In the 2019 playoffs, Luke Schenn followed his younger brother Brayden around during the Stanley Cup final.
No one was cheering louder than Luke for Brayden and the St. Louis Blues.
“(Teammate) Robert Thomas’s dad told me on the ice after Game 7 that the happiest guy in the building was Luke,” said Brayden. “Hearing that from people that were in the crowd with him, then seeing his emotions and how excited he was for me and our team to win the Cup. I think you realize as a player how hard it is to get there and have that chance to win it.”
This year, Brayden would love to do the same for Luke as the Tampa Bay Lightning pursue the Cup against the Dallas Stars, but he can’t.
“It’s just the way it is with quarantine restrictions,” said Brayden, forced to leave the Edmonton bubble when his Blues were eliminated. “My parents thought about it, but it’s a month of being away, in quarantine.
“It’s a shame that whatever team wins won’t have all their family on the ice.”
Rest assured, no one is cheering harder for Luke than his 29-year-old brother, from a distance.
“I would be more excited for him to win it than myself,” said the younger Schenn. “I know how hard he’s worked and how many hours he put (in), and the dedication to get to where he is today.”
Now a 12-year veteran and more of a part-time player, the 30-year-old Lightning defenceman did all the right things to get ready for this season — one of three key off-season signings by the club at $700,000 (U.S.), along with blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk ($1.75 million) and forward Pat Maroon ($900,000) — according to Tampa GM Julien BriseBois.
“We were able to bring in players that were chasing that Cup, just like the rest of us are,” said BriseBois. “They knew what our cap situation was and made it so we could add them to our group without having to discard anyone.
“They made us a better team.”
The game has, in many ways, passed Luke Schenn by since the Maple Leafs traded up in the 2008 draft to pick him fifth overall. He was a bruising presence on the blue line at six-foot-two and 227 pounds, but never really much of a skater.
Funny, but the Lightning now have three of the top five picks from that draft. Captain Steven Stamkos, who has yet to play in the final because of injury, went first overall and defenceman Zach Bogosian third before Schenn at No. 5. Both Bogosian and Schenn played Game 1, then sat for Game 2.
Speed and skill are now valued more in defencemen, with stay-at-home types reduced to role players, mainly on the penalty kill or trying to preserve a late lead.
“You have to adjust,” Luke told the Star in February, when the Leafs visited the Lightning. “I’m not gonna go end to end and be in every single offensive play, but I think there’s different things to improve on and work on yourself. I’ve had to do that to stay in the league for the last number of years.”
With the Lightning, he has found a fit — especially in the playoffs, where he and Bogosian, signed as a free agent at the trade deadline, have often been the sixth and seventh defencemen in Tampa’s unusual roster mix, with just with 11 forwards.
“We know our roles and what situation we’re going out for, so a guy like Luke Schenn has come in seamlessly and has done a tremendous job of being that physical force,” said Shattenkirk.
“I look at Bogosian and Schenn as big bodies that play physical, making great outlet passes, and not afraid to get up in the rush,” said defenceman Victor Hedman.
Luke did all the right things when Brayden had his day with the Stanley Cup back in Saskatoon last summer. He flew in from Kelowna and enjoyed the moment, but didn’t touch the hardware. If you’re a player who hasn’t won it, that’s a no-no.
“It’s one of those things,” said Brayden. “Winning the Cup is everything you dream of as a hockey player. You work your whole life for it, to put yourself in a situation to have a chance to play (for) it. For us as a group last year, obviously we got the job done. It’s never easy. And it’s something we have as a group, for the rest of your life.”
He wants his brother to have that feeling too.
“It’s one of those feelings you want to have him have,” said the younger brother. “I’ll tell you, it’s way easier playing the games than watching on TV, but I’m all in. I’m a huge fan of him and the Lightning right now.”