A lot of kids have big brothers who prod and push them, fight them, compete against them, toughen them up and make them better.
Not all become NHL players whose big brothers also happen to be in the NHL, but the Carolina Hurricanes have a bunch.
Jordan Staal had two older brothers pushing him. The oldest, center Eric Staal of the Minnesota Wild, will be in PNC Arena on Saturday as the two teams play a game with playoff implications.
Canes forward Brock McGinn also has two older brothers who made it to the NHL. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk is the younger brother of forward James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers and will go up against him twice in the last nine games of the season, with much at stake.
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Andrei Svechnikov’s older brother, Evgeny, is a former first-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings and defenseman Dougie Hamilton has an older brother, Freddie, who has been with four NHL teams.
“It’s neat thing that we all get to do the same job and all can relate the same way,” Jordan Staal said, speaking about the Staal siblings but also summing it up for the group. “We all have something in common, that we can share, a true passion for hockey.”
The competition in Thunder Bay, Ontario, at the Staal sod farm was legendary. Eric and Marc, a veteran defenseman for the New York Rangers, were the two oldest but Jordan grew into the biggest and the youngest brother, Jared, wasn’t little, either.
“We had our scuffles,” Jordan Staal said. “There were a few elbows ‘by accident.’ There was some of the ‘I wish I wasn’t your brother’ said at times.”
Linda Staal, Jordan said, had to be the “referee” and get everybody settled down. “We didn’t mess with Mom too much,” Jordan said.
It was much the same at the van Riemsdyk house in New Jersey, Trevor said, where it was often all hockey all the time.
“We’d play in the basement with these little cut-down sticks, play in the driveway,” he said. “We’d have our friends over and have two-on-two games until the wee hours of the morning, until Mom told us to call it a night and go to bed.
“We’d have some pretty intense games. There might be sticks flying across the room by the end of it. Some tears were shed. But it was definitely fun.”
James van Riemsdyk was a first-round draft pick of the Flyers. Trevor was not drafted, playing college hockey at New Hampshire — the Canes’ Brett Pesce once was his teammate and roommate — before signing with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014. A younger brother, Brendan, is a forward and has followed his two brothers to New Hampshire.
Brock McGinn is the youngest of the McGinn boys, who battled it out in a backyard rink in Fergus, Ont. Jamie and Tye tested Brock, and not just in hockey.
“We were competitive in everything,” Brock said. “That was in our blood in everything we did. We were always challenging each other, never wanted to lose in anything. We all wanted to have the first spoonful of food.”
Like Jordan Staal, Tye McGinn was the biggest and strongest of the brothers. “We were always beating on Tye,” Brock said. “Or we’d beat on him until Mom came in and said, “It’s time to stop.’”
Jamie McGinn, 30, was a second-round NHL draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2006, has played more than 600 games for six NHL teams and now is with the Florida Panthers. Tye, 28, was a fourth-round pick in 2010 and has spent much of his career in the American Hockey League while getting in nearly 100 NHL games with four teams.
Brock, 25, was drafted in the second round by the Hurricanes in 2012 and made his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings in October 2015, scoring on his first shift. By then, Jamie McGinn, with some big brotherly pride, had said Brock would be the best of the three, noting little brother also “hits like a Mack truck.”
“We shoot texts every day,” Brock said of his brothers. “Our bond is something special.”
The McGinn brothers have joined their dad, Bob, in owning the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the Southern Professional Hockey League. That’s something different that Brock said has helped him learn about the business side of things.
Jordan, Eric and Marc Staal all were first-rounders and Jordan and Eric have Stanley Cup rings — Eric with the Canes in 2006 and Jordan with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Jordan was traded to the Canes in June 2012, determined to join Eric in making Carolina a Cup contender again, but it didn’t happen and Eric was traded late in the 2015-16 season.
The two will be on opposite sides again Saturday night at PNC Arena, brothers but both trying to drive their teams to a needed victory.