June 6, 2009
It was days like today that Jordan Staal appreciated his strenuous upbringing. His parent’s sod farm in Thunder Bay, ON and the chores that accompanied it were a long way away from Pittsburgh. So his body was used to the huge toll of physical labor and he knew how to deal with the accompanying pain. He shifted the ice bags on his quadriceps. The muscle fibers in his legs were still on fire 24 hours after Game 4. He lounged on the couch in his living room watching ESPN highlights.
“Now we go to the rink,” the announcer said. “Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins looking to even up the series with the Detroit Red Wings 2-2.”
Jordan reached for the remote. He was starting to get a little bit sick of television hockey coverage. His hand hesitated as the segment went on though. His lips folded into a guilty smile. “I’l turn it off in just one minute…”
“The Red Wings have their second power play opportunity and need to capitalize on the chance,” the hockey analyst reported. “Well, Jordan Staal might have something to say about that.”
The clip rolled and Jordan sat upright. He always thought it was strange to watch himself on television. It was an extremely enjoyable type of out-of-body experience. He watched as a digital projection of himself breezed by a pinching Brian Rafalski, the Red Wings stalwart defenseman, and scored the tying goal in the second period. The little smile turned into an excited fist-pump. “I did that!” he thought.
It wasn’t anything new for Jordan to score a short-handed goal. He had scored more shorties in his rookie season than any other player in their first year, including two of his very high-profile teammates: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. At 18 years of age, he had been the youngest player in league history to score on a penalty shot and the youngest to score a hat-trick. But still, Jordan was on the third line of this Penguins team, obstructed in the monstrous shadows of two of the best players in the world. And he was fine with that.
“Let’s get Sidney Crosby’s take on the Staal’s huge tally,” the voice from the TV instructed. The hockey media always had to get Crosby’s take on everything. Jordan was not jealous though; he had always flown a bit under the radar. I guess that tends to happen when your older brother wins a Stanley Cup before you do. It was no problem for Jordan though. “Let all those other guys deal with the spotlight,” he thought. “I just want to play the game I love.”
“The momentum shift was all Staalzie,” Crosby said into a bevy of aggressive microphones. “He made it happen tonight.”
“Well,” the 20 year old thought to himself, re-adjusting the bags of ice on his legs and grinning from ear-to-ear. “A little recognition never hurt anybody.”
He had had enough highlights for today. He switched over to TBS where they were playing the first Austin Powers movie. Jordan wasn’t allowed to see the spy-spoof when it was released back in 1997. He was only 9 years old at the time. Now, eleven years later, he was on the verge of bringing the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh. He sat back smiling and took another bite out of his Pop-Tart.