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Columbus Blue Jackets players celebrate Father's Day

Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno are two of a number of fathers on the team

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /

The role of "Dad" is a pretty big one, just ask the Blue Jackets.

"It's the most full-time job ever," Nick Foligno said. "It's an unbelievable thing. You realize how important values are. You have to walk the walk when you have a kid. They see everything you're doing and pick up on things you do. For me, that's been the biggest learning curve. You're trying to teach them how to become a great young man or woman one day but you can't just talk, you have to lead by example."

Having children doesn't just mean responsibility though. The relationships between a dad and his daughter or son is one that is truly special. Brandon Dubinsky and his wife, Brenna, have two sons, three-and-a-half-year-old Brady and Conor, who is nine months old.

"I met Brandon when he was 23," Brenna said. "We were living in New York, and we were just having fun. We came to Columbus and fell in love with the city and knew we wanted to have a family here. To see Brandon's face when he saw Brady after I gave birth, it was a moment I'll never forget. He was in love with him from the second he saw him and the same goes with Conor.

"It's an amazing thing to watch someone you've known for so many years change, but change in the most beautiful way."

Brandon has carved out special activities that only he does with each of his children, he even has his own twist on putting the boys to bed so that their time together becomes extra special for both father and sons.

"A lot of times Brandon does things differently than I do," Brenna said. "It's nice. I think it's important for him to do these things on his own, and then it becomes 'oh I'm so excited to do this with daddy.'"

Finding those special ways to stay connected is a specific point of focus for dads who play hockey for a living. After all, they are on the road for 41 regular season games a year, and it can be hard to explain to children why their dad is leaving again, especially when hockey doesn't always look like a job through young eyes.

Foligno credits the invention of FaceTime as an awesome way to stay connected when the team is away from home, and even though the game takes "daddy" away, it also provides some pretty cool opportunities.

"When we go to the games, we always go to warm ups and Brady is right on the glass," Brenna said. "That's a treat in itself. And then Scott Hartnell is throwing a puck to him, Boone Jenner taps the glass, and Cam Atkinson gives him a thumbs up. Brady considers the players his friends.

"It's a special moment, and Brady has no idea how special it is, but that is the beauty of children. They just look at these hockey players like regular people, and they are."

And no matter the schedule, Father's Day remains a special day set aside for all the Jackets dads. Brenna will work with her sons to do a craft and make homemade cards for Brandon. There will be pictures and gifts, and the family likes to enjoy brunch to mark the day.

Over in the captain's household, celebrations will similarly be focused on time together.

"I always like when they make me breakfast," Foligno said "They come in with their cards and it's a big thing, just spending time with them. Time is cherished, so to have that one day you can just set aside to be with them. They treat you like even more gold than usual, it's pretty special."

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