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Fathers' Trip is a special, unique experience

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

PITTSBURGH -- Approximately 1,500 miles separate White City, Sask. from Columbus, Ohio, but Brent Murray would have driven to the moon if it meant spending this weekend with his son.

That's not counting the countless miles Brent and his wife, Sharon, traversed during Ryan's youth hockey days, but that's old hat by now for the Murrays. From a small suburb of Regina - Saskatchewan's capital city - Ryan Murray made his way into the NHL by way of Everett, Washington and a couple stops along the way.

Having the opportunity to spend a weekend with his son and a group of other proud fathers is something that Brent wasn't going to miss.

"I'll tell you what - this is just such a neat experience for all of us," Brent told "The other thing is that, when you come to the games, sometimes you don’t know who the other parents are. This way, you get to know them and when you come to future games you can introduce yourself and you know a little bit more about them. That’s what I’m looking forward to this weekend.

"(Meeting all the different people) is one of the things I was excited about. For those who don’t know who each other are, you get to meet and further down the road you can pass each other and say hello knowing who each person is. That’s a really cool thing."

Then you have Pavol Gaborik, Marian's dad, a furniture maker from Slovakia who rarely gets the opportunity to practice his English-speaking but according to his son, "he knows enough to get by." Pavol arrived in Columbus early and spent a couple of days watching practice with Cam Atkinson's dad, Tom, who has been an unofficial tour guide for him. 

From meals to meetings, the Jackets' dads have seen it all this week.

Pavol was wearing an ear-to-ear grin walking around the Blue Jackets and Penguins facilities this week, and it was extra special because he didn't have the chance to attend a Fathers Trip when Marian played for the New York Rangers.

Aside from the Gaboriks' annual visit to see their son, this weekend has been great for Pavol and Marian to spend time together and get to know his new city.

"I think it's great," Gaborik said. "My parents come to visit every year and they’ve been around since I was 18, coming back and forth. They’ve seen it all, but with a new team and everything it's different for him to see the building, new fans, and everything. It’s really cool.

"Just to get to know the other people is good for him. His English is so-so but he can get by a little bit. It’s a new experience to get to know some new people around here and he’s been looking forward to it."

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards truly believes in the value of trips like these, and being a hockey dad himself, he knows how important it is for the dads to see what their sons go through on a daily basis. Richards has made every team activity - right down to the power play and penalty killing meetings - open to the fathers and wants them as involved as possible.

After all, their involvement is a big reason why the sons have made it to the NHL.

"I think the advantage of this trip is that you get to meet the other fathers," Tom Atkinson said. "Our kids are a product of the environment that they grow up in, and you really get to see how they interact with their dads, how the fathers hang out with their sons…it’s wonderful. I love the bond; my wife is amazing because she allows me to go do this and be a kid at heart.

"This is a bonding experience and we get to know all the families. Gaborik, Dubinsky and Jack Johnson have all been great mentors for Cam. And I’ve gotten to meet their fathers and their families, and it’s interesting how they come and talk about my son, and I’m talking about their son. We’re not bragging about our sons, we’re bragging about the other sons. That’s really special."


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