LOS ANGELES - Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith wasn't sure his day in the NHL All-Star sun would come, so when it did, he decided to take full advantage of it.
On Saturday morning, when many of the other players involved in the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game were sleeping in or enjoying breakfast, Smith, a first-time All-Star, took his three boys, aged 2 through 5, and shooed them out the hotel door and to the Staples Center at around 8:30 a.m.
They piled into one of the dressing rooms and started putting on equipment. The ice was available to any of the All-Stars for a morning skate and Smith wasn't going to pass on a once-in-a-life opportunity to share the moment with his children.
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"My kids are my life; my family is my life," Smith said, "To make the All-Star Game at 34 and to have my family here means everything to me. My 5-year-old is starting to understand what dad does and it is cool that they are out here and supporting me."
Smith got an added surprise when he took the ice, in a track suit with his goalie skates and a stick out of the Connor McDavid collection. No other players took the option to skate, so he and his kids had the ice sheet all to themselves.
"They couldn't wait to skate on the L.A. Kings ice, so it was pretty special for them."
Aksel, the 5-year-old, led the charge, followed by Ajax, who is four. Each was kitted out in full equipment and Coyotes' sweaters. Nixon, 2, was in sneakers instead of skates and carried a mini goal stick as his father carried him around the ice, smashing into the boards and hoisting him up in the air, in a similar manner players do in hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The kids took shots into the empty net, pretending they were participating in shootouts. They passed the puck back and forth with their dad. At one point, Aksel was at the far end of the ice and his dad fired a crisp pass that found its mark and hit Aksel in the skate, knocking him down.
"Got you," Smith said, laughing.
Soon, Aksel pulled himself back up and continued his routine. At one point, he put his stick on the puck, carried it the length of the ice and scored on a backhand shot. After the goal, he wheeled toward the player bench and bumped fists with a line of family members watching from there, a celebration he repeated each time he scored.
At another point, Smith held Nixon in the crease and helped him block shootout attempts from his brothers.
"He wants to be on the ice," Smith said of Nixon. "He's a little animal that one. He wants to do everything his brothers do. He can't skate yet, so I was just better off not to have out there in skates. It's a backbreaker for anyone to try to take their 2 year-old on the ice when they can't skate. He enjoyed it and had a blast out there. They all loved being in the locker room and around the guys. It was a great opportunity to do that this morning."