Fit To Be Tied

Black And Blue Rivalry Puts Schmaltz Family Ties In Knots

The Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues have historically been one of hockey's most contentious and hotly-contested rivalries. The two teams have battled it out as division rivals in both the regular season and playoffs.

Brett and Bobby Hull added a family touch to this long-running feud with dad suiting up for the Hawks while his son spent the bulk of his Hall of Fame career skating under the St. Louis Arch.

Now, another family has become a part of this historic rivalry. On one side, Nick Schmaltz is and up-and-coming center for the Blackhawks. While in St. Louis, his older brother, Jordan, broke through in time for the Blues playoff run.

As kids growing up in Madison, Wis., that sibling rivalry was played out countless times with pickup hockey games in their family's basement, with little sister, Kylie, often getting involved in fray.

Mike Schmaltz, the family patriarch, has vivid memories of dealing with the aftermath of those basement battles.

"There were plenty of battles, and someone always came upstairs crying," he said.

Outside of their games in the basement, the Schmaltz brothers were making a name for themselves on the ice. Both Jordan and Nick Schmaltz quickly rose to the top and were soon cutting their teeth in the United States Hockey League.

And while they spent plenty of time together at home, the Schmaltz brothers had the good fortune of playing together at the University of North Dakota.

While the team fell one game short of the national championship, it's still a memorable experience for the family.

"It was great to watch them play together," dad said. "They got to hang out together and experience the fun things that come along with being teammates."

After one year together in Grand Forks, Jordan made his way to the American Hockey League. Meanwhile, his younger brother helped lead North Dakota to its first national championship in more than a decade.

In the months that followed, Nick's strong run continued. At 20 years old, this young center made Chicago's roster out of training camp.

Meanwhile, Jordan patiently waited for his chance to crack the Blues' lineup. After battling injury for part of the 2016-17 season, the elder Schmaltz brother finally got his shot during the team's drive for the postseason. After the Blues traded away top-line defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a right-defenseman spot opened up and Schmaltz was one of the players elected to fill that hole. He made his debut with St. Louis on March 5.

"This is something I haven't experience before," Jordan said of his brief time in The Show. "I tried to take it as a learning tool and use it to do better. When [Shattenkirk] was traded, it was kind of a next man up mentality. You just have to try to not sink and make an impact."

With the two each having their own professional journey, Nick and Jordan continue to stay in touch.

"We usually like to check in and see how each other is doing," Nick said. "We don't really talk about hockey too much. It's more about what life is like for each of us."

Mike Schmaltz said the entire family tends to keep the hockey talk to a minimum.

"They get enough hockey talk at the rink," he said. "These boys are pretty humble. They don't go out of their way to attract attention or tell anyone what they do. They do their own thing and try to blend in."

While the two made their way from game to game, dad and his wife, Linda, have followed along their sons' journeys. They've also kept up with Kylie, who plays for the University of Kentucky volleyball team.

"They're busy for sure. But they seem like they enjoy it," Jordan Schmaltz said. "It seems like my mom and dad are somewhere every weekend."

Thus far, the boys have yet to take the ice against each other as NHL players. This is likely to change when the 2017-18 season begins. No matter when that happens, it will be too soon for the Schmaltz parents.

"I don't know what we'll do," dad said. "It's stressful. You want both of them to do well. Thankfully, them playing two different positions makes it's a little bit easier. However, it still is one big conflict.

"Thankfully, these two always support each other. They're each other's biggest fans."

 

Issue: 
2017-08

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