their boys are all Eastern Conference players, the Stanley Cup Final poses no conflicted cheering. The Staals attended every game of last year's Final and same for Eric's magical run with Carolina in 2006.

"It is an amazing experience to watch the Stanley Cup Final and be with our son and the team the whole way," said Henry, who is a sod farmer when not traveling to NHL cities for some regular-season games and later-round playoff games. "It is a grind and requires intense focus for a long time. When these players win the Cup, it's more of a release than anything else."
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