Even at the NHL, there's nothing quite like having a dad, brother or mentor in the stands.
"It's a little change of pace," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "I don't mind it at all. You get into the grind where the games are very important. You get a change of pace and some levity out of it. There's always a funny story or two from the dads."
A DAY IN THE LIFE
After watching the Isles optional practice on Wednesday and boarding the charter to St. Louis, the whole group spent the evening together. The next day as the team prepared for their game against the Blues, the dads and mentors attended morning skate at Enterprise Center. Thereafter, when the players took their coveted pregame naps, the dads and mentors took a tour of Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company, where Budweiser, Busch and Natural Light are brewed. The trip wrapped-up with the dads and mentors cheering the Islanders on from a suite in the Blues' arena.
"It's good to have them around, it's like having a second coach," Jordan Eberle said. "You've got [your coaches] on you a little bit with things, but then you bring your Dad into the mix and he's like double the coach. But it's good to have him around and give him a view. Anytime you have the chance to spend some time with him and show him how the day-to-day goes in the NHL is always fun and a good time."
WELCOMING THE NEWCOMERS
With newcomers like Andrew Dobson, Pierre Brassard, Jean Pageau and Tyler Leddy attending their first Islanders dads and mentors trip, it was important to the returning fathers to ensure that everyone felt part of the Islander family.
"There's a nucleus here even among the dads," Tim Clutterbuck said. "There's nobody bigger than the team. So when the fathers get together, it doesn't matter whose son is who. Everyone is just like the rest of the guys. We've got this group of [veteran] dads who are close and just like the [players], we want to make sure the Mr. Dobsons and Mr. Brassards, those who are relatively new [to the team] like their kids, are being taken care of. It's pretty cool."
FAMILIAR FACES FOR THE BRASSARDS AND PAGEAUS
Pierre Brassard and Jean Pageau have been on a number of Dads trips over the years with their sons Derick and Jean-Gabriel, but this Dads and Mentors trip reunited the Hull, Quebec natives and long-time pals.
"You never know what can happen in the NHL," Pierre Brassard. "When [Derick and Jean-Gabriel] were with the [Ottawa] Senators, they were together and reunited [from their childhood]. Then, Derick went to Pittsburgh and so on, but found his way here. Now, here we are two years later and all of us are with the Islanders."
Jean Pageau was also reunited with a few of the fathers who travelled to Denmark back in 2018 when a handful of Isles represented Team Canada at the World Championships.
During the first intermission in the suite, and after Jean-Gabriel had scored a first period power-play goal, the reunion was in full-effect. David Pulock, Pierre Brassard, Sylvain Beauvillier and Jean Pageau all gathered by a high-top table as they shared memories and bantered back-and-forth.
"It's a reunion," Jean Pageau said with a smile. "It's amazing to all be here. I met [Mr. Pulock] back in Denmark. That was when we first met. Now, here we are together again. Our sons are all Islanders."
COUPLE OF ISLANDERS (THE PEI KIND)
Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest province and has a population of roughly 150,000 people. There are only a few active NHLers who hail from PEI, Ross Johnston and Noah Dobson are two of them.
Frank Johnston hadn't met Andrew Dobson until last November, but naturally the [Prince Edward] Islanders immediately hit it off in a similar fashion as their sons.
"It's fun having a fellow Islander," Frank Johnston said. "It is pretty crazy to have two players from PEI on the same team. It just goes to show you how small the hockey world really is."
"He's got my back, us Islanders stick together," Andrew Dobson said with a grin. "But it's been really nice getting to meet all of the other dads too and to hear about the experiences their sons have all gone through during their careers in the NHL, to get some perspective and to just get to know them all. The [players] have a really good group in the room and it's no wonder; all of the dads are the same."
HOMECOMING FOR THE MAYFIELDS
This year's schedule featured trips to Scott Mayfield's hometown of St. Louis and his second home of Denver within the span of a week. Andy Mayfield, who currently resides in Colorado, was inevitably planning on making both trips; it just worked out that the Dads and Mentors trip wound up being in the Gateway City.
With the Mayfield's eldest son, Patrick, who is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, getting stationed in New Mexico, Andy Mayfield had the rarity of getting to see both of his sons.
"[Patrick] saw [Scott] play last week and it was the first time he's seen him play in the NHL," Andy Mayfield said. "And then we'll all be back together in St. Louis. Just having [Patrick] here also and getting to see Scott play is a lot of fun. Then, making this trip the one that all of the dads [and mentors] ended up going on was just icing on the cake."
BACK TO ST. LOUIS
Mike Barzal had never been to St. Louis up until last month when he had made the trip out to watch the younger Barzal participate in the 2020 All-Star Weekend and earn the honors of the Fastest Skater in the All-Star Skills Competition.
"It's pretty funny to be back so soon here within a month," Mike Barzal said. "I wasn't expecting that. It's good to be back though and see more of the city this time. Getting to see [Mathew] again so soon. The dads are all great, they always make this a fun trip."
JUST LIKE OLD TIMES
The Pulocks have seen quite a bit of each other over the past month. During the Isles 10-day break at the end of January, Ryan Pulock returned home to Dauphin Manitoba to visit friends and family. Just last week, David Pulock had already booked a trip to Vegas and Arizona and will see his son play again next month during the Islanders western Canada road-swing next month at Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
"We got to see him last month a bit when he came home for the break," David Pulock said. "Then, about 24 of us from a small-town back home, mostly family and a few friends, all went down for the Vegas game. My two buddies and I drove a car to Arizona and caught that game [on Feb. 17]. I had booked that a while back. So, it was funny when I found out the dad's trip was the following week. I usually don't get to see him this much especially during the season, so I'm getting spoiled right now."
While the majority of players brought their fathers on the trip, Matt Martin and Nick Leddy brought along their brothers for the ride and Johnny Boychuk brought Rod Markewich, who was his billet in Moose Jaw.
"I've been on a bunch of these [Dads and Mentors trips] with Matt over the years and they're always a blast," Justin Martin said. "This was the first year that Nick brought his brother. It's been nice to have another brother here. The dads are obviously great, but it's fun to have another brother around."
Tyler Leddy used to live with his older brother on Long Island back when Leddy first started playing for the Isles. The visits between the brothers aren't as frequent as Tyler has since moved back to Minnesota.
"It's a lot of fun to be on the trip," Tyler Leddy said. "We're all having a good time with the dads and just to be able to spend some time with Nick is obviously good. We used to live together when I worked in the city. It's been a good trip with him and now, obviously hanging out with all of the dads."
TRIP FOR THE BOOKS
The day-to-day grind of the NHL's rigor and demanding schedule can be all-consuming, but the Dads and Mentors trip is a wholesome reminder of the extent, the sacrifices, moving pieces and unconditional support that all contribute to a player's path to the NHL.
"It brings a lot of good memories," Trotz said. "When you're in pee-wee hockey and atom hockey and growing up wanting to be an NHL player, it was a dream and now it's a reality. I'm sure sharing that reality with your parents is really something special. You don't get these moments. Sometimes in life, these moments are some of the best moments."