For Anthony Beauvillier and his father Sylvain, there are no shortage of memories they've shared together over the years, often as a byproduct of Beauvillier's pursuit to becoming a professional hockey player. Throughout all of those early morning practices and late-night games, the night of Feb. 23, 2017 is a memory that is particularly special to both father and son.
Bell Centre in Montreal was the backdrop that night and Beauvillier was taking center stage in the (then) rookie's first NHL game in Montreal. That would have been enough to make Sylvain swell with pride, as he watched his son's triumphant return to his hometown. It somehow got better.
Beauvillier had just scored his sixth goal of his rookie season in the NHL, snapping a sizzling wrist shot past Carey Price. With Beauvillier celebrating on the ice, the camera panned on Sylvain. Surrounded by family and friends, Beauvillier's father, who wore a bright blue and orange Isles ball cap, carefully wiped away tears of joy from both eyes as he tightly clutched onto his son's No. 72 jersey in hand.
"I still give it to him for that," Beauvillier said. "There's even a video of my mom getting so emotional when I got drafted. For [my parents], I know it means so much because they know that right now, I'm living my dream."
Video: NYI@MTL: Beauvillier beats Price to make dad tear up
For players like Beauvillier, it's easy to get wrapped up in the perks and the grueling demands of an 82-game regular season. Sometimes it takes remarkable experiences or the inevitable growing pains to fathom the magnitude of the support system that's been there every step of the way. For many players in the NHL, their fathers are a foundational piece.
"He was the heart of my [hockey] career," Beauvillier said of his father. "He was always driving me around and coming to games. He and my mother never missed a game. He was always there for my brother and I. Just always sacrificing his time for his children...You don't realize how big those sacrifices really are, but I wouldn't be where I am [today] without that support from him."
Growing up, no matter how filled the arenas were, how close the score was, or even how obstreperous the atmosphere was; Beauvillier could always pick his father out amidst the chaos. Sylvain would let out a sharp and succinct whistle that could instantaneously capture Beauvillier's attention. Having just wrapped up his third season in the NHL, Beauvillier recognizes the lasting impact his father had on his career and to this day he still finds himself listening for that distinct whistle.
"I remember always just hearing his whistle," Beauvillier said fondly. "It didn't matter where we were playing or how loud it was, I always knew it was him. He would whistle between his fingers. I'd immediately find him [in the stands] and he'd use his hands to make a sign to tell me to get my feet moving or cut to the net or something. I know he watches every game at home [on TV] so sometimes I'll still hear it."
At the ripe age of 22, the Isles left winger has grown an appreciation for his father's numerous and selfless sacrifices throughout his career. During three years of playing junior hockey for the Shawinigan Cataractes - an hour and a half away from his hometown of Sorel Tracy - Beauvillier's father only missed one of his games. The reason, he lost a wheel off of his car on the drive up.
"To get here [at the professional level] I put in the work and made a lot of sacrifices, but so did my parents," Beauvillier said. "It's different now, obviously being out [on Long Island] and playing in front of that many people each game. But in a lot of ways it's still the same. You always want to make him proud...I always call or text him after every game. He's always tells me to keep looking forward. For him, he's even starting to understand what it's like to be in my shoes and the demands at this level."
The father-son relationship is one that even a seasoned veteran like Josh Bailey still relies on. While Bailey has matured in tenure and age, the relationship with his father Chris has evolved since the Islanders' forward has become a father of his own to sons Wyatt (3) and Mack (1).
"You always hear it when you're a kid, 'Oh, you'll understand it one day.' And it's true," Bailey said. "It resonates when you become a father of your own. You have a completely different perspective of what your parents had to go through in raising you to be the person you are today and how much work it takes."
A native of Bowmanville, Ontario, Bailey spent much of his childhood outdoors and alongside his dad. In the summers, Chris took Bailey and his brother Jordan out on the boat near Peterborough. Now, at 29-years-old, not much has changed. It's now become an annual tradition for Bailey, his dad and brother to take a fishing trip and explore a new lake in Canada each year leading up to Father's Day.
"He played a huge role [in my hockey career]," Bailey said. "I could always count on him for support. With hockey, he pushed me but in a positive way. Now as I've gotten older, he's still willing to lend an ear and talk about things related to hockey or even just father-to-father...It's been a lot of fun to see him be a grandfather and understand that unconditional love for your kids."
For players like Beauvillier and Bailey, their own personal successes are an attribution of the unconditional love, guidance and conditioning from influential supporters like their fathers that have molded them into the men whom they are today.
"Any guy that I know that has made it to the highest level, you just don't get there without your family and friends and loved ones," Bailey said. "It's not just one person that gets to the NHL, it's a whole team that is responsible. Speaking from my experience, [that support system] has played a massive part over the years."