BUFFALO, NEW YORK -- The Penguins completed their fifth annual “Dads’ Trip” with another perfect two-game sweep. Pittsburgh defeated Florida, 3-2, Monday night on the first leg of the trip, and ended on a high note with a 1-0 victory at Buffalo Wednesday night.
|Maxime Talbot and his father Serge |
The Dads’ Trip tradition was instituted by general manager Ray Shero when he arrived in Pittsburgh in 2006. Every year the team’s players, coaches and staff get to bring their fathers on a two-game road trip.
The fathers follow their sons through every step of the trip, from breakfast to the bus, to practice, to team meetings, on the plane, and finally watching the games from a suite. It gives the dads a chance to see their sons in action day-in and day-out.
“It’s a great trip. I love it. This is super,” said Marvin Kunitz, father of Penguins forward Chris. “Seeing what the boys do everyday, getting up in the morning, having breakfast, off to the rink, back to the hotel. It’s a lot of work. Not a lot of people realize how much work they put into it. A lot is fun, but a lot is extremely hard work. They’re a great bunch of guys.”
Pittsburgh is now 7-3 all-time in Dads Trip games and has pulled off three sweeps in the five seasons. The Penguins are 4-0 under head coach Dan Bylsma after another perfect 2-0 mark.
“The two wins is always good,” said Henry Staal, father of center Jordan. “That’s what makes it the most fun. The Penguins do a phenomenal job. They treat us like gold. Even though Jordan wasn’t playing, it’s still fun to meet the new dads and see the other side of the game and what goes on.”
Henry is a seasoned veteran when it comes to the Dads Trip, having attended every retreat since its inception. Other All-Star Dads are Troy Crosby, Andre Fleury, Serge Talbot and Rick Orpik – who have made all five trips with their son.
|The dads watch the pre-game team meeting |
“It’s a little more relaxing cause you know what goes on,” Henry said. “At first you’re a little scared and intimidated until you get to know them. The guys are great, too. They embrace it all, that’s what makes it easy. It’s a lot of fun.”
Other than seeing what their sons do on a day-to-day basis, the trip also allows the dads to get to know each other and the players in a more personal way, something that rookie dad Dale Martin enjoyed.
“Getting to know the dads and players personalities on the bus, at practice, at the hotel, it’s a different perspective than just watching on TV. You get to take part,” said the father of defenseman Paul Martin
. “Doing this you get to know where the dads and players are coming from, where they’ve been, hear some good stories.
“It’s just kind of neat to hear the jokes. You don’t usually see that on TV and in games. That’s the big thing is learning the personalities. You gain more respect for them. They’re courteous, polite, good group of guys. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Although Dale did have one minor complaint:
“There is too much food. We need to get some exercise,” he joked.
The Penguins lost both contests of the Dads Trip in 2008. On the 2009 trip, Shero joked that if the team didn’t win the dads would be replaced with a “Moms Trip.” But back-to-back sweeps in 2009 and ’10 have the dads in pretty good shape.
“I think everyone heard Ray’s message last year when he threatened us with the Moms’ Trip. Keep winning,” Brooks Orpik
“That’s been discussed a lot,” Henry said. “If we keep winning I don’t think Ray will go with the Moms.”
The Dads Trip started Sunday with practice at Southpointe. The fathers then accompanied their sons to the airport for a flight to Fort Lauderdale in the afternoon.
The dads were treated to dinner and drinks at the hotel courtesy of the Penguins. The dinner was originally supposed to be on the beach with a bonfire, but heavy winds and rainfall forced a move indoors.
The dads and players weren’t soured by the move. After the hearty meal, players, staff, coaches and fathers mingled on the patio along the beach.
The following day, the dads road the team bus to BankAtlantic Center for the Penguins’ Monday morning skate. After practice, the dads were treated to lunch. The fathers had the afternoon to rest and enjoy the pool, beaches and beautiful weather.
The Penguins took care of business on the ice that night in Florida. Pittsburgh scored two power-play goals and recorded a clutch tally in the third period to break a 2-2 tie.
Pittsburgh practiced in Florida Tuesday afternoon with the dads watching in the stands. Then the team made a 2.5-hour flight, and 30-minute bus ride to their hotel in Buffalo. The players took their dads out for dinner that evening.
Wednesday after a full breakfast, the dads took another trip to rink for a morning skate. Bylsma and the coaching staff invited the dads into the locker room for the pre-skate team meeting where assistant coach Tony Granato went through the game plan and Buffalo scouting report.
The padres changed into their specially made Penguins jerseys (with their last name and their son’s number on the back) and lined up on the bench. The players kneeled in front of them and a photo was snapped to preserve the memory. The jerseys were collected from the dads and were signed by every player for a keepsake item.
The Penguins again gave their dads a nice treat with a victory on the ice. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
was the hero with a 30-save shutout in a 1-0 win. Everyone to the bus to the airport and made the flight back to Pittsburgh. A great end to a great trip. Hopefully, the success continues next season.