Sliding onto the bench after putting the finishing touches on his first playoff hat trick, Matthew Tkachuk looked up at the Jumbotron to see a familiar face hooting and hollering in the C of Red.
It was his younger brother Brady, prompting a smile from the Flames forward.
“Another good time for him,” chuckled Matthew afterwards.
“He’s crushing it right now.”
Indeed he is, much to the delight of Flames fans who’ve taken turns posting viral videos of the Ottawa Senators captain immersed in the euphoria of his brother’s playoff run.
Amidst Wednesday’s 9-6 series opening win over Edmonton, Brady was pictured walking up the Saddledome stairs sporting a natural hat trick of beers, with one in his hand and one in each back pocket.
In Game 7 against Dallas he opened the evening by throwing t-shirts to the 5,000 revellers in Red Lot, and closed with an overtime celebration that had him parading around with an unknown child on his shoulders.
In between, Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie capped a chat with Brady on the broadcast by saying he looked forward to seeing him sing his signature Mr. Brightside in the crowd.
Brady’s response: “Maybe tarps off, you never know.”
High-fiving fans, posing for selfies and unabashedly enjoying the ride his brother’s team and city are on right now, Brady is every bit as popular in Calgary right now as his big bro.
“I guess the fans have been liking the energy I’m bringing,” smiled Brady.
“It speaks to how close a family we are. We’re all having fun with it. The most exciting thing is how pumped and much better (Matthew) is getting.”
Wearing a Matthew Tkachuk Friendship Tour t-shirt, the 22-year-old has attracted even more attention to a series that owns the national spotlight due to its historic rivalry, and the fact no other Canadian teams made the second round.
And while it’s preposterous for someone to question the fact blood trumps all alliances, there are some who have been critical a man paid to lead the Senators is so unabashedly enjoying the success of his brother’s team.
“Of course everybody can have their opinion, but at the end of the day I’m a normal guy supporting his brother and all his goals,” said Brady, owner of the type of radiant personality the league needs more of.
“I’m here if he ever wants to talk about certain things. Family is so important to me.
I’m cognisant that, of course, I play for Ottawa and love being in Ottawa. Very soon we’ll be in this situation where everyone is rallying around us.”
He admits he was unsure how open he should be with his support, originally bristling at dad’s suggestion he take to the outdoor stage.
“I got in around 3 o’clock and they weren’t going to tell me, but he said, ‘I’ve got a surprise for you – I’ve got you doing shirts for Red Lot,” said Brady, whose family has long understood they’re in the entertainment business.
“I said, ‘ah geez, I play for another team. I probably shouldn’t.’ But they talked me into it.
I didn’t expect the reaction.”
People ate it up.
He said he won’t go as far as to don Flames gear.
“I’m not wearing Flames gear, because I want to represent Ottawa,” said Brady.
“I definitely didn’t expect all of this going on, but I’m just having a great experience. I wish our team was in it, but I’m just trying to be a supportive brother to Matthew. If he’s enjoying it, I’m going to continue it.
“He’s been playing great, and that makes it better, and the team is playing great. Even if he wasn’t playing great I’d be here to have his back no matter what is happening, because I know that’s what he’d do for me.”
At Matthew’s urging, Brady and his girlfriend originally joined his parents in Dallas for Game 4. He took a short trip to Napa before returning for Game 7 and Wednesday’s Flames win.
His brother’s Flames are 3-0 with boisterous Brady in the bunch.
“I know my dad is starting with, ‘you might have to come for Game 5…’ but I put my foot down,” laughed Brady.
“I’m excited to get home (to St. Louis) after Game 2, it’s almost been too much fun. It’s been a whirlwind. There wasn’t any return date but now there is after the fun we’re having. It’s almost a vacation here for me, as it’s a period after the season guys relax and get their bodies healed before starting summer training. I don’t have to deal with the stresses of the playoffs.
“We would love to be in a playoff situation, and we will be soon.”
Keith Tkachuk had a viral moment of his own Wednesday when he was shown refusing to give up the hat from his cherished bar, O’B Clark’s, to celebrate his son’s hat trick.
“I’m not throwing my hat – we’re 3-0 when I wear that hat, and the net was there anyway,” he scoffed, when asked about fans pressuring him.
“I don’t listen to anybody… except Chantal (his wife).”
Asked how he feels about pushback from some folks who feel Brady’s support in the C of Red is inappropriate, Keith shrugs.
“First of all, we don’t care what people think,” said dad, who is still one of the NHL’s most colourful personalities.
“We’re a family that loves and supports each other.
“I love that he supports his brother. We’ll always do that.
“That’s his brother and best friend.
“Brady is a great person and he is the most giving child. He’d give you the shirt off his back and that’s real, not fake. He cares about his siblings. He does that for his sister (Taryn) when he goes to watch her play (college field hockey) too. I don’t want him to ever change.”
Nor do Flames fans or players.
“He’s just supporting his brother,” said Milan Lucic.
“I think Matthew would do the same thing for Brady.”
Damn right he will.
In the meantime, Brady is content to continue shouldering the load as Matthew’s biggest supporter — literally.
“The kid was sitting in front of us and as everyone was getting nervous for overtime in Game 7 I said to everyone, to make my family laugh, ‘when we score you’re going on my shoulders,” he explained.
“I completely forgot I said it, and then he turned around after Johnny scored and I said, ‘what the heck,’ and hoisted him up there. It was pretty funny.
“Game 2 (Friday) will be more of a chill game.
“But we’ll see.”
Photography Credit: @NHLFlames on Twitter.