RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes haven’t exactly been in the business of making history in recent years.
That changed Thursday night, however, as a trio of brothers that used to battle on a frozen pond behind their house growing up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, lined up next to each other against the New York Rangers, marking just the fourth time in NHL history three brothers played for the same team at the same time, and the first time in 28 years.
Carolina captured Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2006 and made a run to the finals four years earlier. But with this season shot and just two games remaining, the Canes’ brass called up Jared Staal — the youngest of four hockey-playing Staals, and third on the Hurricanes — from their AHL affiliate in Charlotte for his debut in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss.
Not only did Eric, 28, Jordan, 24, and 22-year-old Jared Staal play, but they started the game together on the same line. The Staals are the first trio of brothers to suit up for the same team since Peter, Anton and Marian Stastny did so with the Quebec Nordiques in 1985.
The Stastny’s actually played together for four seasons for the Nordiques, who in 1995 moved to Colorado and became the Avalanche. This is the 10th time in major sports history three brothers have played on the same team in the same season, according to several reports. The best known such occasion in the U.S. is probably when Matty, Felipe and Jesus Alou manned the outfield for the San Francisco Giants in 1963.
But this was a great moment for hockey and a crowning moment for the Staals, whose parents were in attendance.
“Not in a million years in all honesty,” the brothers’ father, Henry Staal, said when asked if he thought he’d see this day. “It’s like a dream come true. Playing over there at our rink or whatever it was, playing minor hockey and just driving around thinking ‘The season’s never going to end.’
“The guys are all excited for each other, too, which is really nice. They are really competitive but they really do support each other.”
A fourth Staal could have joined them on the ice, but an injury kept Marc Staal on the shelf for the Rangers. The evening was special nonetheless.
“It was pretty neat, I’m not going to lie,” Jared said. “(But) I was trying not to think about it, but when you hear the (public address) announcer say all three of our names, it was pretty cool.”
Jared was on the ice for 12:16, and overall the Staals logged 59:04 of ice time. Jared missed his only shot on goal but did register five hits.
Back home in Canada, the games usually pitted the oldest and youngest — Eric and Jared — against the middle brothers, Marc and Jordan. But on this night, Jared found himself alongside Jordan on quite a few lines. No worries, the youngest Staal just did what came naturally.
“I was really pleased with him,” Hurricanes’ coach Kirk Muller said. “He did all the right things. His limitations as a straight-forward, power-forward kind of player, get it down the boards and get it to the net. I thought he looked comfortable out there.”
Jared appeared in 52 games for the Charlotte Checkers this season, scoring four goals and three assists. In his fifth professional season after being taken with the 49th overall selection by Phoenix in the 2008 draft, Staal has 18 career points in 119 games.
Carolina picked him up three years ago in a trade for a fifth-round pick in that year’s draft. His path to the NHL wasn’t super-quick like his more gifted brothers. Eric is sixth in the NHL in scoring and has been an all-star multiple times. Jordan is one of the league’s top penalty killers, and Marc is an alternate captain for the Rangers.
But Jared finally made it, and together, the trio did something Thursday nobody can ever take away.
“You’re looking at a bit of history in hockey,” Muller said. “You’re not going to see three brothers start a game together. It was fun. I think the fans enjoyed it. The players on the team thought it was fun, and of course the Staal family. That is something they’re going to remember the rest of their lives.
“We’re in the NHL but we have to remember it’s just a game sometimes and it’s about living in the moment and stuff like that. They will remember it the rest of their lives.”