The Staal brothers are pretty competitive off the ice.
They’re even more intense on it.
It reached a new level Saturday night since the first round of the Staal family feud, NHL-style, took place at Mellon Arena.
Eric, the oldest of the four Staal brothers, and his Hurricanes upended Jordan, the third in the family line, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-1.
“It’s always a big deal for our family when the brothers play each other,” Jordan said. “We’re really competitive as a family. I just got the bad end of the draw.”
Eric had a goal for the Hurricanes, while Jordan, who scored his first NHL goal Thursday night, was held without a point.
Nevertheless, the Staal family has produced quite a line of talented hockey players:
Eric, the 2003 second-overall draft choice behind the Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, was the first Staal brother to reach the NHL level when he made his debut in 2003. Only 21, the young 6-foot-3, 200-pound centerman won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes last season.
Next in line is Marc, who was taken 12th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers. Unlike his brothers, the 19-year-old plays defense. The 6-3, 196-pounder has not cracked the Rangers’ lineup yet and remains at Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League.
Then, there’s Jordan. The Penguins selected the youngster with the second-overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. The youthful center only turned 18 less than a month before the NHL season began. Yet, he impressed the Penguins enough with his speed, skill and size (6-4, 215 lbs.) – which makes him the biggest of the group.
Another is one on the way, too. Jared, a 16-year-old, is playing alongside brother Marc for Sudbury. The 6-2, 185-pound right wing is in his first season with the Wolves.
All four have enjoyed success at every level so far. That has caused some who have followed the NHL for many years to anoint the Staals as one of hockey’s great families, with the likes of the Sutters, who sent six brothers to the NHL.“Watching the Sutters as kids was amazing. To have that many brothers in an elite league like that, it’s pretty amazing,” Eric said. “Obviously, you know, myself and my three brothers are on the way, but I haven’t quite made it yet. But it’s nice to kind of have a little bit of that comparison. You know, they are tremendous, hard-working people, and all of those guys played in the league for a long time. You know, I give them a lot of credit and hopefully we can come somewhat close to that with my brothers as well.”
Eric blossomed last season with the Hurricanes when he scored 45 goals and added 55 assists for 100 points. Jordan is just trying to carve out his niche in the NHL.
“I am really glad to get the opportunity to play here,” Jordan said. “I am real excited to show the coaches what I got.”
Jordan doesn’t hesitate asking his big brother for some advice, either.
“I talked to him a bit after I made the team. He gave me a few congratulations here and there,” he said. “He’s been busy, too. He’s not thinking about me too much and I am just trying to do my thing here.”
Big brother Eric doesn’t mind helping out his siblings even though they are on different teams.
“I talked to them more on the phone as of late because I was interested to see how they were doing in training camp. They are doing very well and making it hard for the head guys to send them back to junior, so that’s always good,” he said. “And I try to keep tabs as much as I can, talk to them every couple days on the phone, and Jared, as well, back in junior and find out how he’s doing with moving away from home for the first time. It’s a lot of fun.”
While Eric established himself with Carolina and won a Stanley Cup at such a young age, he knows his brothers will go at their own pace to create their own identities.
“Well, they are kind of on their own path,” he said. “I was the first one that went through everything and that gives them something to see and know what to expect a little bit more, but at the same time, you know, it’s all them doing it on their own, and that’s the biggest thing that they need to figure out.”
Even though the matchup against Eric marks a family first for the Staals, Jordan is going to treat him just like any other opponent.
“Exactly. We had a few text messages here and there [before the game], that’s about it. When I played against Marc, I really didn’t think about it on the ice,” he said. “Just a few chirps here and there. But, really, you don’t notice each other. Once you get on the ice, you’re zoned in and playing hockey.”
Which is what the Staal brothers do best.