Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes will play his 1,000th NHL regular-season game Monday against the Detroit Red Wings and will do it much like he did the other 999.
He’ll slip on jersey No. 11 and go to work, giving the Hurricanes an honest effort, being a good teammate. He’ll get his hands dirty, as the players like to say. The center will take the important draws, kill penalties, look to score on the power play and match up against the other team’s best forwards.
“You can’t play a thousand games without doing it right,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Sunday. “It’s no fluke. It’s super special.”
At 6-foot-4, Staal is listed at 220 pounds. Put him on skates and the Canes captain looks a lot bigger, especially when you have the puck along the boards and No. 11 is coming, determined to separate you from the puck.
Canes’ center Vincent Trocheck, asked a few days ago to describe Staal, quickly said “horse.” Staal is that. Center Sebastian Aho offered up two words: “Ultimate leader.” That fits, too.
“He shows up to the rink every day with the perfect example of how to be a professional,” forward Warren Foegele said. “He’s always got a good attitude. He’s friendly to everyone. And then on the ice, he’s just a worker.”
Brind’Amour, once a pretty rugged center himself, playing almost 1,500 games, said Staal is the player who is “leading our charge” as the Canes (27-9-4) try to finish in first place in the Central Division in this pandemic-shortened season. The offensive numbers are there, but Staal’s game is more than about numbers.
As Staal approached No. 1,000, many of the Canes have been asked about him, his play, about Jordan Staal as a person. Among those who know Staal best are two players not on the Canes. They’re his two brothers in the NHL — center Eric Staal of the Montreal Canadiens and defenseman Marc Staal of the Red Wings.
“Jordan is such a humble, team-first person who does everything right day to day,” Eric Staal said in an interview with The News & Observer. “And 1,000 is a great milestone. When you look back at the history of the game, there’s not that many guys who get to suit up that many games. It’s a special moment. Awesome.”
Marc Staal, unless something changes Monday before the NHL trade deadline, will be on the ice as Jordan is recognized and honored by the Hurricanes. Jordan Staal was in Minnesota in 2017 when the Wild honored Eric on his 1,000th. Marc, who has played 935 games, will be at PNC Arena for Jordan’s ceremony — Eric will be shown on a video congratulating his brother.
“To be able to compete in the best league in the world for that many games is quite an accomplishment,” Marc Staal said in a News & Observer interview. “Regardless of who you are that’s a pretty cool milestone for a player. It’s special that I’ll be there in the building for it and be a part of it.”
Jordan and Marc battled Saturday at PNC Arena as the Red Wings edged the Canes 5-4 in a shootout. This wasn’t like the famous brotherly pillow fights back in Thunder Bay, Ontario. This was two big men going at it as Marc Staal, who is 6-4 and 210 pounds, banged bodies with his “little” brother.
“He’s so strong and he’s so competitive and he works so hard,” Marc Staal said. “He doesn’t give you a shift off, ever. He’s emotionally invested into every game.
“I’m always aware of when he’s on the ice and where he is. That’s just the way it is when you have a brother. You always know where they are.”
Marc Staal was on the ice Saturday in the first period when Jordan picked up the puck on the right wing and used that slingshot wrister to score, beating goalie Thomas Greiss to the far post. It’s a shot both Eric and Jordan have used as a go-to move through the years.
With six minutes left in the third period, Marc Staal put a shoulder into Jordan’s chest in the Detroit zone, knocking him down. No brotherly love there.
“I talked to Jordan after the game and he said Detroit played really well, but he didn’t mention anything about being hit by Marc,” Eric said, laughing. ”I’ll have to ask him about that.”
When Jordan played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, he saw less of Marc on the ice. Marc Staal, for much of his career with the New York Rangers, was more concerned about defending two other Pens centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin. But once Jordan was traded to the Canes in June 2012, Marc found himself on the ice with Jordan more and more, contending with someone he has referred to as the “beast” of the Staal family.
“He’s always been big,” Marc said. “I’m a year and a half older, but he was always pretty much the size of me or bigger all through growing up.”
Marc chuckled, adding, “He had a little bit different bone structure than the rest of us, just a bigger man. A lot of weight to carry on the ice, that’s for sure, and he complains about it all the time.”
More seriously, Marc Staal said he senses Jordan is more comfortable this season in his role as captain. Following Justin Williams as captain wasn’t easy, but Jordan wears the “C” well now.
“He knows it’s his responsibility and his job, and I think he’s grabbed the wheel and has been driving that team all year long,” Marc Staal said.
Eric Staal once wore the “C” for the Canes, following Brind’Amour as team captain. He took pride in that but is just as proud of seeing Jordan have the “C” on his Hurricanes jersey.
“I was fortunate to play with him there for a few years and in sort of a subtle way pass the torch,” Eric said. “The success he is having, and the team in general, is fun to see. He’s leading the charge there as the leader and is still that team-first player he has always been.”
Jordan Staal’s top three memories
1. Winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh, June 12, 2009
2. Playing with Eric and Jared Staal with the Canes, April 25, 2013
3. Scoring a hat trick in Toronto as a Pens rookie, February 10, 2007
Carolina Hurricanes vs Detroit Red Wings
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh.
TV: BSSN (Bally).