TORONTO– It’s a challenge to say the least for a single individual to crack a National Hockey League roster, let alone numerous siblings from the same family, but hockey history shows that it can be done and in some cases, very well.
The infamous Sutter family, from Viking, Alberta, produced six brothers who could play at an NHL level.
Brent, Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich and Ron all made their way into professional hockey through the 1970’s and 1980’s and combined to play over 5000 games, score 1320 goals and win six Stanley Cups.
The impact of the Sutter family has never been matched. However the Staal clan has come close recently with four brothers who are currently signed with NHL teams. Led by the eldest Eric, who plays for the Carolina Hurricanes, Jordan and Marc have followed suit by successfully joining the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. The youngest Jared one day could suit up with Eric in Carolina but right now he’s with the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers.
The Sutter’s and Staal’s aren’t the only families to ever produce more than one quality hockey player. There were the Conacher’s, Richard’s, Espositos’s and Mahovlich’s back in the day and soon after the Bure’s, Primeau’s and Koivu’s just to name a few. Even Wayne Gretzky had a brother Brent, but he only managed to squeeze in 13 NHL games.
Then of course there are the Stastny’s.
Not only did they all have successful careers in the NHL but Marian, Anton and Peter were able to play alongside each other with the Quebec Nordiques from 1981 to 1985.
Truth be told, it always seems that anytime you can put brothers together on the same team there can be a feel good story.
In recent times, the most notable brothers to skate together are Daniel and Henrik Sedin with the Vancouver Canucks.
Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn were together in Montreal until June 2010 but Sergei was shipped to the Nashville Predators breaking up the duo. Realistically, the Belarusian combo doesn’t compare to the journey of the Swedish twins anyway.
Since being drafted in 1999, the Sedins have put up over 1200 points and became the faces of Vancouver. They are the only brothers to both win the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring leaders and last year they came one win away from being Stanley Cup Champions.
If they had won the cup, they would have joined Rob and Scott Niedermayer as the only brother duo since 1983 to lift the cup together.
Coincidently, both the Sedin’s and Niedermayer’s were given the opportunity for a chance of a life time by current Toronto Maple Leafs general Manager, Brian Burke.
Burke, who at the time was with the Vancouver organization, traded and manoeuvred deals that got him the second and third overall picks in the 1999 Draft. After the Atlanta Thrashers took Patrik Stefan first overall, Burke grabbed, in order, Daniel and Henrik. In total, six sets of twins have been drafted to the NHL but none ever as high as the Sedin’s.
Burke then united the Niedermeyer’s in 2005 when, as GM of the Ducks, he signed Scott to a four year contract. In perfect fashion, Captain Scott was able to hand the Stanley Cup to brother Rob for a lap of the ice in 2007 upon defeating the Ottawa Senators.
Now running the Leafs organization, Burke hasn’t worked any magic to put together special duos in blue and white. But the track record of his past team’s cohesion shows he’s not opposed to bringing brothers together in the dressing room if it makes the club better.
In fact, when Brayden Schenn was selected fifth overall in 2009 by the LA Kings, Burke was upset at missing out on the former World Junior MVP. Ranked as one of the top skilled centre men heading into the draft, Brayden could have joined older brother Luke as the future of Toronto. It was a missed opportunity for a truly great story.
Unfortunately Brayden is now locked up in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, and the concept of all star brothers in Toronto is not in the making but if Burke did want to attempt the idea there are options.
Phil Kessel’s brother Blake recently opted to leave the University of New Hampshire after three seasons. It was a surprise move considering in April he was named alternate captain of the Wildcats. Regardless, he was selected by the New York Islanders in the sixth round in 2007 and, when he left school, the Isles held his rights. Unfortunately they were not able to agree on a contract making Blake an Unrestricted Free Agent. He’s coming off back to back East First Team All-Star awards and had 65 points in 76 games as a puck moving defenseman over the last two years.
Another option could be Brian Lashoff, younger brother of Matt. The 21 year old defenseman is heading into his second year of an entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings. A shoulder injury limited him to only 37 games last year with Detroit’s affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins so it is unclear what his true potential could be. He did, however, take the same route as Matt by developing in the Ontario Hockey League rather than at home in the United States. He represented the United States in 2010, winning gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships; defeating Canada 6-5.
Neither a Kessel nor a Lashoff reunion would do anything to improve this year’s club. It wouldn’t be as significant as any other move involving brothers that Burke has made but it would have some novelty.
Toronto hasn’t had brothers suit up together since Peter and Miroslav Ihnacak in 1987 and no family duo have won a cup as Leafs since Nick and Don Metz back in 1948. In fact, the closest family tie the Leafs have had in recent memory are brother-in-laws Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker in 2002.
Honestly, it always seems that any time you can put family together on the same team there can be a feel good story. If you ask some NHLers, their time spent as youths usually consisted of playing hockey together and hoping to be brothers playing professional hockey. That’s why if it can be done in the NHL, it is that much more memorable.
Even though James Reimer doesn’t have a sibling in the NHL, he has himself and older brother painted on his goalie mask playing pond hockey as a tribute to those memories as a child. It just felt right to him.
Burke obviously is still working on putting together a play-off contender but, if that doesn’t work out, a feel good story is always nice.
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