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'NEVER TAKE FOR GRANTED'

The consummate family man, Bill Peters relishes the time he gets with his wife, daughter and son, to recharge and refocus before upcoming season

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

COLDSTREAM, B.C. - When all else fails, the infallible, unbreakable 'contract' offer is a child's last hope.

You know, the one that says if the impossible terms laid out by the parents are truly fulfilled, then - and only then - will they get that fluffy, cuddly new dog.

The 'I'll-do-and-pay-anything' clause that mom and dad just can't resist.

See, guys? No-brainer. Sign here.

But in the Peters household, the family patriarch took it upon himself.

Land a gig in the world's best league and appease the children with a pup of their choice.

Everybody wins.

"We were living in Rockford at the time," Peters' wife Denise recalls. "Bill came home one day and had this curious look on his face, like he had something really important to say. He sighed, and then kind of mumbled, 'Well, I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is that we've got to move again.

"'The good news is that we're getting a dog.'

"It took us all a few seconds to really process what he was talking about. Finally, it sunk in. Took us long enough, right?

"'We're going to the NHL?!'

"'And, of course, the kids were like, 'And we're really getting a dog?!'

"I don't think any of us will ever forget that moment."

Before long, Jackson - a handsome black, now-nine-year-old 'doodle - was part of the family's travelling pack and has been ever since.

With stops in Detroit, Carolina, and now back in his home province as Calgary's top dog, the Peters clan has enjoyed this journey together, as one, all along here at hockey's highest level.

It is, after all, the game itself that has afforded them this time during a rare soft spot in the family's feverish calendar. Hidden away, beneath the tactical and altogether intense coaching facade is a man who lives for more than just hockey.

Because above all, Peters lives not for the sport - but for family.

Together, they've settled here this summer in the beautiful Okanagan basin - a mere six-hour drive west from the icy home base, to disengage from the 24/7 and do the "regular" stuff families do on summer vacation:

Wake-surfing, paddle-boarding, biking the famous Rail Trail, playing cards, and finishing the day off with a good ol' fashioned backyard barbeque.

It's a rarely seen side of the head coach that reveals the culture he applies in the Flames dressing room, too.

Family first.

"This is what it's about. These guys right here," said the bench boss, peering off across the bow of his tricked-out vessel, where his family - huddled together in a wrap of oversized lime-green beach towels - were sitting, quietly enjoying the majestic lakeside scenery in the first of a three-hour surf jaunt.

"This is where we come to unwind after a long season, relax and re-charge so we can do it all over again starting in September.

"But the absolute best part is being able to spend this time together, as a family.

"Best part of my life. I never, ever, take that for granted."

 

Video: Summer means plenty of time on the lake for Peters

 

You can't.

Not with the way the NHL calendar inherently molds the family dynamic.

During the season - which this year begins on Tuesday, Aug. 20 - the Flames head coach lives a very different life than the one he enjoys during a fleeting, eight-week period on the north shores of Kalamalka Lake. Soon, the grind begins anew; the dreaded iPhone chime sounding off in the dark, well before daybreak, and the return of midnight meals to refuel after a long day at the office painfully (but tastily) re-emerge.

Seventy-three days on the road on top of that round out a busy pre-playoff schedule, with many a day spent staring groggily at his phone during the latest in a round of family FaceTime.

So, naturally, the summertime is a chance to make up for it.

"Ever since they were born, it's been this way," Peters said of the hectic, in-season schedule. "With all the days, weeks, away - all the moving we've done over the years - it's been a normal part of our life, for better or worse."

Now, they've grown up and very little has changed.

His daughter, Aleze, will soon head back to East Carolina University for the year. His son, 14-year-old Ayden - a recent draft pick of the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes - played for the Edge School Bantam Prep program last year, and has already gotten used to the travelling roadshow, thanks to his own burgeoning hockey career.

Denise, a retired nurse, ferries Ayden to and fro, rink to rink, cross-border and over the Rockies on dicey, wintry roads to ensure their son gets every possible chance to shine.

They're driven, this family.

But here, in July and August, when the weather warms and the day-to-day finally cools, this is their time.

To let loose and have fun.

And, most importantly, to bond.

"(Dad) means the world to me," Ayden said - his gear splayed out across the backyard, airing out in the sweltering valley heat following a morning training session. "He's never pushed us to do anything we don't want to do. Obviously, I love playing hockey and his career brought me closer to the game at an early age, but to me, he's not an NHL coach. He's dad.

"This is what we do. We hang out, we boat, we surf.

"We talk.

"That, honestly, might be the best part."

Yes, the simple pleasures are often the ones that leave the most lasting impressions. Upon return from the spray, the family gathered 'round the patio, Denise arranging a lovely and impromptu charcuterie, featuring a totally scrumptious beet dip from the local grocer, along with an assortment of fizzy drinks to accompany a casual game of backyard Spike Ball with just the right amount of father-son trash talk.

That, the precursor to yet another immaculate Kal sunset.

Fitting.

The season is near. Summer, in its finishing lap.

"When it starts, you think it's going to last forever," Peters said. "The reality is, once Aug. 1 hits, it's a bit of a game-changer.

"It's a long year. You spend enough time flying around, different time zones and everything else. So, when you've got a chance to bunker in and settle down somewhere, you've got to take advantage of it.

"As much fun as it is out here, by the time you're done out here and you've re-charged the batteries, it's great to back to work and see everybody."

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