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Tkachuks go miles for Matthew, star siblings

Dad Keith, mom Chantal travel everywhere to follow oldest son, 20-year-old Flames standout, plus their exceptional offspring in college, high school

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Chantal Tkachuk was sitting in the stands at T-Mobile Arena and didn't hesitate when asked how much time she spent at home in St. Louis.

"Actually, since the beginning of 2018, I will be out of town every weekend but one or two until the middle of April," she said, smiling.

Chantal is the air traffic controller of the Tkachuk family, no small task with a husband and three children traveling around North America in pursuit of hockey excellence. Husband Keith Tkachuk, who played 19 seasons in the NHL before retiring in 2010, put it best, in an athletic context.

"It's zone coverage, I'll tell you that," Keith said.

On this morning, Chantal was watching oldest son Matthew, 20, take part in the Calgary Flames' morning skate. She wore a No. 19 Flames jersey (Matthew's number) thrilled to be part of the Flames moms trip, starting at the home of the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 21. It was a rare chance to spend one-on-one time with Matthew, who has 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists) in 64 games this season.

Her middle child, Brady,18, a freshman on Boston University's hockey team, helped the United States win the bronze medal at the 2018 World Junior Championship with nine points (three goals, six assists) in seven games.

Brady is No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm raking of North American skaters for the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas June 22-23.

"The big joke right now is I'm just telling him, 'Get drafted high,' because I don't want to sit in the stands too long at the draft," said Matthew, a first-round pick (No. 6) in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Flames.

Said Keith: "That's Matthew being typical Matthew, being a wise guy. That's how we are. We like to get on each other."

The youngest of the three children is Taryn, 15, who, as a freshman, was the leading field hockey goal-scorer (31) in the St. Louis area, helping Villa Duchesne High School win the state field hockey championship last October.

Keith and Chantal savored a recent family reunion with Keith's family, based in the Boston area, and with members of Chantal's family when a Flames trip to Boston coincided with BU playing in the Beanpot championship at TD Garden on Feb. 13; the Terriers lost the final to Northeastern.

"It was a perfect opportunity for a lot of the family to come in and see them (Matthew and Brady) but it was really fun for the boys because, having the same season, they never get to see each other play," Chantal said. "We had a huge crew. I think there were 23 of us, family from Canada, from St. Louis and family obviously from Boston. We had a ball."

But the opportunities to get all the Tkachuks in one place are rare.

With three children in far-flung places, all with busy game schedules, Keith and Chantal are compiling frequent-flier points at a rapid rate.

"We're going in three different time zones just to watch our kids," said Keith, who also is a part-time scout for the St. Louis Blues.

"There's no bigger a fan than Chantal with all of our kids. She treats Matthew, Taryn and Brady all the same no matter who plays in the NHL and who doesn't."

Video: CGY@ARI: Tkachuk blisters one home short side

Much of their travel is done on weekends, mainly because of Brady's collegiate schedule.

"Normally Keith and I go separately and try to divide and conquer," Chantal said.

For example …

"I try to see Brady monthly whether it's at BU or somewhere on the road," Chantal said. "We had a great time in Buffalo for the World Juniors with Brady and had grandparents and aunts and uncles with us.

"We saw Matthew in St. Louis in October (with the Flames), and then I went for a long homestand in Calgary in November and Keith went in December. We met Matthew in Arizona over the (NHL) All-Star break in January and he came to watch Brady when BU played [Arizona State].

"It was the first time all five of us were in one place since August, so I was in heaven."

That's not all of it.

Taryn is on a traveling club team, meaning more trips for her parents. She also is starting to make college visits, mostly accompanied by her father, who is happy to be out of the freezing arenas, if ever so briefly.

"She tried it (ice hockey) one year but she quit and it was music to my ears," Keith said. "Then she played competitive soccer. When I used to travel with (the boys), we'd be in some cold cities. Now we're in Florida quite a bit, Texas … it doesn't get any better than that."

Chantal said Taryn has watched so much NHL hockey and is so informative that she probably could become a scout.

"She's competitive like her brothers and she does well athletically," Chantal said. "A lot of it is because of her brothers, trying to keep up with them when she was younger. But she's our family ham."

