Jeff Schenn had an interesting decision to make inside the dads suite at St. Louis' Enterprise Center while sitting with the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning fathers.
A) Take the easy route and root for eldest son Luke, a defenseman for the Lightning?
B) Support younger son Brayden, a forward for the opposing Blues, and draw the ire of the rest of the Lightning dads.
C) Cheer for both and hope the rest of the dads are understanding.
Ultimately, Jeff chose option D: silently hope for both to perform well without getting injured.
"I just know somebody's going to win, and you just want Luke to do good and you want Brayden to do good and that's honest to God, the game is a blur," Jeff reasoned.
Don't fret for Jeff Schenn though.
Despite struggling to come to terms with his rooting loyalties in St. Louis, the firefighter from Saskatoon is blessed to have two sons with long careers in the NHL. Luke Schenn is in his 12th season in the League after being picked with the fifth overall selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008 NHL Draft. Brayden Schenn was taken a year later, also fifth overall, by Los Angeles and has scored at least 17 goals each of the last six seasons in an 11-year NHL career.
"I give them all the credit because they drive each other, and they always have since they were 10 years old," Jeff said. "Luke sort of led the path. Luke's had his few hiccups along the way, and Brayden's there to help pick him up. And when Brayden goes into a little bit of a lull, he's got Luke to pick him up. So I give them a ton of credit for where they've been…Just so happy to be part of the ride, and that's the honest to God truth because…like my kids are NHL players which is really cool because I'm a huge hockey fan and to be able do that but the other stuff that goes with it, I just try to keep it like we do, day by day and have some fun and get to share lots of stories.
Jeff Schenn joined oldest son Luke in St. Louis for the Tampa Bay Lightning's dads trip, which brings together the fathers of the team's players, management and staff for a two-city tour through the NHL and a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into putting together a road game in the League. This season's dads trip, the sixth annual under head coach Jon Cooper, started in St. Louis, featured a visit to the Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery, continued on to Chicago for a day off in the Windy City and included suite tickets for games against the Blues and Blackhawks.
It just so happened, Luke's brother and Jeff's youngest son Brayden plays for St. Louis, meaning Jeff Schenn got to double dip so to speak and watch both boys battle at the same time. The night before the Blues hosted the Lightning, the three Schenns got together to have dinner, a rare midseason chance to bond.
"It just kind of lined up perfectly where we come on the road and we fly in the night before so we grab dinner Brayden and I and my dad. It was pretty special," Luke said. "He's on the fence watching us play against one another because he wants Brayden to score, but he wants me to play him hard but not over the top. It's a weird thing for him he says. It's like you're cheering for both teams and for both of us to have success. (Brayden's) the guy that's got to score, and I'm the guy that's got to try not to get scored on. It's interesting for him, but it's special all the way around and we're very fortunate."
Jeff Schenn still isn't sure how to handle watching his sons play against one another.
"I'd rather see him play somebody else," father Schenn said. "But it's pretty special when you get to do that, right? And they're best friends too, not just brothers. They work out together. Every day they're talking to each other. You've got to take advantage of those moments for sure."
There was a moment inside the Lightning's dads suite in the St. Louis game that tested the loyalties of the elder Schenn.
A first period play had all the dads up in arms hollering for a penalty.
The offending player was Brayden Schenn.
"They're going, "Hey, hey, hey, that's a fricking penalty!' And I'm going, 'Hey, hey, hey, that's my kid!'
"So they all have a chuckle."
Later in the second period in St. Louis, Brayden Schenn caught an unsuspecting Nikita Kucherov with a hard hit, the Lightning superstar turning into the collision just as he dumped a puck in the zone and landing square on his back. Kucherov had to leave the game with an upper-body injury and missed Tampa Bay's next contest in Chicago.
Erik Cernak was the first Lightning player to reach Brayden and immediately tied him up to make him answer for the hit, ripping his helmet off in the process.
When the three Schenns got together post-game before leaving Brayden behind in St. Louis, the conversation turned to the hit.
"Coop [Lightning head coach Jon Cooper] asked my dad, 'What happens if Luke was on the ice and it wasn't Cernak?'" Luke recalled. "He was kind of joking around. But it was a good question."
Video: Recharge | Father's Trip
Luke remembered a moment when both were just starting in the League that underscores how awkward it can be to play your brother. You don't want to let up against your sibling. Heck, you probably play harder, wanting to prove you're the dominant sibling. But you don't want to hurt your brother either. A play you would normally make against another opponent, maybe you don't make because of the potential for injury.
It's a weird spot.
"It was like his first year in the league, and I was in Toronto," Luke said. "He must have missed a month-and-a-half or two months with a really bad concussion, and it was his first game back. The puck got dumped in my corner, and he had a step on me. I could have put him through the third row…But I kind of let up knowing that he just got back from a concussion. I'm not going to be the guy that tests his head out and puts him back out of the lineup again."
Jeff still winces a bit when his two sons collide.
"That happens with the big guy usually on the little one, Luke over Brayden," Jeff said. "Brayden can maybe score some goals while Luke's on the ice. It's real tricky both ways…The Kucherov hit the other night…I got asked that by a few people what would have happened if Luke was on the ice?...I don't think Luke would have fought him, but he certainly would have grabbed him."
Luke Schenn estimates his father's been on 17 dads trips, including the trip last week with the Lightning.
Dad thinks it might be 18.
At this point, who's counting?
"He loves it," Luke said. "That's like his first question every time the schedule comes out, 'Hey, have you heard when the father's trip is?'"
You'd think after maybe dads trip No. 10, the excitement would wear off. You've seen everything possible that could happen on the road. It must be kind of boring once you hit double digits dads trips.
You'd be wrong.
Video: Bolts' Dads tour Anheuser Busch
"It's awesome. The dads love it. We get spoiled rotten," Jeff admitted, pointing to the luxurious accommodations the Lightning provided them in St. Louis and Chicago as well as the comped team dinner at iconic Chicago steakhouse Gibson's. "When you see what the kids do and how much of a grind it is but what a great lifestyle to be involved in. It's been fun. I've met so many good dads. I have a lot of phone numbers in my phone now."
The players enjoy the trips too, although maybe that enthusiasm wanes when its day four of sharing a hotel room with your father and your normal road trip routine has been repeatedly interrupted (and we know how much hockey players are all about maintaining routines).
"Don't kid yourself, they're as excited as we are because it doesn't take long to say, 'Hey, we're going here. We're doing this,'" Jeff said. "But as soon as they find out (when the dads trip is), they let me know. That's pretty cool. The boys love it. They love their dads being around. It's all good."
Luke recalled a time he brought along his father for a dads trip to New York while with the Philadelphia Flyers. A couple weeks later, Luke was traded to Los Angeles.
It just so happened, the Kings' dads trip was approaching.
It would be in New York.
"Same hotel, same everything," Luke said, laughing. "So he came on that one too, two in like three weeks.
"So yeah, he loves it."
Jeff already has another dads trip lined up this year too, the benefits of having two sons in the NHL.
"He's got Vegas and Anaheim teed up. He's pretty pumped about that one," Luke said, referring to St. Louis' upcoming February dads trip. "It's always something to look forward to for him."