Now it's his brothers who envy Marc Staal
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
If you're a Staal boy, as Marc noted, it's not easy to get away from hockey.
The Rangers defenseman may have wanted to avoid hockey talk the past couple of seasons when the Staal brothers gathered at their parents' home in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
There was the concussion he suffered on Feb. 7, 2011 -- on a hit delivered by older brother Eric, no less -- that cost Marc the first 36 games of 2011-12. And the serious eye injury Marc suffered that cost him more than half of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
"We've dedicated ourselves as a family to the game," Marc Staal said. "You're going to be talking about it or watching it with us at some point."
Marc Staal has had the experience of watching his brothers reach the pinnacle. Eric won a Stanley Cup in 2006, his second NHL season with the Hurricanes, the team he now captains. Jordan, one year younger than Marc, won a Cup in his second NHL season with the Penguins. Now he's with Eric on the Hurricanes, with youngest brother Jared in the Carolina farm system.
Marc came back from his concussion to play all 20 playoff games in the 2012 Rangers' run to the Eastern Conference finals, but he wasn't the force that he has been this postseason. Having adjusted to the vision issues he still has from the deflected puck he took to his right eye, and having put the concussion effects behind him, he's been as valuable to the Rangers' defense now as he was before any of the injuries befell him.
Now all the Staal eyes are on him as Marc tries to become the third Staal brother to win a Cup as a player, something that hasn't been done in NHL history. Brent, Duane and Darryl Sutter all have Cup rings, but only Brent and Duane won as players, with the dynasty Islanders.
"We all want to see him get it done," Eric Staal said the other day by phone from Thunder Bay, where he, Jordan and Jared already have begun their offseason workouts. "What he's gone through the past few years, not just physically but mentally, it's great to see him not just playing for a Cup but being such a big part of it for them."
The Cup parties at Henry and Linda Staal's home in Thunder Bay have been fairly epic, though Marc followed hockey player superstition and never once touched the Cup when Eric and Jordan brought it back.
"Took some pictures,'' Marc said, "but never touched it."
Eric did touch the Cup when Jordan had it at the house. "I was like, 'I know I didn't win it myself this time, but heck yeah, I've won that thing before. I can touch it if I want to,' " he said.
He said there's always been some friendly trash talk among the brothers since he and Jordan won the Cup.
"He knows it's the ultimate prize, obviously," Eric said. "He's been around it with us, been to the parties, seen us go through it. Any time one of us has success, we all try to share in it. We had a tough year [with the Hurricanes] but we're still proud of what Marc's doing and it's fun to see him going for it now."
Marc couldn't resist a little jab at his brothers. "They're jealous," he joked. But progressing from not knowing if he would ever play again after the eye injury -- or even a second concussion this past December that cost him 10 games -- to being four wins away from another Cup party in Thunder Bay is cause for a little reflection before the Rangers get back to work Sunday.
"I saw Eric and Jordan win so early in their careers, you start thinking it's something that's just a matter of time," Marc said. "After the last couple years with the injuries, you understand it's not a lock. To get to this point is hard and to get even further is harder. You just try to appreciate the moment and keep working."