Another Staal is coming to Pittsburgh.
Penguins fans will get their first look at Marc Staal on Tuesday night when the New York Rangers visit Mellon Arena. And, it will be the first time he will play against younger brother, Jordan, in the NHL.
Add in oldest brother, Eric, of the Carolina Hurricanes and that gives the family three sons playing in the NHL this season
“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 is this? I'm playing you tomorrow, and we’re watching Marc on TV,’” Jordan said. “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.”
The Staals have become this era’s version of the Sutters, who had six brothers play in the NHL.
“I guess so. I mean, it’s obviously an unbelievable story on their part, and you know, it’s a start for us and hopefully we can keep getting better,” Jordan said.
Eric, the oldest, was the first to reach the NHL. Drafted second-overall in 2003, behind the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric established himself as a force in the NHL and helped Carolina win a Stanley Cup in 2005-06.
Jordan, third in the Staal progression, surprised many by making the Penguins’ roster out of training camp as an 18-year-old last season. He went on to score 29 goals and established NHL rookie records with seven short-handed goals and a 22.1 shooting percentage.
In addition, he set several other league records and was at the forefront of the Penguins’ 105-point surge.
“Well I can't make his head too big,” Eric said with a laugh. “To be honest I wasn’t that surprised. You know, in the summer we work out together in the summer. And then we’re skating with some pro guys at Thunder Bay at the end of last summer, and Jordan was at par with everyone out on the ice.
“And I told him before he left: ‘There’s no reason you should be back.’ And when he stayed, I wasn’t surprised. Maybe a little surprised that he scored 29 goals for an 18-year-old, you know, that was quite an accomplishment. But that just shows you the type of offensive talent he has. And a couple of those goals he scored were for the highlight reel so he’s done a pretty good job.”
Now, Marc, is the third Staal brother to make it to the NHL (the youngest brother, Jared, is on the horizon, too, in junior hockey). Older (20) than Jordan (19) and younger than Eric (23), he was selected 12th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He made his debut this season with the New York Rangers.
“Well, last year, Jordan made it and I didn’t, so younger brother making the NHL, and he had a great season, that didn't bother me at all,” Marc said. “So I don’t really feel like I have to prove anything. I think I just want to play well and show that I can stay here all year and just have fun with it.”
However, Marc is different than his brothers. He’s a defenseman.
“I think that the fact that I’m a defenseman and they are both forwards is a lot easier,” he said. “I mean, I don’t have to try to match their goal totals or anything like that. I’m more of kind of a stay at home, try to take care of my own at first, which is nice in that sense.”
So how did he wind up trying to stop the puck from going in the net when his brothers were determined on doing the opposite?
“It happened when I was like 6 or 7,” he said. “Our team wasn’t very good, so they put me on defense and I played more; I liked it. I could skate backwards, not well, but better than most of the other people, so kind of stuck after that. Obviously, everyone loves to score goals, and when I was younger, I scored goals. I don’t anymore. But no, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
While this game is their first NHL encounter, they battled each other while playing in the Ontario Hockey League.
“In junior hockey, Peterborough, I believe I laid him out – I have a picture of it, too. I can send that to any of you guys if you want,” Marc said with a laugh. “No, it’s always fun to play against your brother. It’s a little bit different and a little bit weird, but I feel like it’s pretty exciting.”
Jordan looks forward to going against Marc.
“Yeah, you know, I played against Eric last year all the time,” he said. “But it’s definitely a lot different playing against a brother who is a defenseman, for one, and going down his wing and obviously this time I’m going to end up dangling him this time. We’ll see, it should be a lot of fun, and I’m kind of excited for it.”
Eric will be glued to the TV to watch the game.
“The date is circled on my calendar,” he said. “I’m going to watch that one.”