Lock Monters Forward's Career Not
By Mike Scandura
Lowell forward Eric Staal
in action last season with the Carolina Hurricanes (Photo
by Getty Images)
Saying Lowell's Eric Staal has come a long way
since he was on his father's sod farm in Thunder Bay, Ontario is
like saying the NHL owners and the NHLPA have a "mild"
The Carolina Hurricanes made Staal, a center who
turned 20 on Oct. 29, the second overall pick in the 2003 Entry
Draft. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
Not only did Staal amass 11-20-31 totals in 81
games as a rookie while jumping from the OHL, he was also one of
22 players selected for the 2004 Young Stars Game.
When the lockout hit, Staal skated to Lowell rather
than remain idle. Through Oct. 31, Staal led the Lock Monsters with
4-6-10 totals in seven games.
"I haven't approached things differently
because it's still nice to be playing hockey," Staal said in
response to a question. "Obviously, I'd rather be playing in
the NHL right now. But it's part of the business. I was in the players
association last year and I'm in full support of the union.
"We have a good team here and hopefully we'll
win some games."
In retrospect, Staal's future was preordained.
His father, Henry, played at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
Staal grew up playing with his brothers, Marc and Jordan (who are
in the OHL), plus Jared (who's in high school) and cousin Jeff Heerema
who's with Manitoba.
"Obviously, dad got us into the sport,"
said Staal. "I started skating when I was four or five. I loved
the game after that but he left it up to us. We didn't put any pressure
on each other and he didn't put any pressure on us. We just went
out to play because we enjoyed it."
Staal certainly enjoyed playing on a rink his
father built out of particle boards (i.e. plywood made out of compressed
wood) between the family home and that of his uncle, Gary Staal.
And then Henry Staal used a neighbor's septic tank truck to steam
clean it and lay down ice. Eventually, Staal the elder installed
lights, which meant the brothers could play 24/7.
"We started without boards when I was six
or seven and the rink gradually got better as the years went on,"
recalled Staal. "Obviously, it played a huge part (in his development).
Any time you can be on ice practicing skills it's going to benefit
"We played all the time, two on two and against
each other. We played a lot of games and a lot of sticks went flying
around the rink."
Watching Staal fly around the rink is a joy for
Lowell and Carolina. His creativity is attributed to his on-ice
vision, his stick handling and his skating. And the fact he added
18 pounds to his 6-3 frame, and now weighs 200, has increased his
Despite all he's accomplished, Staal feels he
isn't the object of every enforcer's attention.
"I really haven't noticed it yet," he
said. "Obviously, it's stuff that you don't want to be thinking
about. You want to stay focused and help the team win games."
So far, that's exactly what he's doing.
Manchester (7-0-0) is the AHL's dominant team
right now. The Monarchs' latest conquest was a 3-0 romp over Portland
on Oct. 31, as goalie Mathieu Garon (4-0-0) made 31 saves. Tom Kostopoulos
notched his sixth two-point game for the Monarchs who've outscored
their opponents 34-10. In their previous game, the Monarchs beat
Springfield 4-2 as Brad Smyth and Mike Cammalleri recorded three
points apiece. …
The AHL suspended Providence forward Brendan Walsh
(Dorchester, Mass.) for four games commencing Oct. 29 due to his
participation in a fight versus Lowell on Oct. 22.
Dominic Moore (Harvard University) and Jed Ortmeyer
scored in a 67-second span in the third period as Hartford beat
Lowell, 3-1, on Oct. 29. …
Rookie D.J. King scored his first pro goal (which
proved to be the game-winner) as Worcester iced Providence, 5-2,
on Oct. 29. …
Brown University grad Yann Danis was 4-1-0 with
a 1.76 GAA following Hamilton's 3-2 overtime victory versus Syracuse
on Oct. 30. …
Goalie Curtis Sanford is off to a flying start
for the IceCats with a 5-1-0 record and a 1.50 GAA through Oct.
Mike Scandura covers
the AHL for New England Hockey Journal and hockeyjournal.com. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.