Ron MacLean, who is sometimes the King of Corn, dropped a clever observation during a more serious Hockey Night in Canada moment. It was about the Brothers Hughes: Quinn (Vancouver Canucks), Jack and Luke (both with the New Jersey Devils).
“How would you feel,” MacLean asked, approximately, his panel of three, “about Quinn and the Norris Trophy (best defenceman), Jack and the Art Ross (he’s the leading scorer), and Luke and the Calder (currently second in points as the top rookie)?”
Three brothers, three major individual awards, same season. Now that would send hockey historians in search of something they’ll never find, because it never happened. And what MacLean didn’t mention is the “possibility” of more silverware: the Hart (MVP), the Lady Byng (all three are gentlemen), the Selke (best defensive forward)…not to mention the Clancy (leadership), the Masterton (perseverance), and the Conn Smythe (playoff MVP).
First of all, try scouring NHL history books to find three brothers who even played at the same time.
Yes, the Sutters did…three brothers times two, but the six of them combined to win zero individual trophies. Four of them figured in voting for the Selke and the one who came closest was Ron, half of the twins: He finished second.
Then there were the Stastnys of Quebec — Peter, Marian and Anton. The best brother was Peter, who won the Calder with brother Anton finishing 10th the same season. It’s likely the only time two brothers have been in the top 10 for the same award.
The Staals from Thunder Bay? All three — Eric, Jordan and Mark — have been candidates for individual awards but have never won, and neither the long-retired Brotens (Neil, Aaron, Paul) nor the late Plagers (Barclay, Bob and Bill) were ever factors for solo silverware.
In pre-historic times, even seeing three hockey-playing brothers was rare. The famous Bentleys, Max and Doug — yes, before my time — had an older brother (Reg) who joined them with the Chicago Blackhawks. The famous brothers won the Hart and the Lady Byng, but all Reg did was score one goal in 11 career games.
Over the years, there have been fringe or even brothers-to-wannabe. Gordie Howe had three sons, two of whom played in the NHL, the best of them Mark, three times runner-up for the Norris Trophy as the top defenceman. Marty was a journeyman for a few years and the third brother, Murray, took a pass on being a hockey Howe and became a doctor.
Montrealers were once anxious for a Maurice Richard clone…or even an Henri clone. So the Canadiens scouted Frere Jacques, six years younger than The Rocket and a promising winger in his late teens. Jacques wasn’t good enough to play in a game at a time when line-ups rarely changed. I do remember seeing a photo of the two famous Richards with a fourth brother, Claude, who was a prospect when the Habs were winning five consecutive Stanley Cups.
Claude’s mere presence caused New York Rangers’ General Manager Muzz Patrick to wonder how many more brothers there were: “Weren’t there any girls in the Richard family?”
If Ron MacLean is clairvoyant, will somebody ask the same question about the Hughes family?