Name not a burden for Stingrays’ Staal

South Carolina Stingrays forward Jared Staal has three goals and four assists in 28 games with the club this season. photo provided.

Back home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Staal brothers — Eric, Marc, Jordan and Jared — gather together each summer to skate, work out and prepare for the upcoming professional hockey season.

When they were younger, the sessions would inevitably turn nasty as each Staal brother was out to prove he was the best player in the family. But as the foursome matured and moved onto successful careers in professional hockey, the siblings’ rivalries have faded.

Nowadays, the brothers have very little to prove to each other and just enjoy being back home and spending time with each other.

Eric, the oldest at 31 and the most celebrated, has become one of the NHL’s elite forwards and having won Olympic gold medals with the Canadian national team, and a Stanley Cup title with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Jordan (27) is playing with the Hurricanes alongside Eric, while Marc (28) has been a mainstay on the Rangers’ blue line for the past nine seasons.

In April of 2013, Jared made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes. Not only did Jared get to play with Eric and Jordan, the three Staal brothers got to play on the same line and started against the New York Rangers. It was just the fourth time in NHL history that three brothers have played for the same team in the same game.

“It was a special night, something that I’ll always remember the rest of my life,” said Jared, who has two NHL games on his resume. “I know my parents were really excited and my dad flew in to see us play. It was a great night.”

The only thing that would have made the game better would have been if Marc was playing for the Rangers. Unfortunately, Marc had to sit out the game with an eye injury.

At 25, Jared, a second-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, is the youngest of the brothers in professional hockey, and has spent most of his career in the minor leagues.

The fact that Jared Staal hasn’t been able to stick in the NHL as long as his older brothers doesn’t seem to bother him as much as it used to in the past. Having three famous brothers hasn’t been a burden, Jared said.

“I think earlier in my career it probably bothered me a little bit,” said Jared, a forward with the South Carolina Stingrays.

“The expectations that people put on you and they expect the same out of you. So I would take that the wrong way a few years ago. But now, I embrace their success and I’m really proud of them and the fact that we’re brothers and they are playing so well in the National Hockey League. It took me a while to come to terms with that. It probably wasn’t until a couple of years into my pro career that I started to embrace what they did and who they are as hockey players.”

Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery said Jared has handled the pressure and expectations of being a Staal better than most.

“I can’t imagine the kind of pressure and expectations that come with having that last name,” Carbery said. “Everyone knows who he is and who his brothers are. He handles that really, really well, better than I probably would. He’s a great locker room guy. The guys on the team absolutely love him. He’s got a great sense of humor.

“He’s not sitting in his locker every day, feeling sorry for himself, and wondering why he’s not in the NHL. Jared is comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is and he knows what his capabilities are. He comes to the rink and works hard every day to get better.”

Jared Staal has spent the majority of his career in the American Hockey League, building a reputation as a tough, defensive forward who can kill penalties. He spent the better parts of the last four seasons with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.

Staal attended the Checkers’ preseason camp in October, but was eventually sent down to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. Florida released him before the start of the regular season.

“I thought I had a pretty good camp with Florida, but it didn’t work out for me,” he said.

With injuries starting to become an issue with the Stingrays, Carbery jumped at the chance to sign Staal.

“We were lucky to add someone of Jared’s quality so late in the process,” Carbery said.

After struggling with his offensive touch earlier in the season, Staal was put on the same line with Stephan Vigier and has responded with two goals in the last three games. Staal scored just seven seconds into the Stingrays’ 5-3 win over Orlando on Tuesday night.

“We’ve got some good chemistry and Stephan is a such a smart player,” Staal said. “He’s easy to play with, he does a lot of little things that maybe you don’t notice unless you’re out on the ice with him that help my game.”