Has the eldest sibling’s plight ever been depicted as well as it was Wednesday night, in the unruly first game of the Battle of Alberta series? Matthew Tkachuk, relatively quiet against Dallas last round, scored his first career playoff hat trick: a deflection on the power play; a breakaway off a failed Edmonton clearing attempt; and an empty-netter that would be the 15th(!) and final goal of the game, a 9-6 Calgary win. He was just asking to be upstaged. And happy to oblige—to continue his run as unlikely protagonist of the Flames’ postseason—was Matthew’s younger brother, Brady, the Ottawa Senators captain who has pivoted to Flames superfandom now that his own season is over.
Where Brady goes, the cameras follow. Last night, he had two beers stuffed in his back pockets and another in his hand as he high-fived fans on the way to his seat. He tossed t-shirts at a Flames viewing party last series. He appears to grant selfies to anyone who asks. In one pregame interview on the Sportsnet broadcast, he threatened(?) to sing “Mr. Brightside” in the stands, “maybe tarps off.” (That’s hockey for shirtless.) To celebrate Calgary’s OT win in Game 7 against Dallas, he hoisted some kid onto his shoulders and walked him up and down the steps of their section. Matthew confirmed to reporters later that he had no idea who the child was: “I’m surprised his parents let him go on Brady’s shoulders.”
The whole Tkachuk family is in on the fun: Keith, perhaps correctly believing that empty-netter hat tricks don’t count, got caught on camera refusing to throw his hat for his son last night. (Lip-readers could make out a “No, it’s my favorite hat!”) I’m pretty sure every single time there’s been a shot of the family on TV, lone Tkachuk sister Taryn, who plays field hockey at the University of Virginia, can be seen dancing or singing.
Brady’s high spirits have already irked the types of columnists who wonder why a hockey player who didn’t make the playoffs is allowed to crack a smile or even leave the house. “The captain of another NHL team being Matthew Tkachuk’s super fan boy is just so, so weird to me,” one said. It may indeed be weird that some doofus in the stands weaseled his way into the headline of a blog that could have instead focused on alarming goaltending, alarming rush defense, a thrilling Oilers comeback, four Connor McDavid points, or Milan Lucic getting into it with Zack Kassian. But if all that weaseling is siblinghood at its most irritating, the very best and sweetest parts of it are on display here, too.
This guy just really loves his brother. This family just loves hyping each other up. Who among us has not gone a little overboard in the audience of a middle school band concert or in the stands of the worst softball game you have ever seen in your life? A story in The Athletic a few years ago told of the Tkachuk brothers’ very different approaches to a high school state field hockey tournament Taryn once played in. Brady rallied the crowd. Matthew, meanwhile, said he was so nervous he couldn’t watch, and instead “stood in these bushes” with strangers the whole time. When he saw Taryn’s overtime game-winner from the corner of his eye, he “just ran out of the trees” to rush the field with Brady. A ref yelled at them to get off.
Brady, for his part, believes his brother would reciprocate in the reverse situation. “We’ve actually been talking about that, after the shenanigans I’ve been pulling,” Brady told ESPN. “I don’t think he’d match all the stuff, but I think he’d be as excited as I’ve been.”