Staal parents to stay home

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:14 PM ET

Up Thunder Bay way, near the patch of dirt the family has transformed into the most famous turf farm in Canada, Henry and Linda Staal once again are faced with their usual dilemma.

With so many talented hockey-playing sons, how is a parent supposed to stay unbiased?

Answer: Stay home.

So, just two days before big brother Eric Staal leads his Carolina Hurricanes against Jordan's Pittsburgh Penguins at the Igloo on Monday for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, that seems to be the solution.

Once the puck is dropped, there will be two Staal boys on the ice.

But there will be no Staal parents sitting in the seats.

At least that's the plan.

And, admittedly, it's better that way.

For Henry and Linda's nerves.

And for Eric and Jordan's sanity.

Asked yesterday if Henry would attend the opener, both boys laughed.

"I don't think either of us wants him to come down," Eric, 24, said.

"No," Jordan, 20, added.

"To be honest, I feel bad, but it's so hard for our parents," Eric explained. "Sometimes when they're at the games, they don't know who to cheer for. Do you jump up and cheer for the visiting team when they score and when the home team scores you obviously stand up because everyone else is?

"For myself and for Jordan, after the games, to talk to them, it's a grind ... I think their plan is they might just stay home and watch it on TV and then they'll catch the next round. It's just a tough situation."

That hasn't stopped the boys from having fun with the moment.

Remember the commercial promoting the NHL in which Eric claims he is out to see who is "dad's favourite?"

You can chuckle over something like that when you are a Staal, the latest "first family of hockey."

The Staal clan officially took over that title from the Sutters on Mother's Day 2007. In a span of just eight hours, Eric and Jordan helped Canada win gold at the world championship in Moscow while Marc, then with the Sudbury Wolves, was named MVP of the OHL playoffs.

Two years later, Marc, 22, now a highly regarded defenceman with the New York Rangers, finds himself in the same no-win situation as his folks: Who to support, Eric or Jordan?

"Marc, I'm not sure who he's gonna be cheering for," Jordan said. "He texted me (Thursday) and he said it's going to be a tough series to watch. You know, it's going to be interesting, the family, which side we roll on."

But this is more than just about family.

This is about history.

This, after all, will be the first time siblings have faced each other in a conference final since 1974, when Phil Esposito's Boston Bruins met younger brother Tony and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Making the Staal vs. Staal matchup even more intriguing is the fact that Jordan, the man usually assigned to check the opposing team's top scorer, might find himself going head to head with Eric.

Will Jordan be as effective smothering his brother on the Mellon Arena ice as he was on the backyard rink in Northern Ontario they grew up playing on alongside Marc and youngest brother Jared?

"For me it's about focusing on what I've got to do and playing my game, no matter who I'm against on the other side," Eric said. "It will be the same if it is Jordy. You know, I'm going to make sure I'm moving my legs, using my size, and trying to do those things that make me good and not focus on who I'm playing against."

Back in the summer of 2006 when Eric, a member of the champion Hurricanes, brought the Stanley Cup to Thunder Bay, Jordan had a couple of photos taken with the battered beaker.

"I was a part of the celebration, but at the same time I kind of kept my distance," Jordan recalled.

This time, Jordan wants his own Cup party, even if it means steamrolling Eric to eventually reach that goal.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos