CALGARY, AB -- Many Calgary Flames players cannot even begin to fathom a guess as to how much time they spent with their fathers during their minor hockey days.
Many of the players grew up with their fathers acting as their coaches. Others spent countless hours at the rink with them, hearing their dads cheer them on from the stands. Most spent endless hours in the vehicle with their dads as they headed to games and tournaments.
All of those experiences, all of those hours spent together doesn't diminish the impact the Flames annual fathers trip has on players.
Running over a five-day span, the trip included two games -- in San Jose and Los Angeles -- and a day off that many father-and-son duos chose to spend at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
"It's an unbelievable trip put on by the team," Josh Jooris told CalgaryFlames.com "I think any one of the guys would say it's real special just to have their dad here.
"You hear the cliché about dad's talking about driving their sons to the rinks and stuff but it's true. They sacrifice a lot and my dad has sacrificed a lot for me to get where I am today so the fact that he can be with me here for a couple of days and living through it with me meant a lot."
On the first night, in San Jose, the Flames and their fathers spent the evening with the coaches and staff, getting to know each other before the games got underway.
"At the meal [on Sunday] you could tell that everyone was having fun and it was a great reunion," head coach Bob Hartley said.
"You can’t have a bigger reward as a dad I don’t think and as a player you want to say thanks for all those years of traveling and playing double-headers in the car on the way back, things they’ve done good and things they’ve done bad."
After that, the dads settled into the players day-to-day rhythm on the road. They attended both pre-game skates and on Wednesday, they took in the Flames off-day practice in El Segundo, CA.
All of the fathers in attendance have watched countless practices throughout the years but they watched every skate and both games with an eagle eye, readily doling out advice to their sons like they did when they were young.
"It's not just a vacation for them where they just go to a hockey game or two and that's it," Joe Colborne stated. "They're involved in pretty much every aspect of our days. It makes the experience that much more fun and memorable.
"They're the reason where we all are where we are today. Without the sacrifices they made none of us would be here. It's really exciting for them to see the preparation we go through for every game and to see the amount of time and effort that goes into each game and every opponent."
For someone like Mikael Backlund, the trip gives him a rare chance to spend time with his father during the hockey season. His dad, Jan, lives in Västerås, Sweden so the pair don't often see each other when Backlund heads back to Calgary each fall.
"It's great to have him here, he's a fun guy," Backlund said. "The English is a little tough for him but it's great to have him around and we're sharing a room so it's great to spend some quality time together."
Hartley loved getting to know each dad, seeing where his players got certain traits and aspects of their personalities. Throughout the week, he met with the fathers before and after practices, after games, and during downtime in Los Angeles.
"The apples don't fall far from the tree," he grinned. "I look at the dad's and I'm chuckling because it's fun. This is a great reward for the dad's, it's motivating for our players to see their dad's and it's good for a change because they don't take hell only from the coach, they know that the game will be replayed with their dad's -- just like in the old days."