On Saturday, the parents of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Simon Despres, Paul Martin, Steve Downie, Rob Scuderi, Brandon Sutter and Nick Spaling came for “Parents’ Weekend” to watch their sons in action against the Buffalo Sabres.
Having the parents come together is different from the annual trips in the past, where either the moms or the dads would go separately and spend a few days traveling with their sons to different cities on the road.
“That’s good she’s here, because she remembers more than I do,” joked Martin’s father Dale of being there with his wife Beverly. “So after we introduce ourselves, I can always go back to her and ask who was that again? Or what was their name and how many kids did they have? So that helps.”
Head coach Mike Johnston said the reason for having the parents travel to Pittsburgh this year instead of heading on the road was because of the schedule.
“I think every year, you look for the right timing of it and I just don’t think this year with the schedule there was a right time that we could do it,” Johnston said. “So the thought process was let’s try it here in Pittsburgh. Invite the parents in, treat them to a special lunch and they get to have some time with the guys, especially with the day off on Sunday before we go on a long road trip. So it’s something we’ll probably re-evaluate at the end and just sort of see which works best.”
Despite the unique approach, Marvin Kunitz still enjoyed getting the opportunity to come with his wife, Penny, and the other parents to watch the game and share stories about their children and grandkids.
“It’s great to have the parents get together,” Kunitz said. “We talk about the same things like where the boys came from, where they are today and now we are talking about the grandkids. We all have the same stories and same laughs. We’ve all been there, done those early morning practices, road trips, their first games in the NHL, their Stanley Cup runs, different things like that. It’s great to get together and talk about them.”
Chris, who had two-goal night against the Sabres, appreciated the fact that his parents got the opportunity to come visit him and his family thanks to management.
“For those of us that have kids, it’s nice for them to come hang out with the grandkids and be here for Halloween over the weekend,” Kunitz said. “Management always puts us as a family first. For them to take care of our parents and bring them to a game, it just means a lot for us.”
It was especially meaningful for the Spalings, as their son was just traded to Pittsburgh this summer after playing the first seven seasons of his career with the Predators organization. This weekend was a chance for Nick to show his parents around his new city and for them to see him play in black and gold for the first time.
“It’s nice, especially for me being new here,” Nick said. “Giving them a chance to see where I live and see the home arena, it’s a whole new experience for them. It’s great that they can both come down and be a part of it and experience my home.”
His mother Lorrie was especially excited for the opportunity, as she never got a Moms’ Trip in Nashville.
“It’s been really cool,” she said. “I was actually excited I got to go in the dressing room. These ones don’t smell, so it’s kind of nice (laughs). We did a locker room tour, had a nice meal, then had our own time together with Nicholas. Which is nice, because we don’t get that much.”
“I think my mom really likes it,” Nick smiled. “She’s felt a little bit left out in the past, so she’s pretty happy to be here and be able to experience what my dad always goes home and talks about. She’s enjoying it and it’s always nice to have my dad here as well. She’s been down to visit, but not the same thing. Not the dinners and seeing around the room. It’s kind of her first time and she’s really soaking it in.”
Overall, Parents’ Weekend was a success and the big win over the Sabres on Saturday night seemed to cap it off. Crosby was glad to get the two points in front of his parents, Troy and Trina.
“It was nice they were able to come and it’s always nice when you get the win in front of them,” Crosby said. “They don’t get a chance to come that often, but when they do, you want to make sure you get the win.”
A few fun stories from the parents…
Bob Scuderi, on seeing Rob fall in love with the game of hockey:
“Everybody had a lot of money, but we really didn’t have that much. So when they had to get new pants or a helmet, I would have to spray paint them the color they needed to be rather than buy a new pair. I bought the boys some old-time skates and I figured if they didn’t like them, they wouldn’t play anymore and you know what? They played and they loved the game.”
Marvin Kunitz, on Chris' ability to endure:
“One story I remember, we were at a tournament in Saskatoon and I think it was pee-wee hockey. He had been playing soccer earlier in the week and he broke his toe. (His toe) was all swelled up and he couldn’t wear his one skate, so there was a big guy on the team and he wore skates that were at least three sizes too big for him. He wore the right skate on the one side and on the other, where he had the broken toe, he wore the big skate. He played with two different size skates and that was the funniest thing. It just showed his ability to endure.”
Lorrie Spaling, on what Nick was like as a kid:
“He was always a shy kid, but he was always good. He never got into any trouble or anything like that. His favorite team was Toronto, of course. And Doug Gilmour was his favorite player, so the funniest thing he ever did was he dressed up as when Doug Gilmour did the cow commercial. He dressed up as a cow with the jersey. He looked cute then. He loves the game, and you know what, as long as you see them doing what they’re happy with, that’s amazing."