When Chris Kunitz
won the Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks
, it was the best day of the forward's hockey life.
That might have been trumped Wednesday, when he and his wife, Maureen, welcomed their first child, Zachary James.
Players want to win for themselves, for each other and for their organization. But they also want to win for their families. They live for the opportunity to share the journey, not only with their hockey family, but with their real family, as well.
"If you reach some goal and you have your family who supports you through ups and downs with you, that's always a bonus," Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko
told NHL.com. "You want to have them at the time you won."
Fedotenko did just that when he won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning
. He was lucky enough to celebrate with his wife and kids. Now Kunitz hopes to do the same.
"Obviously when you have a family you want them to take part in anything you do," Kunitz said. "Last time we won the Cup it was just me and my fiancée at the time, my parents spent time (in Anaheim). It would be a great thing if your family can be part of it, you get pictures or whatever else, everyone experiencing how much fun and what a blast the playoffs are. It's one of the best things in the world for a hockey player to experience."
Kunitz isn't going to look ahead, but he can look back and remember what it was like watching his Ducks teammates who had kids celebrating with the Cup.
"If that time comes, certainly we'll take advantage of it and spend some quality time together with the trophy," he said.
knows just how Kunitz feels. He had his 20-month-old son, Rhys, in the dressing room with him Thursday. Rhys wasn't around when Adams won the Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes
"When you don't have kids, maybe you think about it a little bit, but when you have them, it changes everything," Adams told NHL.com. "To remember those guys being able to share it with their kids and things like that was pretty neat to see and would be pretty neat to experience."
Kunitz won't soon forget this playoff experience. Zachary Kunitz was born in the late morning, so dad was excused from the morning skate. He considered skipping Game 1 of the series Wednesday night, but after spending time with his wife and baby and seeing them in good shape, he decided to play.
"Leading up to it I wasn't sure, just wanted to see how my wife felt and make sure the baby was OK and all that stuff," Kunitz said. "We had called the team to let them know we had a baby and I said I would call them back and let them know after I talked to my wife. They were both doing OK, so I ate at the hospital, took a nap there, woke up and headed over to the rink, so it worked out great."
It didn't take long for Kunitz to get into the game -- he laid a big hit on Philadelphia's top defenseman, Kimmo Timonen
, which left the All-Star blueliner hobbled for the rest of the game.
He finished a plus-1 in 14:06 of ice time. He had just one shot, but threw four hits and had two takeaways.
"As soon as you get out there and the fans are going crazy and the towels are going, you feel the energy," Kunitz said. "That's a huge buzz for any player getting ready for the playoffs."
Kunitz admitted to being torn between staying with his wife and new son and getting back with the team, but support from his teammates helped ease the situation.
"Lots of congratulations from my teammates and guys asking questions about the baby, but we get in here to get dressed, it's all business," Kunitz said. "We're all professionals here, kind of leave the outside world to itself. We're a team, we're a family and we all support each other."
Kunitz wants to win for his hockey family, and now he has another family he just as desperately wants to win for.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.