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Through a Mother's Eyes: Alex Iafallo

For Barb, the road to outfitting herself and her friends with Iafallo NHL jerseys began 20 years ago, when Alex was four years old

by Deborah Lew @by_DeborahLew / LAKings.com

The descriptions "thrill-seeker" and "lives dangerously" probably aren't high on the list of qualities a mother wants for her son.

But when they are accompanied by characteristics like "driven" and "humble," it makes that son a motivated, accomplished, and successful person.

Barb Iafallo can attest to that.

Barb's son, Alex Iafallo, is playing his first year of NHL hockey with the LA Kings. Having graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth last Spring with a bachelor's degree in Management, Alex went undrafted and signed with the Kings as an unrestricted free agent in April of 2017.

Twelve months later, Alex is one of seven Kings players who has made their playoff debut with the club as the Kings opened their first-round playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

In Game 3, Iafallo scored the Kings first goal of the game, giving them their first lead of the series.

Video: VGK@LAK, Gm3: Iafallo roofs one to open the scoring

From Eden, New York, where the Iafallo family has its roots, Barb was parked in front of the television for her son's first NHL playoff game. Being a nurse in the same unit for the last 29 years, Barb is typically able to schedule her three 12-hour shifts per week so that they allow her to watch the Kings' games. Barb works the night shift, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., so watching games at 10 p.m. allows her to get errands done just in time to settle in for the games.

Impressively, Barb admits to having only missed four games this entire season.

Her colleagues have been helpful over the years with respect to allowing Barb to switch shifts when she needed to take Alex to tournaments and watch his games, although the last-minute scheduling for the NHL playoffs has presented a new challenge.

She has, however, managed to turn some of her colleagues from Buffalo Sabres fans to Kings fans, and she's very proud to say that some of her coworkers have even purchased Iafallo jerseys to further show their support.

Tweet from @LAKings: Everyone loves Alex Iafallo ������ pic.twitter.com/9mqS2Aiy5C

For Barb, the road to outfitting herself and her friends with Iafallo NHL jerseys began 20 years ago, when Alex was four years old. He learned to skate at that age, and was requested by the local mite travel team, but Barb and her husband, Tom, decided to hold Alex back from travel hockey until he was five.

Tom, who owns a restaurant and coaches hockey, was also able to manipulate his schedule to take Alex and his younger sister, Juliana, to skate and practice.

One of Barb's fondest memories from Alex's childhood hockey days is cooking her son's favorite meal.

"I would make homemade meatballs and sauce for the hotel room because he hated sitting in restaurants, because we were going out to eat a lot and he hated sitting there wasting time," Barb recalls. "So, he'd always make me make my homemade meatballs and sauce and we'd heat it up in the hotel room and he'd invite half of the team to our room to eat and they would play mini sticks for hours in the hallway."

To this day, Alex still keeps in touch with some of those teammates and whenever they come over in the summer, it is requested that Mrs. Iafallo make her meatballs and sauce - which of course she happily obliges.

Tweet from @LAKings: Everyone loves Alex Iafallo ������ pic.twitter.com/9mqS2Aiy5C

Apart from the meatballs, Barb isn't too much of a cook, although she does have another specialty: Carrot cake made from scratch. The cake comes from a recipe from Alex's aunt Karen, and Barb makes it every year in December for her son's birthday.

When Alex and Juliana were kids, they would constantly be shooting pucks in the Iafallo's unfinished basement.

After too many lightbulbs met their untimely end by way of rubber discs, Tom eventually built a roller rink in the family's backyard, complete with boards and lights. It was there that Alex would hang out with his buddies until the wee hours of the morning, music blaring.

One of the other favorite local spots was the pond in the woods behind their home, about a quarter of a mile away. Alex and his friends would skate there and round up as many extension cords as they could - going as far as to borrow from neighbors - so that they could light the pond, even putting Christmas lights up so that it could be a place for friends and family to gather.

