TORONTO — The first thing Eric Staal thought of when he watched the Super Bowl was how tough it must have been for the parents of Jim and John Harbaugh.
The Carolina Hurricanes captain has experienced going head-to head with his brother in a big game, having faced Jordan Staal’s Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2009 Eastern Conference final. That four-game series was extremely tough on their parents Henry and Linda.
Staal figures it must have been a similar experience for Jack and Jackie Harbaugh while watching Baltimore beat San Francisco with a son on each sideline Sunday night.
“For me seeing their parents in the crowd, I could kind of feel for them a little bit,” Staal said Monday before Carolina faced Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. “My parents were in the same boat. They were watching us play in the conference final, wearing neutral colours and trying to just enjoy the game, which is difficult to do because you’re unsure of how to cheer.
“(The Super Bowl) was a great game, but I could definitely feel the pain more of Jim than John because of being on the losing end last time playing against Jordan.”
Fortunately, that is no longer an issue for Eric and Jordan Staal.
One of the biggest moves of the NHL off-season came when Carolina acquired the younger Staal brother from the Penguins on the opening night of the draft in June.
That night also happened to be when Jordan Staal was getting married to his fiancée Heather in Thunder Bay, Ont., — with roughly a dozen Pittsburgh teammates in attendance.
“I definitely got a little emotional,” said Jordan Staal.
However, the unique timing also gave him a chance to toast the time in Pittsburgh with that group of friends.
“They’re all great guys,” he said. “Obviously, they were upset but in the long run I think they knew exactly what it was all about. To be able to be here and play with my brother and get that opportunity is pretty special.”
The game against the Leafs will be just the eighth as teammates for Jordan and Eric.
While they’ve seen a few shifts on the same line, coach Kirk Muller has largely used them both at centre — Eric on the top unit and Jordan with the second group.
Now that the two have been united in Raleigh, they’re already looking forward to facing brother Marc’s New York Rangers in a game next month. For the first time in the NHL, that matchup will pit two Staals against one.
“It’ll be fun,” said Eric Staal. “It’ll be interesting to see him on the other side with two of us. He’s a competitor, we are too, and it’s going to be fun when we get to that point.”