WASHINGTON, D.C. - It seems like only yesterday that Steve Backes was in the stands watching his son, David, scoring goals and frustrating opponents on the ice. Steve would stand outside the locker room with the other hockey dads, waiting for his son to emerge carrying sticks and equipment bags for the ride home.
It seems like yesterday…because it actually was.
No, Steve didn’t use a fancy time machine to re-live those good ole’ days at the youth hockey rink. All he had to do was hop on the team’s charter for a two-game road trip to Raleigh and Washington, D.C.
“This is the way it’s always been, except here we are, re-doing it with our adult children,” Steve said.
Steve is one 17 fathers who joined the Blues for their big get-together, which actually began Thursday, where the dads met in St. Louis and watched the Blues’ 5-4 shootout win vs. Nashville from a suite at Scottrade Center.
In that game, T.J. Oshie scored in regulation and in a shootout. His dad, Tim, was getting high-fives from the entire suite.
“It was surreal,” Tim said. “I couldn’t have wrote a better script.”
After Thursday’s game, the dads boarded the team’s flight to Raleigh, where they arrived late. On Friday, they were invited to sit in the team meeting, where Head Coach Ken Hitchcock went over the X’s and O’s to prepare his club for a meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but it really struck me,” Steve said. “These guys don’t leave too many stones unturned when it comes to playing and winning hockey games. I asked David after the game - did it go like we planned it today?”
“Not exactly,” David said of the Blues’ 3-2 shootout win against the Hurricanes. “But it never goes that way.”
Another late night flight and bus ride put the Blues in the nation’s capital, where the players and their dads walked to the White House for pictures on Saturday morning. The moment probably means more for Backes and his dad than it does for King City, Ontario native Alex Pietrangelo and his dad, Joe, but one common bond they all share is how proud the fathers are of their sons.
Well, that and the sacrifices they all made to help them get there.
Steve quit his job when it moved to Dallas so that David could pursue his dreams in the hockey-mad state of Minnesota. And Tim moved to Warroad, leaving his business behind so T.J. could excel.
And that’s the point of this father’s trip. It’s about paying back the dads for all they’ve done.
“You talk about thousands of games and practices and miles and dollars that he’s thrown into getting me to this level,” David said. “Now he gets a glimpse of the way we live on the road - the lifestyle that he’s sacrificed so that I can live it. Paying that back is invaluable. We’ll never forget these few days together.”
“We’ve been talking about doing the father’s trip for a couple of years now,” T.J. added. His dad was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, which makes their time together on this trip even more special to them. “You look ahead a little bit, and this is something I thought would be really big on his (to-do) list. It's something he’s really wanted to do, something he’d cherish and never forget, no matter what Alzheimer’s does."
The trip continues Sunday, where the Blues meet the Washington Capitals having collected points in a season-high 10 consecutive games (9-0-1). But this trip is about more than games or winning. As much as they all love hockey, it turns out the dads are most proud of their sons for other reasons.
For example, when asked why he’s most proud of T.J., you might expect Tim to say something like making it to the NHL, or the shootout goals, or the Olympic performance with USA that had the entire nation, and its president, in awe.
But actually, it’s something else.
“He gave me my first grandaughter, and she’s a miracle baby,” Tim said. “(I’m proud of) knowing what he’s done, not only in the game of hockey, but the man he’s become. I just watched him FaceTime with his baby, and that’s what makes me most proud.
"He’s a great father."
The Father's Trip includes the following dads: Bill Elliott, Willard Reaves, Rick Schwartz, Pat Shattenkirk, Kurt Allen, Steve Backes, Anders Berglund, Daniel Bouwmeester, Doug Butler, Doug Cole, Bjorn Gunnarsson, James Osman (Jackman), Lennart Lindstrom, Tim Oshie, Butch Ott, Joe Pietrangelo and Gord Porter