Alex was never the type of kid to sit around - he wasn't a big television watcher and always preferred to be outside. Two of his most preferred hobbies were snowmobiling and snowboarding, and, according to Barb, if her son hadn't become a professional hockey player, he would have become a professional snowboarder.

"Even though the coaches didn't like them to, they would build these jumps and ramps and everything in our yard and they would pull each other on the snowmobile on their snowboards and go over all these crazy jumps," Barb recalls. "One time, I was getting up from sleeping in the afternoon and I hear them on the roof - they actually made a jump off the roof down into the snow. He's always pushing the limits and finding something dangerous to do and he makes me nervous."

Danger aside, Barb realized that Alex was the kind of kid that needed his creative freedom.

"When he was younger you could kind of control him a little bit and say, 'No, you shouldn't be doing that.' But then when he was in college, he'd send me videos of him down in Duluth jumping off of these rocks in a skinny creek, doing a back flip, and I'd be like, 'That does not look safe.' Then the first time we went there, he took us to this point and I was like, 'This is totally not safe, don't do that!' He's always been like that," says Barb with a chuckle.

Barb and Tom found themselves in an extremely fortunate predicament this season, as Alex was in his first pro year, and Juliana was in her senior season as captain of the Ohio State Women's Hockey Team.

"We are very proud of both of them, both making it to Division I Hockey, and she was the captain this year," Barb boasts. "It was a little challenging at times, trying to figure out which one to go visit to watch, but this year since it was her senior year, we tried to go to as many of her games as possible."

Alex and Juliana are very supportive of each other. They feed off each other, provide each other advice, and try to watch each other play as often as possible. Juliana was just in Los Angeles last week, visiting her big brother with her parents.

Having vacationed in California a couple times when the kids were younger, Barb knew she would love visiting Alex in LA. It was always her dream to live at the beach, and now she is living vicariously through her son. The Iafallos were present for opening night back in October as Alex made his NHL debut, and Barb drove up to San Jose for the game against the Sharks two nights later.

"It's exciting coming to [STAPLES Center], everybody is so into it. It's such an extravagant show. I don't know if it's LA, but every time we bring somebody with us, they're like, 'This is unbelievable, this is so exciting.' Between the light show and all the videos and the fans, it's always sold out, the stands are always filled - I still get emotional when I see him out there," says Barb, who, a couple of weeks ago, finally got an Iafallo jersey from her son.

While they don't have plans to visit during Round 1 of the playoffs, having been here at the end of the regular season, they may return for Round 2, should the Kings dispel the Golden Knights. Barb knows that her son is ready for the opportunity.

"He's awful with his phone, he hates talking on the phone and responding to texts and all that. But he had said some things while we were there - he's not nervous, he's just more excited," relays Barb. "I think making it all the way to the Frozen Four last year in Duluth and making it through regionals the two years prior, that's helped give the experience of playoff hockey - even though the NHL is a lot more pressure and it's the best league - I think it helps."

How is Barb taking her son's first NHL playoff series?

"I always worry, as a mother," she concedes. "He laughs at me and says, 'Mom, I'm an adult,' and I'm like, 'You'll understand once you have kids of your own.' You're going up against some of these tough teams and I'll always worry about him. There's a lot of pressure playing in the NHL, especially never playing in the AHL at all. I think the four years of playing college hockey in that most competitive league with the great coaches and teammates, that helps prepare him a lot."

Truth be told, it probably helped prepare her, too, as it was last year when Barb realized her son could reach his NHL dream.

"He always exceeded everybody's expectations. He's such a hard worker, he's got a great work ethic, and just pushes himself. He likes the challenge and always wants to be, even when he was young, the best student at school, the best athlete. He'll never tell you that, but he definitely has that internal drive to do the best that he can. In my heart, I just knew he was going to make it someday."

For her part in her son's success, Barb gets to finagle more shift switching, hopefully well into June.

After all these years, her fellow nurses will certainly understand.

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