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Lightning prospects Cal and Nolan Foote share NHL experience

The brothers will play together as Nolan gets his first preseason game on Wednesday.
Cal Foote (left) and his brother Nolan will play for the Lightning in a preseason game tonight. It's a moment they've long anticipated. [Tampa Bay Times]
Cal Foote (left) and his brother Nolan will play for the Lightning in a preseason game tonight. It's a moment they've long anticipated. [Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 18, 2019
Updated Sep. 19, 2019

Cal and Nolan Foote made a request coming into training camp: They wanted to room together. The Lightning shot that down, to guard against brotherly squabbles.

The Lightning’s last two first-round draft picks — Cal, a defenseman, in 2017, and Nolan, a wing, in 2019 — shared something better than a hotel room Wednesday night. They shared a NHL bench.

Nolan, 18, made his first appearance with the Lightning in a 2-0 preseason loss at Carolina. Cal, 20, was a late addition to the roster, giving them a chance to play in a NHL game together.

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“It’s crazy,” Cal said before the game. “I’m very excited for (Nolan). Him, my family and I have been waiting for this, and I’m excited to get to be there.”

Cal wasn’t originally slated to play in the game. He mentioned to a few other players that maybe he’d try to go on the trip to see Nolan play. Then he got word of a change to the roster.

When rookie camp started two weeks ago, seeing Nolan across the dressing room didn’t seem quite real to Cal. Playing for the same team was something they’d dreamed about since they were kids but didn’t really think would happen.

They had joked about the possibility going into the June draft. Cal had been in the Lightning organization for two years, and wouldn’t it be cool if they drafted his little brother as well?

When it actually happened, that didn’t seem quite real, either.

“We were just so happy,” Nolan said. “We were just like, ‘There’s no way this just happened.’ ”

The brothers have always been close. They played together growing up and in juniors with Kelowna of the Western League. When Cal played for AHL Syracuse last year, they communicated every day in some form.

Of course, there were fights growing up — Cal, the bigger older brother, always won — though Nolan insisted that wouldn’t have been an issue sharing a room now. Most of their battles in recent years have been on the ice.

With Nolan at forward and Cal on defense, working out against each other is a natural fit. Even when Lightning rookie camp started and drills didn’t have too much force behind them, Cal and Nolan kicked it up a notch when they paired up.

There’s always an extra jab for a brother.

Nolan is the odd-man out in the Foote family. Despite a father and a brother at the blue line — dad Adam played 19 years in the NHL, most with Nordiques-Avalanche franchise — Nolan gravitated toward forward.

He said it was neither a matter of intentionally doing the opposite of his brother nor his brother having requested someone play opposite him in the driveway.

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“I just love scoring goals,” Nolan said. “I just loved being on offense, always having the puck on my stick, shooting.”

Nolan is also the only left-hander in the family, as Cal is quick to point out.

Cal was able to give Nolan an idea of what to expect from training camp and the coaches, but he also wants to give Nolan space to do his own thing.

Nolan enjoys sharing this experience and playing with Cal. At the same time, he has been identified as Cal’s brother and/or Adam’s son his whole life. He wants to make a mark as his own player.

“Watching (Cal) go through the draft process, I wanted to follow in the same footsteps,” Nolan said. “Now I feel like it’s time to go our own paths. I’m a forward, he’s a defenseman, so build our own way.”

Diana C. Nearhos is the Lightning beat writer. Contact her at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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