Hockey is in the family DNA, and the highly accomplished Tkachuks don't mind being front and center.

Chantal is from Winnipeg and her father, Don Oster, is so wrapped up in the performance of his grandchildren, he gave up his beloved Winnipeg Jets season tickets, which he had since 2011, because there were too many conflicts. He wanted to be home to be able to watch Calgary Flames and Boston University games.

Calgary (32-25-9, 73 points) trails the Anaheim Ducks by three points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

Keith, born in Melrose, Massachusetts, also starred at BU before making his mark as the League's quintessential power forward. Playing for the Winnipeg Jets (who drafted him No. 19 in the 1990 NHL Draft), Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers, he ranks third in goals (538) and fifth in points (1,065) among U.S.-born players. He played parts of nine seasons (2000-10) with the Blues before retiring.

Matthew was born in Arizona, shortly after the Jets had relocated to Phoenix and several months after his dad led the League with 52 goals in 1996-97. Those early days at the Coyotes practice rink in Scottsdale were almost like a day care center for him.

"He was around the rink a lot growing up," Chantal said. "Even when he was really little. In Arizona the trainers were phenomenal. I would drop him off, and I know the trainers would change his diapers sometimes."

He became part of the team fabric. Jim Schoenfeld, then the Coyotes coach, didn't mind having the observant toddler at practice.

"He would let Matthew sit on the bench with a helmet on and watch practice," Chantal said. "And he loved it so much that he would sit still the entire practice. He was probably 2 at the time."

Matthew's formative years were in St. Louis, where his up-close NHL education continued. "We also had some players live with us throughout Keith's career, so he was surrounded by hockey," Chantal said.

Paul Kariya, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, made an impression on Matthew and Brady after Kariya signed a three-year contract with the Blues in 2007.

"Paul Kariya would work with us," Matthew said. "It was funny because he was the skilled player and my dad was the big power forward. Paul was always teaching me and my brother to do all this skilled stuff, and my dad was like, 'You guys are going to be power forwards.'"

New York Islanders coach Doug Weight, who played six of his 19 NHL seasons with the Blues, was a neighbor of the Tkachuks.

"Dougie is funny," Matthew said. "Every time we play against him, whether it was before the game or a face-off near the bench, I always seem to make eye contact with him for a second or two," Matthew said. "He just stares me down. It's hilarious. He was one of the funniest guys I've ever met."

Matthew has adopted the stare down as part of his on-ice repertoire.

"I'm not a big chirper or anything like that," he said. "Sometimes if I'm upset with somebody I'll just look at them for a little extra longer. It doesn't make them happy, it seems. I just know they aren't happy with about it, 'Why are you staring at me?'"

Matthew Tkachuk is no shrinking violet. He led the Flames in penalty minutes last season with 105 and was suspended for one game in November for unsportsmanlike conduct and another in December for spearing.

"Every time we watch him play we cringe because we think somebody is going to try to take him out or something," Keith said.

Video: CGY@NSH: Tkachuk lifts backhand past Rinne for PPG

Another family topic is the possibility of The Battle of Alberta becoming a reality. It's not out of the question that the Edmonton Oilers, who are 18 points out of a playoff spot, could wind up in position to draft Brady in June.

"I have actually been dreading that," Chantal said. "Last summer I said to Keith, 'I'm telling you right now, he is going to get drafted by Edmonton.' And Keith was like, 'No, it's not going to happen. They're going to be in the playoffs.'

"And sure enough, now it could be a possibility."

Matthew said he won't worry about the maybes and ifs until Brady is selected

"My mom, she's from Winnipeg, and even when I play against Winnipeg, she gets so nervous," Matthew said. "Or St. Louis and all my friends and family are there, she gets so nervous. I can't even imagine.

"She'd be like on one end of the spectrum and my dad would be on the other. Especially if it was a rivalry. Nothing really worries him too much. If we happen to play against each other, he's going to enjoy it.

"We haven't thought too much about that yet. Once he gets drafted, I'm sure it'll change."

Still, the notion of Brady landing in Edmonton is a bit unnerving, even to the laid-back Tkachuk patriarch.

"That could be very, very interesting," Keith said. "That'll try our relationship as a family."

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