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Back when the National Hockey League announced that the 2019-20 all-star game was headed to St. Louis, of course, the Tkachuk family was hopeful.
There are no guarantees as to who winds up participating in the annual showcase. Many things can happen during the course of a season and an invite is based on more than just on-ice performance.
So, when it was announced just this past week that Chantal Tkachuk’s youngest son (and middle child), Brady, would be joining eldest son Matthew at this weekend’s all-star festivities in their own backyard — an event that they’d brought their kids to several times over dad Keith’s NHL playing career — mom was understandably thrilled.
“For both (Matthew and Brady), it was a personal goal and it was something that they hoped they could both be here,” said Chantal, calling earlier this week before her house began filling up for the weekend’s festivities.
Matthew, 22, who is tied for the team scoring lead with 38 points, was part of the original selection process, joining goalie David Rittich and captain and defenceman Mark Giordano as the Flames representatives in the game. Brady, a 20-year-old left winger seen as a key to the Ottawa Senators’ future, was a last-minute addition when Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled out because of a sore wrist.
“We didn’t really talk about it. But I think it was the elephant in the room,” Chantal said of the way it all worked out. “Everybody knew it was in St. Louis and everybody was hoping that they might (both) have a chance to do that.
“Especially because it will be the only time in their career that it will be here.”
The Enterprise Center has been so well-attended by the Tkachuk family that it could be considered one of their second homes. It was the place they grew up watching their dad skate when he was a member of the Blues in the early 2000s nearly up until his retirement in 2010.
That significance is not lost on anybody.
Keith represented the Phoenix Coyotes three times at the NHL all-star game and did again twice more as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
“You can go a whole career and not have it all line up like that (for the Tkachuk family),” pointed out Flames general manager Brad Treliving. “So I think this will be certainly one of those that when (Matthew) looks back when his career is done, this will be one of those really cool moments.
“He’s very deserving. For me, he’s continuing to take steps forward and has again this year. He’s so important for us.”
Between Matthew and Brady’s incoming pals, their family and friends — plus all of the NHL commitments, alumni get-togethers and their own party they’re hosting on Saturday night — this weekend will be nothing like they’ve ever experienced in Keith’s days.
“Obviously, it’s such an honour and so special to have it be in St. Louis and in our hometown,” Chantal said. “It makes it that much more special for Matthew, Brady and our family. It’s going to be at the rink they grew up going to all the time and watching their dad and skating at.
“We’re just able to include that many more people in the celebration because it’s in St. Louis. It makes it really, really special for all of us … your first one is pretty cool.”
Chantal has a tough time remembering Keith’s first all-star game appearance in 1997 at San Jose. Matthew was born later that year in December.
But she happily can supply the photo evidence of her brood at the other events — Matthew as a toddler in 1999 with the Tampa Bay Lightning mascot; in 2004 at Minnesota, barely in grade school, sitting on the lap of Chris Pronger; and in 2007 at Dallas, when the two boys and younger sister Taryn were between a kneeling Dustin Brown and Jarome Iginla on the ice.
“My wife is crazy when it comes to those things — she makes us take pictures,” said Keith with a chuckle. “I don’t know what we did with all the pictures from his bedroom, but he has so many. The last all-star game I played in was Montreal and (Matthew) got to take pictures with (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane and guys he plays against now.
“So, it’s weird when you look at it. He was a little boy looking for autographs. Now he’s out there pissing them off.”
Maybe not this weekend though.
“It’s a fun event,” said Chantal. “And it’s fun to see the players have fun and enjoy meeting with people from other teams or reconnecting with guys they’ve known throughout their careers.
“For someone like Matthew, a lot of these guys were his idols growing up. For him to get to play with them in something like this is incredibly special.”
Keith is pumped, too.
“That’s the rink he grew up going to and skating at, sitting on the bench, watching practice,” he said. “I think he’s more pumped for us. But for me, he gets to go play with guys he normally doesn’t get to play with in a great environment.
“You’re looked at as one of the better players in the league for having one of the better years. I’m happy for him. He’s worked hard to get it and it’s a bonus to do it in his hometown.”
Both of the Tkachuk brothers are set to square off in the NHL Shooting Stars competition. They’re two of eight NHL all-stars and one each Canadian and American elite women’s all-star team member who’ll be positioned on an elevated platform behind the goal, approximately 30 feet above the ice surface. From there, they’ll shoot pucks at a variety of targets located on the ice, with each target possessing different point values. Each player will attempt seven shots and earn points for each target hit . . . Matthew and Brady will join Boston’s David Pastrnak, Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin, Blues forwards Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron, and Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner . . . Flames captain Mark Giordano will be competing in the NHL Hardest Shot competition . . . Netminder David Rittich is set to debut in the NHL’s Save Streak, a massive shootout grouped by division where goalies will compete to make the most consecutive saves. Each goalie will face one opposing division and a minimum of nine scoring attempts.
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