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Blue Jackets' dads lacing up the skates for charity

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

“Paul Prout plays a very simple game – there’s not much to it, but man, he can shoot the puck.”

If you’ve been in Paul Prout’s company, you’ll know what Dalton Prout is talking about. He’s a sturdy fellow with a presence, and a handshake that could shake the foundation of a sycamore.

Based on the above evaluation, it sure sounds like his son is a chip off the old block.

“You could say that, yeah,” Dalton says with a laugh. “I remember watching him play when I was a kid. He’d wind up and goalies would get out of the way.”

And like many hockey dads, the elder Prout sacrificed a lot – including his free time that once was reserved for playing hockey – to raise his children. Part of that time was spent coaching Dalton and helping him along to achieve his goal and dream of playing in the NHL.

Paul works in municipal services for the town of Kingsville, Ont., where Dalton was born, and during the winter, he’s a busy guy taking care of the local roads.

But, for one weekend, he and several of the Blue Jackets’ dads will take part in what many of them have called “an unforgettable experience” – the team’s Fathers Trip.

Only this year, there’s an added twist: they’re taking part in a charity hockey game against a group of First Responders at Nationwide Arena on Thursday. The game, organized by Tom Atkinson, father of Cam, features a roster of 14 dads gathered in Columbus from all over the world.

Andrei Bobrovsky is coming from Novokuznetsk, Russia. Niclas Wennberg is traveling from Stockholm. Bill Dubinsky comes by way of Anchorage, Alaska, and Leo Calvert’s in town from Brandon, Manitoba.

The Blue Jackets are sponsoring their fathers in the game and monies raised will be donated to the Local F.O.P. and IAFF Local 67, police and firefighters’ organizations in Columbus. Tom Atkinson said the game is, to his knowledge, the first of its kind organized by NHL fathers and he hopes it catches on around the league.

"We've had great support from everyone to make this happen. We're really excited about it," Tom said. "Now we have to go out there and play, which is the hard part."

And yes, of course, this is a friendly exhibition – so it’s not much of a surprise that the players have a wide range of expectations for their dads.

Brent Murray, father of Ryan, is an electrician in White City, Sask., but 30 years ago, he was on the ice as often as he could be. Brent played junior B, then some senior hockey before retiring to the beer leagues after getting married and starting a family.

“He was a pretty good player back in his day, from what I hear,” Ryan said. “He’s a big body who can throw his weight around, but I want to see some poise out of him, too.

“There’s just no speed there. None at all.”

Might we see Brent on the ice alongside Warren Rychel (Kerby’s dad), who played eight seasons in the NHL and racked up over 1400 penalty minutes?

“I’ve heard legends about (Warren),” said Murray. “I think they could keep things under control out there.”

On the other side of the spectrum is Niclas Wennberg, described by his son Alexander as a smart two-way defenseman who can create offense.

At one point in his life, Niclas had high hockey aspirations before deciding it was more fun to skate with his friends and take it less seriously. Nowadays, he laces up the skates twice a week in Stockholm and gets a solid workout in before he goes into work.

“I think he still believes he can make it,” Alex said with a laugh. “But it’s fun for him to be able to play with his friends, and he loves it. He’s good player and actually has a lot of skill. He just can’t skate.”

For as much as they like to joke around about their fathers’ hockey ability (or lack thereof), the players are just thrilled to have them around for the weekend. It’s a short trip this year, but many are coming in early for the charity game and to take in practice before heading to Boston on Friday.

“I’m not really sure my dad knows what he’s in for with this game, but he’ll be fine. This trip is such a blast for him and for all of us,” Dalton Prout said.

“He’s been planning for this for a while. All I told him was ‘make sure you bring your skates.’”

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