It didn't take long to notice the plane was a little more full than usual and so was the bus. Let me do a quick roll call: GM check. Coaching staff check. Players check. Medical and equipment staff check. Alright so exactly who are these people and where are they from? Well, they are dads along with one father-in-law and one brother. Where they are from is everywhere Eastern and Western Canada, the United States and even from Europe. All gathering together for the Edmonton Oilers fathers trip to Colorado and Arizona.
Here's who is on the trip: Brian Benning, Salvatore Caggiula, Ralston Carnegie (Milan Lucic's father in law), Darren Eberle, Shawn Gryba, Douglas Hendricks, Roger Hopkins, Michael Kassian (Zack's brother), Hakan Klefbom, Garth Letestu, Philip Maroon, Brian McDavid, Richard Nurse, Douglas Russell and Mark Talbot. Missing family representation are Jesse Puljujarvi, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Slepyshev, Andrej Sekera, Jonas Gustavsson, Leon Draisaitl, Tyler Pitlick and Adam Larsson. Unfortunate for them, but very fortunate for those that were able to make it.
The last time Edmonton had a Fathers Trip was 2010. The only holdover from that year is Darren Eberle. The next season they had a moms trip. Since then, a tradition many teams work into their schedule had been on hold until 2016. It's the first time for some like Brian McDavid but others are veterans. Douglas Russell has been on six of these: three with Columbus and two with Calgary. Mark Talbot has been on two with the New York Rangers. Philip Maroon had his chance with Anaheim. A real moment where father and son are surrounded by others but still have moments together and away from everyone else.
These dads are getting a look into the NHL life. Planes, buses, team meals and team meetings. They are on the inside with a day-to-day experience of what it's like for their sons (or son-in-law and brother) to play in the NHL. An up-close example so they understand. Only one, Brian Benning, has played in the NHL but things have changed dramatically in the two decades since he retired. These men come from all walks of life. Garth Letestu is involved in the oil business, Philip Maroon is a salesman; Hakan Klefbom a teacher; Douglas Russell a bullfighter. As different as their professions are, what's the same is a love for their sons.
On this trip you get a chance to see the men behind the men. If there was a spitting image contest I think hands down the winners would be Douglas and Matt Hendricks. In fact, Matt says his boy is now starting to look like him. I always thought it was a great compliment and source of pride when someone says "Hey, do you ever look like your dad!"
There are others who also look similar. The resemblance can mainly be seen in their eyes and their smiles and there has been a lot of that going on from ear to ear. Fathers who have happily made commitments and sacrifices to help get their sons to the NHL.
It really is a special bonding moment between a dad and his boy. They don't come along too often in the fast-paced world we live in and the one the Oilers play in. Todd McLellan stated this was his seventh father-son trip. He said it was a way of giving thanks to them because none of them would be here without their dads. A fun trip for the fathers and quite possibly for the player.
"You can have a lot of fun when you win games but it's not as much fun when your dad is looking at you like what the hell were you doing all night," McLellan going on to say how the players want to make their father's proud.
It looks to me like that's already been accomplished but a couple more wins wouldn't hurt.