Hockey Is All In The Family For The Staals
DAVID GREENE, host:
Last night the Carolina Hurricanes skated against my team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. And it was quite a family affair. Two brothers, Carolina's Eric Staal, and Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal were both on the ice. It was Eric who got the early goal for Carolina.
(Soundbite of cheers)
Announcer: Eric Staal, cloaked by Hal Gill, point position for Seidenberg, drifting it below the goal line to Samsonov. Scuderi has been ever present in this series. Shoots and scores. Eric Staal, right away.
GREENE: But it was Jordan's Pittsburgh Penguins who won and swept the series. For the parents of the Staal brothers, Henry and Linda, this was yet another uncomfortable night. They actually have three sons in the NHL, Mark plays for the New York Rangers. And when I reached the couple at home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, they told me that when two sons are on the ice, they rarely watch the game in person.
Mr. HENRY STAAL (Father of professional hockey players): Generally the way it works is you get your tickets, you're with either, you know, like Eric's wife is in Raleigh or girlfriend's there, or there's people you get to know, you know, and you're sitting with all the family of the players of the home team. And of course, they're cheering, standing up and cheering and you're kind of looking at them, and they're looking at you, oh yeah, that's right, you can't really cheer. So it gets a little awkward.
GREENE: So how did you both produce three NHL players? And I mean, we should say, they're all really good players. I mean is there something in the water in Thunder Bay?
Mr. STAAL: You'll have to ask my wife that. She thinks she's the athlete.
GREENE: She's the reason then. Mrs. Staal, what's the answer?
Mrs. LINDA STAAL (Mother of professional hockey players): I don't know that answer. They just - they're just a talented bunch of boys. I can't take too much credit for that.
GREENE: And when did you decide that, you know, you felt like your sons were actually interested in this sport?
Mr. STAAL: Oh, probably when they were about like three.
GREENE: That's early.
Mr. STAAL: Yeah, four. I don't know, they just - we just - like most kids in Thunder Bay or probably in Canada they're - you slap some skates on them and see how they do. And after a month or so, once they learned how to skate, they just took to it and love it and away we went.
GREENE: But a lot of people slap skates on their kids and take them to an arena. And as I understand it, you actually decided to go out and find pieces of other hockey arenas and basically build an ice rink, like in your backyard? Is - I mean what moved you to do that?
Mr. STAAL: Well, it's a little bit of a selfish move too, 'cause we live out in the country. So, you know, rather than drive our kids to an outdoor rink somewhere in the city or something, it was just easier to build our own. Plus the winters, I get a lot of free time in the winter, so Linda and I just decided to - we got some old rink board, 'cause they do have outdoor rinks, and we just some used ones from a guy I knew at the city and built our own. That's it.
GREENE: What about a Zamboni? How are you actually cleaning off the ice?
Mr. STAAL: Oh, that was Linda's job.
GREENE: Mrs. Staal, you were the ice cleaner?
Mrs. STAAL: Yeah, he got me a snow blower, so that was a treat.
GREENE: Does anything stand out for either or both of you, any sort of Staal brother moments that come to mind?
Mr. STAAL: I know the one that I'm thinking of is when Mark got Jordan in New York. He got him pretty good along the - I thought it was a bit of interference, but Mark - and Jordan saw him coming, but he's like in the trolley tracks and boy did he get him hard. And…
GREENE: Mark hit Jordan against the boards or…
Mr. STAAL: Yeah, it was - well, it was right along the benches. Mark was coming around the boards and Jordan saw Mark, he kind of let puck go, but Mark just finished his check and just put him flat on his butt.
GREENE: Do you hold back if it's your brother, or do you hit harder?
Mrs. STAAL: I don't think they realize, you know, who it is all the time when they're on the ice. They're just, you know, playing hard, and I don't think they really realize that it's their brother until after it's done. I'm - you know, most of the time.
Mr. STAAL: Oh, I think Mark knew who was coming down the boards that time though.
GREENE: He saw that brother coming.
Mr. STAAL: Oh yeah.
GREENE: Thank you both so, so much for joining us, and, you know, best of luck to all the Staal - all the Staal brothers.
Mr. STAAL: All right. Thank you.
Mrs. STAAL: All right. Thank you.
GREENE: That was Henry and Linda Staal from Thunder Bay, Ontario. They have three sons in the NHL, and watch out they have a fourth son who, you guessed it, enjoys playing hockey.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.