Late Saturday afternoon, Dale Dach's phone rang in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta with his eldest son's name across the screen.
Kirby Dach might've found out that he was going to officially play in his first NHL game when he got to the United Center Sunday morning for pregame skate, but he had an inkling that his parents, Dale and Hillary, might want to be ready.
"I talked to them a little bit about it and just said 'Be on standby,'" Kirby said after his debut in a 5-3 loss to Washington. "Obviously they're here now and everything was figured out, so that was good."
"We had plans to come down this week sometime and get here a little early (for when it happened)," Dale said. "But when we got the call, we kind of had to get everything scrambled."
The hockey family the Dachs are, they went to their daughter Callie's hockey game as previously planned on Saturday evening and prepared for the short night ahead, booking three one-way tickets to Chicago for the morning. The trio arrived home from the game sometime after midnight, quickly packed bags and got just a few hours of shut eye before leaving the house at 5:30 a.m. for an 8:30 flight out of Edmonton.
The early-morning exhaustion curtailed any nerves that otherwise might've set in on the two-legged journey to watch Kirby don a Blackhawks jersey for the first time.
"We were so tired (but) it didn't matter," Dale said. "We just wanted to get here safe and come here to support Kirby."
Around 3 o'clock they pulled up to their hotel, dropped their bags and quickly freshened up before heading to the United Center to watch their 18-year-old son make his NHL debut nearly five months to the day after he was taken No. 3 overall.
"I know it's a dream of his and I'm just glad he's able to live it out," Dale continued. "Very proud."
The road to this night has been perhaps a longer one than Kirby had hoped, working through concussion protocol following the final game of last month's Traverse City Prospect Tournament, in turn missing the entire slate of preseason games. On the outside, he's projected a mature confidence in the process, but his parents know it's been a trying few weeks to get to this point.
"He's been anxious. He's been itching to play and I think tonight's going to really help him," Dale said. "I know he played a few with Rockford but right now, I think this is really going to help him calm down a bit and get into his stride."
As Dach took the ice and a spot on the blue line for Jim Cornelison's iconic anthem, the forward was seen staring down, almost deep in thought, not letting the spectacle overwhelm what lied moments ahead.
"I kind of try to take everything one second at a time, one step at a time and just stay focused on myself, but obviously you've got a little butterflies in your stomach when the anthem is going and you're standing on the blue line looking around," admitted Kirby. "It was good. The nerves kind of can help sometimes and sometimes they hinder your performance, but I tried to do my best not to be nervous."
"Usually that's his M.O. He almost meditates through the national anthem, gets really focused. That's what he does," offered Dale from years of watching the young forward from the stands. "As for us, it was pretty cool experience. Just seeing the support that the Chicago Blackhawk fans have and the history here is just amazing. This building is going to be an amazing place for him to settle in."
With the first in the books of the nine games allowed before a decision has to be made whether to send Dach back to Saskatoon in the WHL for the season or keep him in Chicago for its entirety, his first foray into the NHL was a strong one in his head coach's eyes. If he settles in even further, as his dad predicts he will, he very well could become a full-time pro in the weeks ahead.
"Really good. Very pleased," Jeremy Colliton said of Dach's debut. "He looked comfortable, made a lot of plays, (his) play away from the puck I thought was quite good."
"We'll see," he added about the future. "He didn't hurt himself tonight."
As for the rest of the Dachs, there is no deadline on their Illinois stay, no return flights booked. They're just enjoying the moment - at least for a few days.
"We left it open-ended, but we're thinking (we'll) probably head home Thursday," Dale said. "My daughter again has some games and my younger son has games in Saskatoon, so I'm probably going to head out and watch him some - got to share the wealth."
Added Kirby: "It was good to have them here and I'm going to enjoy their company."