Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images
Over the years, the National Hockey League has seen its fair share of families within its ranks, from siblings to distant relatives. One of the less frequently seen family combinations is that of pairs of brothers who have had a father who preceded them in NHL action. In this feature, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle takes a look at a few of those family ties.
Current brother combinations who are playing in the NHL that had fathers who also saw time in the league include William and Alexander Nylander, Matthew and Brady Tkachuk, and Nicholas and Marcus Foligno. Past NHL players who have had two sons also join them in the league record books include, most notably, Gordie Howe, whose sons Mark and Martin also played in the league..
The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted William Nylander with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and he has played in a Leafs sweater since the end of the 2015-16 season. His brother, Alexander, was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 2016, and was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the 2019-20 season, and saw action in a Chicago sweater before the season was placed on hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak. 2019-20 was Alexander’s first full season in the NHL.
Photo credits: 1) NBC Sports Chicago, 2) Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press
Both are the sons of Michael Nylander, who played in the NHL from 1992-93 through 2008-09, including two tours of duty with the Washington Capitals, with whom he finished his career. After being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks early in the 2002-03 season, he played in D.C. that season until he was traded to the Boston Bruins during the 2003-04 season. He returned to the Capitals in free agency prior to the 2007-08 season and played through 2008-09. He underwent surgery to repair a rotator cuff during the 2007-08 season and was not the same player when he returned. In an ironic twist, William’s first NHL goal came on an assist from Brooks Laich, who had assisted on the last NHL goal that father ever scored. Michael, who the Hartford Whalers drafted in 1991, played for numerous teams, including the Whalers, the Calgary Flames, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blackhawks, the Capitals, the Bruins, and the New York Rangers. Both William and Alexander were born while their father played for the Calgary Flames.
The Calgary Flames drafted Matthew Tkachuk with the sixth overall pick in 2016, and he has donned a Flames’ Jersey since the 2016-17 season. The Ottawa Senators drafted Matthew’s brother, Brady, with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry draft. Brady has played with the Senators since the 2018-19 season.
Both are the sons of Keith Tkachuk, who played in the NHL for 18 years. The [original] Winnipeg Jets drafted Keith in 1990, and he remained with the team until the team moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes. He remained with the Coyotes until he was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 2001. Keith remained with the Blues through the 2006-07 season, after which time he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers; however returned to the Blues for the 2007-08 season, before retiring after the 2009-10 season. Both Matthew and Brady were born while their father played for the Coyotes. Incidentally, Keith is also cousin to Tom Fitzgerald, who also had a long NHL career and held several management positions after retiring as a player. Tom also had two sons who have played in the minor leagues. Two other NHL players, Kevin and Jimmy Hayes are also related to the Tkachuks and the Fitzgeralds.
Forward Nick Foligno has played with the Columbus Blue Jackets since the 2012-13 season. Prior to that, he played with the Ottawa Senators, the team that originally drafted him in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and with whom he played just over half the 2007-08 season before becoming a full-time NHL player in 2008-09. He is currently the Blue Jackets’ captain. Marcus Foligno has played with the Minnesota Wild since the 2017-18 season. Prior to that, he played with the Buffalo Sabres, the team that originally drafted him in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He played part of the 2011-12 season with the Sabres and became a full time NHL player after the 2012-13 lockout. For international competition, Nick represents the USA while Marcus represents Canada although they are both Canadian-American dual citizens.
They are the sons of Mike Foligno, who played in the NHL from 1979-80 through 1993-94. Mike was originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1979 NHL Entry draft. He played for the Red Wings before being traded during the 1981-82 season. He played for the Sabres for most of his career, until they traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1990-91 season. He was traded for the last time to the Florida Panthers during the 1993-94 season, his last in the NHL. Once his playing career ended, he served in coaching roles. He is currently a scout with the Vegas Golden Knights. During his playing career, his jump after scoring goals was known as the “Foligno Leap”.
There is also one other current NHL player who has had both a sibling and a father play in the NHL, that being Paul Stastny of the Vegas Golden Knights. Stastny was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2005 and started playing for them in the 2006-07 season. He became a free agent after the 2013-14 season and signed a contract with the St. Louis Blues, who he stayed with until getting traded to the Winnipeg Jets during the 2017-18 season. He then signed a contract with the Golden Knights. His brother Yan was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2002 but made his debut with the Edmonton Oilers in 2005-06. He did play with the Bruins later that year, playing with them that year and in part of the 2006-07 season as well. He then played with the St. Louis Blues for portions of three more seasons, from 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10, after which time he played hockey in Europe.
Paul and Yan’s father was Peter Stastny, who famously defected from Czechoslovakia along with brother, Anton, and his pregnant wife, Darina in 1980 and joined the Quebec Nordiques, with whom he starred for many years. He played with the Nordiques from the 1980-81 season through the 1989-90 season, when he was traded to the New Jersey Devils. He remained with the Devils through the 1992-93 season, before finishing his career with the St. Louis Blues.
There could be a future combination of brothers if prospects Nolan Foote and Cal Foote both become NHL players, as their father was former NHL defebseman Adam Foote, best known for playing with the Colorado Avalanche.
By Diane Doyle