The Florida Panthers had quite a few extra passengers on their two-game road trip earlier this week, bringing the fathers of 15 different players along for the ride as part of the franchise's first-ever Dads Trip.
"My dad's been a big part of my life," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "Not only in my daily life outside of hockey, but inside of hockey he's taught me just about everything I know, despite not having the experience that some guys have had playing some higher levels of hockey. He taught me quite a bit and it's got me to this point I think."
In addition to attending practices and workouts, the fathers also shared a suite for Monday's 3-0 shutout win against the New Jersey Devils and Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders - a perfect road trip under their parental supervision.
"It's been an interesting, enlightening experience to see what they go through," said Ekblad's father, Dave. "The routine, the regimen, the video and the whole process, it's been very, very interesting. I met a lot of great guys, great kids with great parents. It's been a lot of fun."
Like all family vacations, the dads also couldn't resist taking a few detours during the trip, visiting both the New York Stock Exchange and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, where Panthers President & CEO Matthew Caldwell's father went out of his way to provide NYPD hats for the entire group.
"We had a great time," said Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie's father, Ken. "It's great to be with these guys. We're a part of their lives and they're a part of ours. It's great to be with them."
In addition to spending a few days with their sons, the Panthers' proud papas also wined and dined with the team's owners, Vincent Viola and Douglas Cifu, during the organization's annual team dinner at Balmonte's Italian restaurant in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
"The Florida Panthers organization put a great trip together for us," said Panthers center Vincent Trocheck's father, Vince. It's great when you can get out and travel with the team and the boys, and it's always good to be with your son. We appreciate what they've done. The whole trip is a highlight. It's definitely been an awesome."