Brotherly theme to NHL pre-season games
It won't be just another meaningless pre-season game for Rita Schenn and Kathy Kessel.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers square off at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night, they'll both have a son in each corner. A source of jokes and laughter in the dressing rooms, the brotherly matchup promises to be serious business for the families.
"Occasionally brothers do get in scraps out there — sometimes on purpose, sometimes it's accident and they didn't know who they were in a scuffle with," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Tuesday morning. "It will probably be hard on the Schenn and Kessel moms tonight if they get a chance to watch the game."
Their kids were simply excited. Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn approached Wilson prior to training camp and asked to play against the Flyers so he could face younger brother Brayden.
The only time Toronto sniper Phil Kessel has been on the ice with his younger brother Blake — a free-agent defenceman who signed an entry-level deal with Philadelphia last week — is during scrimmages over the summer.
"It's the first time I'm playing him so it should be fun," said Phil Kessel. "I'm excited actually."
While having brothers go head-to-head is quite common in the NHL — there are currently at least 10 sets that play on different teams — it's extremely unusual for there to be four of them involved in one game. In fact, Wilson, a veteran NHL coach, doesn't ever recall having seen it.
The exhibition game is particularly important for Brayden Schenn and Blake Kessel, who are both trying to earn roster spots with the Flyers. Their older brothers are both established veterans with the Leafs.
"Hopefully being the big brother, I'll be able to shut him down," Luke Schenn said of Brayden, a skilled forward he last faced in the WHL four years ago. "I know he'll be going hard. It's a big exhibition game for him, he obviously wants to make the team.
"It's going to be a great opportunity there. It's a pretty neat situation for our family and friends. There'll be a lot of people excited to watch this."
While some of the Leafs joked with Kessel that they planned to target his brother for a big hit, he wasn't expecting to take a run at him. Blake Kessel is listed as two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier than his sibling.
"I don't think I'll be hitting, I don't hit that much during the regular season," said Phil Kessel. "So I'm pretty sure I won't be touching him out there."
It promises to be a night of brotherly matchups around the league.
Winnipeg Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian was scheduled to face older brother Aaron with the Columbus Blue Jackets in town while Jonathan and David Toews were each slated to dress for Chicago against Edmonton in Saskatoon.
The Jackets also have a roster that features brothers Kris and Ryan Russell, the latter player coming to the team in an offseason trade with Montreal.