DALLAS — It began with a blind date in Winnipeg so many years ago. Chantal Oster, then a university student, and Keith Tkachuk, then a power forward for the hometown Jets.
Now 21 years into their marriage, life has taken them on quite a journey. To Arizona, where the Jets relocated in 1996, and eventually to Atlanta and St. Louis, where both kids were born and Keith spent nine seasons before hanging up his skates in 2010.
It’s also led them to a pair of NHL drafts, something few families get to experience. To Buffalo in 2016, where now-20-year-old son Matthew was drafted sixth overall by the Calgary Flames. And to Texas this week, where son Brady, 18, was picked fourth overall by the Ottawa Senators.
"We just kind of pinch ourselves. We feel very fortunate that we’re in this situation and we have boys who are passionate about the game and wanted to play and did well. It’s fun to carry on the family tradition," Chantal told the Free Press on Friday night as she sat in the stands of American Airlines Center moments after Brady’s name had been called.
"It’s exciting. We were very fortunate that our kids liked to play hockey and they’ve worked hard ever since they were kids. Getting an opportunity to do this is amazing for us as a family," said Keith, who played his first five NHL seasons with the Jets before they were moved.
Chantal, the proud hockey mom, said there’s a sense of relief that her two boys will be playing in opposite conferences. As a result, she will only have to hold her breath twice a season when they meet head-to-head.
"It’s kind of nice to have one in the Eastern and one in the Western. And with the time change we’ll be able to watch all their games," she said, adding this draft was just as nerve-racking as the 2016 one for her. "Nervous excitedness."
Chantal has maintained close ties with Winnipeg and even reached out to the spouses of all the Atlanta Thrashers when they were relocated to Winnipeg in 2011 to help get them acclimatized to their new surroundings.
Brady was expected to go early in the first round and having him join a Canadian team just like Matthew already has makes their mom a happy camper.
"I think for them it’s great to be able to play in a Canadian market and have the support of the fans. Obviously they know their hockey," she said.
Keith said hard work remains for both his sons. Matthew has scored 37 goals and added 60 assists in his first two seasons with the Flames, while Brady is expected to return to Boston University for a second year this fall.
"These boys deserve all the credit. They did all the work. It’s fun to see them have success," he said. "It’s nice to be drafted high. But it’s what you do after that makes it count."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.