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NHL

The Hughes Boys Are Just Delightful

Jack Hughes and Quinn Hughes skate in warm-ups
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In the aftermath of New Jersey’s overtime win over Chicago on Friday night, Devils center Jack Hughes received a wonderful update on his younger brother, Luke. “Have you seen Luke’s goal yet?” a reporter asked in the post-game press conference. “Luke Hughes?” Jack replied, and you could just see his face light up with pride and excitement. It was my favorite thing to come out of the hockey this weekend.

“I didn’t [know he scored]. I just saw a text from my dad and it said, ‘Big night for the Hughes family.'”

Those big nights should be coming more and more often this fall, as the three Hughes brothers have brighter spotlights on them than ever before. The 22-year-old Quinn, playing defenseman in Vancouver, just signed a six-year, $47 million deal with the Canucks. The 20-year-old Jack, a 1C in New Jersey, is looking to lead a revamped Devils team to the playoffs for the first time in his career. And the 18-year-old Luke, freshly drafted by those same Devils, is starting play with a historically stacked Michigan Wolverines team that features four of the top five choices in the 2021 NHL Draft.

This trio has been the subject of fascination from media and fans for quite some time now—this video that switches between an interview they gave in their home three years ago and one from this summer is particularly surreal and puts their journey into context. But with Luke spending the past couple years maturing on the U.S. National Development Team, whose actual competitive games are fairly obscure, there was no opportunity just yet for something like Friday’s action to go down, where all three Hughes boys contributed to their teams in prominent victories.

We’ll start with Jack, because his was the most dramatic by far. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You should absolutely get on this Devils bandwagon, and the team’s season opener on Friday was further proof that, even if they’re not all the way along yet, they’re gonna be frickin’ electric. First of all, their big coup from this summer’s free agency period, Dougie Hamilton, scored off an offensive zone turnover just 17 seconds into the game. Then, with the score tied at 1-1 late in the second period, Jack commandeered the puck behind the Chicago net, took it out into the left circle, and then turned around and fired his first goal of the season past Kevin Lankinen.

That goal would go on to be overshadowed by what Jack did in overtime, as he navigated a high-speed maze of sliding Chicago players to maneuver the puck onto his backhand and past the goal line for the winner. And afterwards, as the crowd went wild, he triumphantly tossed his stick over the boards, turning it into a souvenir for some lucky fan.

Though he was drafted the lowest of the three brothers, at seventh overall in 2018, it’s Quinn Hughes who has so far made the biggest impact in the NHL, as he’s been a magnet for assists in Vancouver and a critical part of the Canucks attack since his rookie year. In the third period of the Canucks’ season opener on Wednesday, Quinn glided into the zone and saw good things happen when he put the puck on net, sneaking a tying goal past Oilers goalie Mike Smith and earning a point for his team by sending the game into overtime. And on this amazing Hughes Friday, Quinn earned himself a point in the Canucks’ 5-4 victory over the Flyers, and he was on the ice for both of his team’s power-play goals.

Luke, finally, had the winningest weekend of them all, as his Wolverines traveled to Duluth and won the Ice Breaker Tournament by taking out No. 5 Minnesota Duluth and then No. 1 Minnesota State. Luke picked up an assist in the opening goal of the deciding game, while his own personal first goal emerged against UMD on a killer one-timer up high late in the first.

If this is a lot to keep track of just as an outside observer, imagine how it must feel being their parents! Particularly with the Canucks in Philadelphia instead of the West Coast, Friday’s overlap of Hughes action would have been especially tough on the attentions of Jim and Ellen. Ellen was actually on the Red Wings broadcast on Saturday and mentioned that they had two TV screens and a computer running for their boys on Friday, which is like an NCAA Basketball Tournament level of intensity, plus it’s your own flesh and blood, plus there’s no clear end in sight.

Ellen also had to answer a tough question from Wings analyst Manon Rhéaume: When the Devils meet the Canucks in February, who does she want to win? Admirably, she did not take the cop-out route and say “both.”

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child,” she said. “So I’m going to root for whichever one needs it the most at that particular time.”