Tim Horvat’s chest swelled with pride.
“There are few words to describe how I feel seeing him out there,” said Bo’s dad, standing in section 118 at Joe Louis Arena. “Everyone is overwhelmed, we just want him to see how proud of him we are.”
By everyone, Tim meant everyone. More than 250 people – cousins, uncles, aunts and extended family galore – attended the game to cheer on Bo in his Detroit debut. Horvat grew up in Rodney, Ontario, a 90-minute drive from Detroit and on this day, “You could rob the bank in Rodney because there’s no one there,” laughed Uncle Bob.
The 19-year-old Canucks forward said earlier in the day he went to a handful of Red Wings games as a kid, there was always something special about The Joe and he was already overcome with gratitude for all the support his family was showing him.
Playing in front of family and friends was the cherry on top of an amazing week for the Horvats.
Horvat officially joined the Canucks on Tuesday, November 25th before Vancouver hosted New Jersey, which you know because you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes video of coach Willie Desjardins delivering the euphoric news.
“He went viral I guess,” laughed Tim. “Dale Hunter, his old coach in London, gave me a call and he just thought that was so classy of the organization and Willie Desjardins for doing that. He said he’s never ever seen it done like that and he said that was special and it’s something he’ll never forget.”
Seeing the video is how Tim found out the news as well, yet he didn’t get his hopes up until he heard it from his son directly.
At 3:30 EST that afternoon, immediately after Horvat was done practice, he called his dad.
“He said: Dad, I made the team!” smiled Tim. “I was at work and actually on another call, but I went to my car and broke down. It was very emotional. It was awesome. I’m as proud as could be. All his hard work and dedication paid off for him.”
When father and son used to sit in the stands at Joe Louis Arena when Bo was a wee tot, the pair never discussed him playing in the NHL. Bo’s first dream was to play in the Ontario Hockey League; wise beyond his years, Bo knew the steps he was going to take to make it big.
Being back in Detroit was special for another reason for Tim, as he explained. It was a trip to the Motor City that brought out the best in Bo during the worst of times.
Horvat was selected ninth overall by the London Knights in the 2011 OHL draft and 20 selections later a goaltender from Michigan named Ian Jenkins became his new teammate in London, or at least that was the plan.
Prior to the season Jenkins, then 15-years-old, fell out of the back of a friend’s pick-up truck and passed away from injuries incurred. Although he and Bo weren’t friends, they had competed against each other and driving back from Jenkins’ funeral in Detroit, Bo decided what number he’d wear in London, the same number he wears with the Canucks.
“Bo was looking out the window and I asked him if he was okay. He said yes and that he’d chosen his number, which the Knights needed by the next day. He said he wanted to wear 53 in tribute to Ian Jenkins, who was number 35. That really touched me and right then and there I knew he was real genuine and humble and he thought of others and he still does to this day.”
Tim, wife Cindy, and Bo’s younger brother Cal, were in Columbus to begin this road trip, then Detroit and they’ll be joining the Canucks in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to wrap it up.
“I’d follow him to every game he ever plays if I could,” boasted Tim. “This will never get old.”