If you're a parent, you know what it means to be there for every one of your kids' games. It's not just a nice thing -- it's a necessity.
But what if you have four kids and all are elite-level hockey players? That's the problem Wayne and Donna Gudbranson have faced for a long time. Somehow, though, they've been able to make it work.
"They didn't (miss any games)," their oldest son, Erik Gudbranson
, No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft, told NHL.com. "At the start of every week they'd always figure out a plan. They'd sit down and figure out what the week held for us, they tried to figure out when they'd be off work, who was home at the time."
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And whether it was Erik's OHL games with the Kingston Frontenacs, or their two younger sons, Alex and Dennis, or their youngest, daughter Chantal, playing in local Ottawa leagues, one parent was at every game.
"Typically Donna went in one direction and I went the other direction," Wayne Gudbranson told NHL.com. "Most times they (games) weren't on top of each other. If there were four games that night, they're all at different times, so we could do it. And the rinks are fairly close together, so we were able to do it."
And it wasn't easy. Wayne is president and CEO of the Branham Group, an international technology consulting company, while Donna works for the University of Ottawa's department of family medicine and department of special projects. Wayne's job especially keeps him on the road.
"He travels a lot but he's very committed to our hockey, he's very committed to his kids," Erik said of his father. "He's flown in from Europe, slept three hours and come to see me play in Kingston (a two-hour drive each way), which is definitely something special. Having parents that are that committed, it's rubbed off on me. It's shown me you have to be committed if you want something."
Wayne said it's not hard for him and his wife at all. He said the key is not to think about all the places you have to drive and all the rinks you have to get to.
"You actually don't think about it," he said. "That's how you get through it. You coordinate it in the morning -- 'Hon, are you going to do this? I'm going to do this, I'll do this, I'll do this. What do we need to do to get Dennis to practice at 5 o'clock?' You just adjust. You strategize every day. And you don't think about it."
As difficult as it all was, it was made harder when Dennis was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just 5 years old. Wayne and Donna, however, were adamant that their other three children live normal lives; while one parent was with Dennis at all times, the other was making sure they were a visible presence at the kids' games and other events.
All the running and driving and stressing, however, is very much appreciated by the kids.
"It's kind of nice," Erik said. "The only people I've ever looked up to in the crowd -- and I don't do that usually as a hockey player -- but I always know that one section of the K-Rock Centre (Kingston's home building), when I see those jerseys, I know my parents are there and I know they're watching me. It's the same with my brothers and my sister -- there's always one of them there."
And now that he can help be the face in crowd -- 18-year-old Erik now shepherds his brothers and sister to spring and summer hockey events -- he understands just how much his parents have sacrificed to be there for him and his siblings.
"I see it now," Erik said. "I'm trying to make sure my little brothers and little sister understand it at an early age and put it into perspective and really understand what our parents are doing for them."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org