While no hockey player can ever fully repay his parents for the years of early morning practices, the countless weekends spent at distant away games, and the piles of expensive, rapidly out-grown equipment, an extended weekend in Florida isn't a bad place to start.
For this week’s games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, Islanders players and coaches were encouraged to invite a parent or mentor to come along for the ride to America's Sunshine State.
“It’s a great trip and the Dads really enjoy it,” said Islanders captain Doug Weight. “This is my third year doing it and each one gets better. With everything they’ve done to sacrifice for our lives, it’s just great to have them here. They’re very proud. It’s great to see the physical appearance of the Dads and some of their mannerisms, and how closely they match up with their sons.”
The team’s flights, bus rides and even hotel rooms were a bit more crowded than usual throughout the four day trip, but all parties involved were happy to share an armrest in exchange for such a memorable experience.
Mentors are invited to experience almost every aspect of life on the road with the team, from attending morning skates and touring the visitor’s dressing room, to knocking back pre-game meals and taking the all-important afternoon nap.
“They’ve been a big influence on our careers and lives,” said John Tavares
. “They’re so proud of us and we couldn’t be any more thrilled to try and get them a couple of victories here on the road and really enjoy this trip.”
Some veterans of the trip wisely decided to room together, so as to not be limited by their sons’ curfews. Players who are newer to the Islanders organization have been genuinely thrilled to room with their mentors and show them what life on the road is like.
“I spent a few years in the Devils organization and I never had a chance to do a dads trip,” said defenseman Mike Mottau. “This is the first chance for my Dad to see what a day in the life of an NHL player is like. It’s an exciting time because you get to relax and hang out with your Dad. You don’t get too many opportunities to do that as you get older.”
As will happen when any group of parents get together, the first few days of the trip have been filled with their share of embarrassing stories about what the players were like as children. Check out the Islanders revamped youtube page throughout the week for some of these stories, straight from the mentors’ mouths.