The third of four brothers, Penguins forward Jordan Staal has been on both the giving and receiving ends of hard hits with his hockey-playing siblings plenty of times.
But rarely have the effects been as devastating as last February, when oldest brother Eric dished out a thundering blow on Marc during a game between the Hurricanes and Rangers. The 24-year-old defenseman, 20 months Jordan’s senior, has yet to play a game because of post-concussion headaches stemming from the hit.
“Obviously I feel bad for both my brothers,” Staal said after the Penguins morning skate Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum. “It’s not a great situation, but again, it happens in the games. Hopefully, it will be over soon enough.”
The incident isn’t exactly dinner-table conversation at the Staal homestead back in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It’s a family that has already produced three NHL players -- youngest brother Jared, 21, plays for an AHL team in Charlotte -- and with that comes the knowledge of the risks inherent in a physical game.
“We haven’t really talked about it a whole lot,” Staal said. “It’s unfortunate that it was Eric who ended up taking out Marc, but it’s part of the game. I’m sure Marc will be back soon enough.”
Staal, who first disclosed he was still battling post-workout headaches when camp opened in September, has yet to practice fully with the team.
It was a startling revelation for the team’s top defenseman, who led the Rangers with 24:55 of ice time last season. He missed five games following the injury last season, but symptoms did not seem to worsen until his workouts resumed over the summer.
Staal is currently on injured reserve and has yet to resume skating, but Jordan is hopeful that he will return soon.
Jordan has witnessed the slow, steady and well-chronicled progress made by his Penguins teammate Sidney Crosby, who has been out with a concussion since last January, and has seen how difficult the road to recovery can be.
“There always is a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometime it’s harder to see for most guys,” Staal said. “Marc’s still got a little bit of a road ahead, for sure. He’s starting to feel better than he was before but it’s a long road, obviously.”
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the hit, Marc has a strong support system, Staal said.
“It’s not easy, but our family’s going to help support him as much as we can.”