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Annual dads trip weaves family time into hectic NHL schedule

That this year's trip begins in St. Louis makes it even more meaningful for Philip and Pat Maroon

by Bryan Burns /

Philip Maroon won't have far to travel to join his son Pat and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning on the team's dads trip.

The Maroon family is from St. Louis, which also happens to be the first stop on the annual trip that brings Tampa Bay hockey players and their dads together for a little bonding time mixed with a behind-the-scenes look at all the work that goes into playing in the National Hockey League.

This year's trip begins in St. Louis where the Lightning will take on the Blues, a team that Maroon helped lead to a Stanley Cup last season. Then it's off to Chicago for a couple of nights in the Windy City. In between are team dinners, welcome receptions and a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis.

"It's nice to go to dinners with them and go have a drink with them and just catch up," Pat Maroon said. "Sometimes you never get that bonding time together with your dad, and sometimes when it's over it's over and you wish you could go back in time and have those moments and cherish those moments with not only your dad but your mom or brother, sisters, whatever. You take that time. I love always catching up with him or doing a dinner, just me and him, chatting, hanging out, enjoying the father/son time that we missed out on me playing so many times and playing so many different places. I really look forward to these trips."

Video: Bolt joins the Lightning on the road trip

Philip Maroon has joined his son for every dads trip since Pat became a regular in the NHL with Anaheim in 2013-14. Last season with the Blues, the dads trip took the Maroons to Tampa ironically, where they got to hang out for nearly a whole week, exploring the city and enjoy the weather during the early-February respite from the brutal Midwest winters.

"We had a really good time last year because we had like five days, six days," Pat Maroon said. "We really took the time and really explored it and enjoyed it. This year's obviously different going to St. Louis, but I'm sure we'll have a really good time."

Maroon remembers the numerous car rides during his youth hockey days with himself and his dad, just the two of them on the road bonding on trips throughout the Midwest.

"I mean the things I remember most is just me and my dad in the car as a kid, just him driving me to tournaments, going to Chicago, going to Notre Dame, Columbus, Minnesota, Canada, just us two, just driving and playing his rock music and listening to 590 The Fan all the way up, listening to sports radio all the way up," the younger Maroon said. "Those are the moments I'll always remember, just having that time."

The Lightning have been hosting a dads trip every season since 2014-15, head coach Jon Cooper's second full season with the team, according to Lightning senior director of team services Ryan Belec. This trip will be the sixth under Cooper.

"When we started, we said it wasn't going to be an annual thing," said Belec, who coordinates the dads trip in conjunction with his typical duties scheduling the team's travel for road trips. "But it was so popular and the dads and team have so much fun that here we are six years later and we've done one every year."

Thirty fathers of players, management, coaches and staff are on this year's dads trip. And not all are dads. Some are brothers. Some are father-in-laws.

Video: The Bolts' Dads joined the team on a recent road trip

Anthony Cirelli's father Rocco will me making his second dads trip. Cirelli was a rookie last season when he brought his father along for his first trip, which started in Philadelphia and ended in Nashville, where the dads got a tour of the famous Grand Ole Opry.

"I've only been through it once, so I get excited for him to come down and spend some time with him," Cirelli said. "I don't really get to see him much during the year. It's pretty cool, and just to meet the other dads, see the other dads on the trip, see where guys kind of came from, it's good."

Lightning assistant coach Todd Richards said the trip is a unique experience because it allows the dads to see what life is like for their sons on the road and gain a newfound awareness of all the hard work that goes into playing in the NHL.

"Dads really look forward to these trips, and I think that's what makes it special for the sons as well is dads being around it, really seeing what it's like behind the scenes," Richards said. "I think they get a little bit more of an appreciation for what they go through. A lot of times people just see the games when there's a lot of work that goes into this, and I'm not just talking about the work that you see on the ice, the sacrifice that these guys have, that we all have. You get on the road, you're missing a lot of family moments, you're missing a lot of kids' moments at school. It's a sacrifice. I think everybody does. I think dads get a little bit more of an appreciation and, again, we owe everything to our parents and what they've been able to provide us with the support and whatever else to put us in this position, these guys in this position to do what they love to do and that's play hockey."

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