DETROIT -- Jordan Staal
was asked if there might be a league rule passed that every Stanley Cup Final has to include a member of the Staal family, since this is the third year in a row.
He laughed and said, "With four brothers owned by NHL teams now, we've got a pretty good shot at something like that."
It's no stretch to say that Jordan Staal
has had a chance to watch and learn about the Stanley Cup Final up close and personal. And that now, he would like nothing better than to take the next step.
Back in the summer of 2006, Jordan was in Carolina and Edmonton watching his brother, Eric, go through a thrilling seven-game Final triumph as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes -- first with his family in Raleigh at the start of the Final and later as a member of the Top Prospects group attending the series against the Oilers in Edmonton in preparation for the 2006 Entry Draft.
"When I was watching Eric play against Edmonton for the Cup, I remember thinking, 'If my brother can do it, why can't I,' " Jordan said at a media gathering in Detroit before he and the Pittsburgh Penguins meet the Red Wings in the Final for the second-straight year.
When the 2006 Final got to Game 7, Jordan was back home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, watching the series with a few buddies.
"I don't know how many times my brothers and I played for a fictitious Stanley Cup on our rink in the backyard and Eric (the oldest of the four Staal boys) and Jared (the youngest) would face Marc and myself and we'd usually win," Jordan laughed about the games played on the rink Henry Staal built from whatever arena scraps he could get his hands on. "But this was reality. It was really something seeing my brother playing for the Stanley Cup.
"When the 'Canes beat Edmonton, my friends and I all stood up and pumped our fists into the air in celebration."
A couple of weeks later, Jordan Staal
went on to be chosen No. 2 in the '06 Draft by the Penguins. He's now in his third season in the NHL -- and about to play in the Final for the second-straight year.
He's a lot more relaxed this time.
"When we played against Detroit last year, I realized it's much tough to win that trophy when you are playing and not just watching," he said. "This season has been much more difficult for us until Dan Bylsma came in to coach. He's made coming to the rink more fun."
A lot has happened to Staal and the Penguins since last June, when the Red Wings won Game 6 and hoisted the Stanley Cup at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. Management realized Jordan's value to the team, signing the 20-year-old center to a new four-year deal. The Penguins' attacking style under Bylsma has opened up Jordan's game, turning him from a defense-first center to another force up the middle at both ends of the rink. It was no coincidence that the team went on an 18-3-4 roll in its last 25 regular-season game after Bylsma took over for Michel Therrien in mid-February.
"Part of this contract is that we hope Jordan's best hockey is ahead of him," Penguins GM Ray Shero said. "Everybody is looking for good, young players and he certainly fits that criteria. We see him as a very big part of our future."
Staal has only 2 goals and 4 assists in 17 playoff games this spring. But he and his teammates are poised to show what they learned from facing the Red Wings last year.
"I'm/we're more confident, more comfortable with our game," he said. "Last year, I thought we let them play their game. This time, we want to play fast, not sit back. Force them to play our game."
Which is speed and creating turnovers.
That scenario could easily help Staal and the Penguins avenge the six-game loss to Detroit in last year's Final.
After all, he wants a Cup party, too.
In the summer of 2006 when Eric brought the Stanley Cup to Thunder Bay, Ontario, he remembers how much of a buzz there was back home.
"Eric brought it to the city and he brought it to our grandparents' place and to our grade school. He took it to his cottage and then brought it to our house for a little celebration with family and friends," Jordan recalled. "It's amazing how excited people get when the Cup is around. There was a definite buzz in the air. I was a few feet away, but I couldn't touch it."
Jordan had a couple of photos taken with the trophy. But he adhered to the tradition that you don't touch the Cup until you've earned it on the ice.
"I was part of the celebration, but at the same time I kind of kept my distance," he explained. "It was kind of hard for me with the Cup five feet away and I couldn't touch it. I hope we can do it again.
"Winning the Cup is the greatest prize a hockey player could ever want, and it's something I want to be a part of."
Author: Larry Wigge | NHL.com Columnist