Tambellinis share special game

Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini has seen his son Jeff play in the NHL live and in living colour only a few times.
New York Islanders' Jeff Tambellini, left, celebrates one of his goals with teammate Josh Bailey on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. Tambellini's dad Steve was in Uniondale, N.Y., to catch the performance. ((Stephen Chernin/Associated Press))

Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini has seen his son Jeff play in the National Hockey League live and in living colour only a few times.

So when the father arrived in time to see his son score his first career hat trick in the New York Islanders' 5-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, it was cool for the Oilers GM to witness what the younger Tambellini described as his best NHL game.

"It was great to see him have that success," said the dad, whose Oilers visit the Islanders on Monday evening.

The older Tambellini was drafted 15th overall by the Islanders 31 years ago and went on to win a Stanley Cup with the 1980-81 Islanders. He played 553 games with the Islanders, Rockies, Flames, Devils and Canucks before embarking on a front-office career that began in Vancouver.

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini will have one eye on his NHL club and one eye on his son, Islanders forward Jeff, Monday night. ((Ian Jackson/Canadian Press))

The Tambellini family also has enjoyed international success. Steve's father, Addie, played on the Trail Smoke Eaters when they captured the 1961 world championship. Steve was Wayne Gretzky's roommate at the 1978 world junior tournament in Montreal, when Canada won bronze, and played for Canada at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Jeff roomed with Sidney Crosby at the 2004 world juniors in Canada's silver medal effort. His NHL career has been slow to start. Drafted 27th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2003 out of the University of Michigan, he has drifted back and forth between the NHL and AHL.

After playing in the season opener for the Islanders this season, he was a healthy scratch for five games. But since his return to the lineup, he has caught fire with six goals and an assist in his past six games after checking in with 11 goals and 32 points in his previous 146 NHL matches.

The younger Tambellini was five years old when his father played his final NHL game. But he's been around the NHL environment most of his life because of his father's job — in the Canucks front office before becoming the Oilers GM two summers ago. This experience on both sides has made it easy for the Tambellinis to separate professional life from family life.

"He stopped listening to us a long time ago," joked Steve. "I let him do his thing. Professionally, it's none of my business. As a parent, you want to be in touch. But he knows what he is doing.

"We always have been able to step away from the professional side of things."

Steve tries to catch his son on television as much as possible, but seeing him live in action on Saturday and again on Monday is special. But that doesn't mean the Oilers' GM is cheering against his own team.

"For me, obviously we need to play well," said the older Tambellini, whose players have dropped four of their past five games. "At the end of the day, I hope we win and I hope he plays well."