Father’s Day came early for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nearly all the fathers of the players and some staff members accompanied the team for its recent two-game roadtrip to Dallas and Phoenix in the organization’s first fathers trip.
The result – two crucial wins and some unforgettable memories.
“It was so nice of the Penguins to have it,” said Dan Whitney, the father of Ryan Whitney. “It was so much fun just getting to meet some of the other fathers. It was neat putting a face with a name.”
The fathers flew with the team from Pittsburgh to Dallas on Thursday and attended a team dinner that night. On Friday, they attended a morning skate in Dallas and an afternoon visit to Dealy Plaza, the site of the John F. Kennedy assassination and the Sixth Floor Museum at the Texas Schoolbook Depository building as well as the team’s game in Dallas that night before flying to Phoenix. On Saturday, some of the fathers took part in a golf outing and all attended the team’s game against the Coyotes. Everyone returned to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“It was such a neat trip getting to see Mark Recchi’s 500th goal; I have always been a big fan of his. It was just a great time,” Whitney said.
The trip gave the fathers a chance to bond with their sons and get a first-hand look at the life of an NHL player.
“It was fantastic. Your sort of see what the boys go through on a daily basis. It’s a lot harder than a lot of people figure with all the travel. You don’t have much time off except to sleep and eat,” said Wayne Armstrong, the father of Colby Armstrong. “It was great. I think it really motivated the boys to play a little harder, especially in that Dallas game. They struggled a little bit at times, but they pulled it together at the end. It was big win. So, it was great that way.”
Bob Scuderi, the father of Rob Scuderi, agrees.
“It was great to meet all the parents, that’s for sure. In all, everyone thinks it’s really glamorous to be in the NHL and I am sure it is, but the guys have to work hard wherever they are,” he said. “Another thing people don’t realize is that we flew into Phoenix at 3 a.m. [Saturday] and the boys had to be at practice at 11 a.m. It’s not all as great as people imagine it to be.
“We had a great trip. All in all, we had a good time.”
The players were happy to have their dads along on the trip.
“It was awesome. Every guy, it was a lot of fun having them around and getting to play in front of them. I think it was fun for each guy,” Ryan Whitney said. “You always want to play well in front of your father, family or friends. I think we did a good job of showing up to play and playing well in those two games, especially in that second game. I think it’s cool that the fathers all know each other now. If they come back, they will know each other.
“It was just a good time. You go out to dinner and there’s laughs. You get to meet all your buddies’ dads. It’s not the hockey part – it’s the off-ice stuff that’s really cool.”
And, the players had the chance to room with their fathers on the road.
“It was great. I haven’t done that in a long time – hang out with my dad like I was in a minor hockey tournament and stuff. It was pretty good. Other than all the guys complaining about the snoring, everything else was a good trip for them,” Colby Armstrong said with a smile. “It was a really classy move for the organization to do that for them. It was set up real nice. They got to go to a real nice golf course and eat at nice restaurants and stay in nice hotels. It was probably more than they expected.”
And, with their dads in the stands, it motivated the Penguins, who beat the Stars, 4-3, in a shootout and blew out the Coyotes, 7-2.
“Definitely, I think everyone wanted to show their best because there were a lot of parents coming a long way. Of course, everyone has the hockey dad they call after every game and dad is giving them tips to work on and little things like that,” Colby Armstrong said. “So, to have the ‘main head coach’ in every guy’s life at the game and to play well in front of him was really great. Coming into the games, we played fairly well. It was fun coming out of those wins after with all the dads standing there with smiles on their faces and they were having good times getting to know each other. That was more fun than anything.”